The “stark inequities” of water access and consumption between tourist resorts and local people in developing countries is highlighted by campaign group Tourism Concern today (Monday).

A report – Water Equity in Tourism – A Human Right, A Global Responsibility – demands concerted action by governments and the tourism sector to protect community water rights over “tourist luxury”.

Featuring research from Bali, The Gambia, Zanzibar, and Goa and Kerala in south India, the study finds that the unsustainable appropriation, depletion and pollution of water by poorly regulated tourism are threatening the environment, while undermining living standards, livelihoods and development opportunities of impoverished local communities.

For example, in Zanzibar luxury hotels consume up to 3,195 litres of water per room per day against an average household consumption of 93.2 litres per day.

Such communities often remain excluded from the benefits of tourism, but also include small businesses trying to earn a living from the sector in a context where government policies tend to favour international hotels and tour operators over local entrepreneurs, Tourism Concern claims.

“This scenario is leading to social conflict and resentment, while threatening the sustainability of the tourism sector itself,” it said.

Head of policy and research Rachel Noble said: “The benefits of tourism-related jobs and economic growth are grossly undermined where governments fail to protect water rights and the environment from the impacts of poorly planned tourism development.

“Hotels and tour operators also have a clear responsibility to respect human rights in their operations and supply chains.

“It’s time for the sector to take responsibility for its water use and address the wider impacts of its consumption beyond the hotel walls.

“The UK government needs to provide clear guidance to UK-based tourism businesses in this regard.”

The report offers nine ‘Principles of Water Equity in Tourism’ (WET) for governments, the tourism sector and society, as well as detailed recommendations for each set of stakeholders.

“The threats to water resources in tourist destinations are complex and challenging, and demand a co-ordinated response to effectively address them,” added Noble.

“We hope the WET Principles and recommendations will serve as useful guidance for governments and the tourism industry, and help to galvanise the necessary action to ensure that the water rights of poor communities are not compromised by tourism development.”