By Thierry Malleret, economist
Recent history shows us that economic growth can’t be truly green, so what are the broad consequences for investors? (1) Any industry or company seen as being particularly damaging to ecology will suffer; (2) Any profitable business perceived as minimizing ecologically bad outcomes while maximizing socially good ones will prosper; (3) Militant environmentalism will radicalize in the future, wreaking havoc on businesses that are not on their guard. The recent example of meat producers and supermarkets being targeted by vegan militants is proof of that.
The points above are particularly critical for the wellness industry: From a public standpoint, it is perceived as the “guarantor” of good governance and best practices in terms of “green growth.”
Wellness businesses (and particularly in the travel and tourism industry) must be aware that if they do not encourage practices that minimize ecologically bad outcomes while maximizing socially good ones, the heavy hand of the state might actually “punish” them.
This is already apparent in several cases in which the public authorities stood against the vested interests of the tourism industry. In Thailand, for example, the government decided to close indefinitely the beach at Maya Bay because of tourism overload. In a similar vein, the government of the Philippines has decided to close the popular island of Boracay due to concerns about sewage and garbage.
Expect many more such decisions as the negative externalities of over-tourism become more vivid. In this regard, the wellness tourism industry has a critical role to play by providing some antidote to over-tourism. At the recent Global Wellness Summit, some speakers stated that much of the growth in wellness tourism takes place in underdeveloped countries and areas, thus providing an “escape valve” to the problem of over-tourism (one very specific example was South Tyrol and Slovenia: two high-growth wellness destinations that might also provide an overflow to some of the crowds in Venice).