The top 12 most water scarce tourism destinations

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) today releases its Destination Water Risk Index as part of World Water Week in Stockholm. 

The Destination Water Risk Index (DWRI) report provides cutting-edge intelligence for the hotel sector and other businesses into the world’s highest risk tourism destinations for water scarcity and pricing premiums.

The DWRI is the result of a collaboration between ITP (project lead), Ecolab (sponsor) and Greenview (data analysis) to overlay existing water risk and hotel industry databases. The Index seeks to help hotel companies, their properties and wider tourism stakeholders to better understand and address their local water risk and its financial implications in the largest hotel markets in the world.

Launching the Index at the World Water Week event in Stockholm, ITP director Madhu Rajesh said: “Everyone at World Water Week knows that demand for fresh water is likely to exceed supply by 40% by 2030 and we are all here seeking solutions to mitigate that. The hotel sector recognises its responsibility to better manage water. Realising that island nations and tourism destinations can be those most prone to water shortage, particularly where the tourism season overlaps with the driest months, we have captured this critical data for our members and the wider tourism industry.

“Last year ITP launched four Goals for 2030 for the hotel sector which include embedding water stewardship throughout their portfolios. The Index represents a vital tool for hotels and other tourism stakeholders to have in their armoury when they come to examine their growth strategy.

Large scale tourism growth is forecast in future years. Increased resource use will mean water shortage becomes a challenge for tourism businesses, leading to operational issues, cost increases and reputational risks.

“Solutions exist to prevent those risks by adopting a water stewardship approach. ITP’s members have shown – for example in Cape Town – that by working collaboratively and employing a range of measures water scarcity can be mitigated. This Index, with a first-of-its kind dataset, will help developers, Corporate Responsibility (CR) teams and property managers evaluate risks and take action in other high-risk destinations, to help prevent the next Cape Town and work towards sustainable growth of the hotel industry in water stressed destinations.” 

Attending a press briefing in support of the launch were several ITP members’ senior CR leads, including Daniella Foster Senior Director Global Corporate Responsibility Hilton, Marie Fukudome Director, Environmental Affairs, Hyatt, Kate Gibson Vice President, Global Corporate Responsibility InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), and Inge Huijbrechts Global Senior Vice President, Responsible Business and Safety & Security, Radisson Hotel Group, as well as Ecolab’s Emilio Tenuta. The hotel representatives showcased a range of best practices and programmes they’ve implemented in water scarce locations around the world which can be replicated by other companies.

Chair of ITP’s Board of leading hotel group members, Wolfgang M. Neumann said: “As a responsible industry demonstrating its leadership on the Sustainable Development Goals, water is a critical issue for the hotel sector to address. It is imperative we do all we can to protect this vital resource for generations to come. We must examine our supply chains and embed water stewardship at all levels to ensure water-use efficiency, sustainable withdrawals and a consistent supply of freshwater thereby helping to reduce the number of people affected by water scarcity around the world.”

Presenting the Index, Emilio Tenuta Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at Ecolab said: “The Index identifies 12 locations with the highest overall risk when factoring water stress, future water cost increase risk, water usage intensity per occupied room, hotel supply, and hotel pipeline growth. These destinations should be prioritised by companies when designing their water stewardship strategies.

Additionally, we’ve identified those destinations which are most susceptible to a water risk premium, because water is so undervalued. We project that in some locations the premium could result in the price of water being more than 64 times higher than it currently is, based on average cost / risk analysis globally. Businesses should also take this into account

The countries with the highest risk water scarce destinations are Indonesia, India, Thailand, China, United Arab Emirates and the Philippines out of almost 70 priority destinations analysed overall.

ITP is now convening its 13 leading hotel group members - representing 3.9 million hotel rooms - through its Water Working Group to identify projects which would become a model for collaborative working to reduce water scarcity in local communities