WTTC report reveals how data and tech can transform water intensity

WTTC report reveals how data and tech can transform water intensity

'This new publication highlights the transformative power of data and technology'

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched its new report titled Water Roadmap for Travel & Tourism, which reveals total water intensity by global travel and tourism continues to decrease as the sector continues to grow.

Despite being one the fastest growing sectors, accounting for one in 10 jobs globally and contributing 10.4% of global GDP in 2019, travel and tourism’s water usage ranged between 3.5% and 5.8% of global available freshwater, in 2021 and 2019 respectively.

While this is a lower share than other key sectors, such as agriculture and food which accounted for 70% of global water usage, "there is more work to be done" as growing water scarcity has become one of the "most pressing challenges for sustainable development".

The report highlights that further progress can be made if travel and tourism stakeholders take a series of actions, and sustainable water practices are implemented globally.

In a collaborative effort, WTTC worked with Accenture and Oxford Economics to leverage its expertise in data analysis, best practices, and proven methodologies, providing a framework to help the global travel and tourism sector set water targets, reduce their water footprint and increase water resilience.

The data collected is a result of to the partnership between WTTC and the Saudi-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center.

According to the research, from 2010 to 2019, Asia Pacific, Americas and the Middle East saw their travel and tourism water usage increase, while experiencing significant growth in international arrivals.

Europe and Africa saw a yearly increase in international arrivals of 5% and 4% respectively between 2010 to 2019 but experienced a 1% decline in water use over the same period.

This achievement "highlights the opportunities within the travel and tourism sector to further reduce water usage" and take further steps towards the SDG 6 goals of the global water action agenda.

Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO, said: “Water scarcity is a pressing global issue that requires collective action. Travel & Tourism, with its unique influence and global reach, is perfectly positioned to play a pivotal role in fostering sustainable water practices.

“With this report, we aim to inspire a transformative journey toward responsible water use and a regenerative future, accelerating progress towards achieving SDG 61.”

Jesko-Philipp Neuenburg, global travel and aviation sustainability lead of Accenture, said: “This new publication highlights the transformative power of data and technology to drive collaboration, inform decision-making, foster innovation and implement water reduction and resilience action plans.

“From artificial intelligence, generative AI and machine learning, smart sensors and IOT, to blockchain and the metaverse, technology and data are enablers of sustainability and can play an important role in water stewardship efforts across the travel supply chain – whilst addressing security, privacy and environmental risks. 

With global travel demand booming, now is the time for travel and tourism organisations to reinvent their efforts and build actionable, impactful and accountable water strategies for this precious and finite resource.”

According to the global tourism body, in the midst of emerging risks, "embracing digital technologies" becomes not just an option but an "innovative approach to tackle complexity head-on".

It also introduces the Water Management Action Framework, rejecting a one-size fits all solution, outlining four key steps, emphasising water footprint reduction and resilience building across supply chains.

Recognising the vital role of travel and tourism, WTTC issues a resounding call for collective action to safeguard water ecosystems. 

The framework can help guide stakeholders on a path to sustainability, emphasising science-based targets, internal prioritisation, appropriate funding and collaborative measures for a "resilient future".