How tourism destroys the world's beauty

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The Independent Online
Edited extracts from the article by the Prince of Wales in Green Hotelier.

One of the benefits from the growing material prosperity of recent years has been the opportunity it has brought to many more people to travel ever more widely. But economic growth and increased tourism have brought with them the almost unstoppable seeds of destruction for the unspoilt parts of our world which drive the quest for travel in the first place.

For many places the process of uglification through insensitive development for mass tourism and the destruction of natural environments, townscapes and fragile ecosystems have demonstrated, vividly and tragically, the limits to sustainability.

There are a handful of sensitive developers, planners, architects and builders who recognise that an alternative and sustainable path to tourism development is the only guarantee of long-term profitability and of preserving the irreplaceable beauty of our environment for our descendants.

That is why I invited the International Hotels Environment Initiative, through its members, and through the pages of Green Hotelier, to address this issue.

We do not need to look further than the edge of Hyde Park in London, the river embankments of our finest East European cities, the beautiful Mediterranean coastline, or many more exotic places ... to see the results of bad-mannered development - development without consideration for the history, cultural and local context of a place. I am sure every reader can think of depressing examples of hotel buildings constructed purely for purposes of short-term economy ... Yet we can do so much better. There are inspiring examples of what can be achieved in places like the Egyptian desert through the use of experienced architects working with their clients on sensitive and affordable developments.

Hotels can be constructed cost effectively to enhance local culture and traditions, to preserve a "sense of place" and to minimise disturbance of the environment ... Remarkable results can be achieved from converting existing buildings.

In my view there are no "free lunches" in this debate. Short-term profits are no more than that ... I believe all those with a long-term stake in their investments and the future of tourism, including banks which provide the capital, must each play a part in a bold drive to guarantee a more sustainable future for the way in which we spend our ever-increasing leisure time.