Circularity represents a strategic approach for the tourism sector, notably from the point of view of minimizing its environmental impacts, including waste and pollution as well as CO2 emissions, given the potential of a circular economy to decouple economic growth from resource use.
Integrating circularity and further advancing resource efficiency in the tourism value chain represent an opportunity for the tourism sector to embrace a sustainable and resilient pathway.
The COVID-19 crisis raised awareness of the importance of local supply chains and the need to rethink how goods and services are produced and consumed, both key elements of a circular economy.
For tourism businesses, the circular economy can bring competitiveness, not only in connection with opportunities for innovation, differentiation and the diversification of income streams, but also as government and investors are increasingly looking at environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies.
For tourism destinations, the circular economy offers the opportunity to enhance the sustainable development impacts of tourism, generating wellbeing for the local population through the creation of new jobs and more inclusive local value chains, thus creating a virtuous circle between businesses and territories.
For tourists, the circular economy brings an opportunity to leave a positive footprint, to travel with purpose, and can lead to multiplier effects when it comes to the transformation of the whole tourism ecosystem through behaviour change.
The extensive and transversal value chain of tourism offers numerous opportunities to think how can we make longer, better, more circular use of the materials and products that we utilize to deliver our service, creating value and partnerships, and bringing landfill waste as close to zero as possible. Successfully transitioning to a more sustainable and resilient tourism model through the application of circular economy principles will depend on active public private collaboration and partnerships, inter-governmental cooperation, effective policies and policy instruments and financing.
UNWTO is supporting the shift towards a circular economy in tourism value chains through plastics within the framework of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, and through food within the framework of the Global Roadmap for Food Waste Reduction in the Tourism Sector:
- Building a circular economy of plastics in tourism
Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI) is a systemic approach and global coordination efforts to tackle the challenge of plastic pollution. GTPI is implemented in collaboration with UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and supports tourism stakeholders globally (tourism businesses across value chains and destinations) to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics, integrate reuse models and collaborate across the value chain (with suppliers and waste managers) to increase recycled content and recycling rates.
- Transforming food value chains in tourism
Sustainable food production and consumption is one of the most important levers to protect planet and people. To address the issue, an overarching framework for sustainable and circular management of food, with special emphasis on preventing food waste in the tourism sector has been developed as “Global Roadmap for Food Waste Reduction in the Tourism Sector”. The Roadmap is rooted on the fact that agriculture is currently the major cause of biodiversity loss and wishes to support tourism stakeholders in contributing to more sustainable global food systems.
Circularity represents a key enabler within the framework of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism which aims to accelerate mitigation and adaptation efforts from tourism stakeholders.
All the initiatives are implemented under the umbrella of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme.