Water, Water Everywhere

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Saudi-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center have released new data detailing the total water usage of the global travel and tourism sector.

For the first time ever, WTTC can accurately report and track the impact the sector has on the environment. The findings were launched during the United Nations recent UN 2023 Water Conference in New York.

Chris Imbsen, Director of Sustainability at WTTC, said that travel and tourism’s entire water footprint is just 0.6% of the global water use according to the latest figures (2021).

In 2019, when the sector was at its peak, its total water footprint was only 50% higher, but still less than 1% of the global total at 0.9%.

Travel and tourism’s direct water use is significantly lower – in 2019 it was 0.2% of the global total and has fallen by half to just 0.1% of the global total.

Much of the sector’s water use is indirect, through its supply chain, with agriculture and food production accounting for two-thirds of travel and tourism’s entire water footprint.

Between 2010 and 2019, the sector in Europe and Africa reduced direct water use. In Europe, direct water use fell by 8% and in Africa direct water use by the sector fell by 6%.

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “This ground-breaking new data reveals our sector’s water consumption for the first time ever, revealing that travel and tourism uses less than 1% of the water used around the world, with the overwhelming majority of that usage coming from the sector’s supply chain.”