About Sustainable Visits
Visits and visiting are imperative. Culture and society rest on the laurels of human encounters. But, at the same time, an ever increasing number of visitors across the world challenge the social, cultural and ecological systems of numerous societies. How can visits become sustainable in this setting?
Sustainable visits is a multidisciplinary network for research, education and third stream activities at Uppsala University that ran 2014-2023, in which researchers from 11 institutions in 3 faculties collaborated. Using the new cruise line berth in Visby and Gotland as a major tourist destination as our empirical case and point of departure, the aim was to:
- Explore and enable sustainable visits from regional, national and global perspectives;
- Contribute to the development and establishment of sustainable perspectives in the hospitality industry.
Cruise line tourism at Gotland?
Cruise ship tourism is expanding rapidly in the Baltic region. During the past decade, major cruise line destinations, such as Copenhagen and Stockholm, have witnessed a close-to five-fold increase in cruise line passengers venturing ashore. Since 2006, in the EU alone cruise line tourism is estimated to have increased by 75% with the number of visitors now exceeding 29.3 million. Visby and Gotland are now facing a considerable escalation of the tourist-related experience industry. In a few years, a new cruise line berth will enable large cruise liners to set ashore in Visby for day excursions while cruising the Baltic Sea. The development of the hospitality industry will have far-reaching effects on Visby and Gotland in many regards, not least in the outlook to boost the region’s economy, securing jobs and creating new ones.
At the same time, an increase in the number of visitors will potentially incur a strain on society, the permanent residents, the environment and not least the cultural heritage which is the reason for many visitors to visit Gotland. In many ways, this development of an evolving tourism and experience industry is essential to an island region such as Gotland. Still, it poses a serious challenge where the need for the exploitation and development of industry, infrastructure, society and the cultural heritage needs to be balanced with the need to maintain and sustainably develop the social needs and the environment of the permanent residents.
A very large number of tourist destinations all over the world – not least islands – are facing similar issues: on the one hand they are subject to rapid growth in the tourist industry and cultural heritage production, whilst on the other they face declining populations, cultural depletion and threatened biodiversity. At the same time, slow developments in tourism and infrastructure is a risk that could lead to the depletion of the local region. The challenge such places are facing is to develop a tourism and hospitality industry infrastructure that is sustainable in terms of technology, economy, society, culture and ecology.
Tourists and other visitors?
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines a tourist as:
[...] a person who travels to a destination at least 100 km away from his/her residence, and stays there for at least 24 hours for the purpose of leisure or business, according to the categorisation that estimates the statistics in the hospitality industry."
Around “tourists” a full-grown tourism industry, also known as the hospitality industry, has evolved, today one of the world’s largest industries.
There are, however, many different kinds of temporary visitors. Whilst some arrive on board large cruise liners and spend a couple of hours ashore, others arrive as refugees in overfilled rubber dinghies fleeing from war and poverty. Visitors also include relatives on congratulatory calls, regularly returning summer guests, conference participants, students, business people and many others.
Together visitors form a steady and massive stream of people constantly in motion with millions of people that feed the world’s economies, but also consume increasing volumes of physical, social and cultural resources.
- 2015 witnessed 1.2 billion international hospitality bookings (Source: UNWTO).
- 60 million people are fleeing from their homes (Source: the World Bank). Many will remain temporary visitors for long, until they can gain new residence.
- 250–300 million are international migrants in various parts of the world (Source: the World Bank). 750–800 million people are domestic migrants. For many migrants migration is not a finite one-way movement, but a state of “migrationism”, involving regular movement between previous and new domiciles.