The environmental costs of tourism
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Bill Hocker | May 6, 2018

A flier arrived in the mail from Visit Napa Valley, the publicity arm of the Napa tourism industry. "Tourism isn't just for tourists" was the message, touting the jobs created and the TOT received. I assume it was sent to every address in the county.

I can also only assume that it was sent to counter the negative impacts that the residents of the county have begun to see and feel as the economy morphs from one based on agriculture to one based on tourism. Costs like traffic, unaffordable housing, loss of local serving businesses, the loss of a sense of community among municipal residents, the loss of rural character as agricultural neighborhoods become tourism venues, and the threat to limited water resources to serve ever-expanding tourism uses in an age of global warming (as in Bali).

Visit Napa Valley has been quite successful in increasing the visibility of Napa as a mass market destination. President Clay Gregory touts the increases each year - although he does downplay the increase in quantity of visitors in favor of the increase in money spent. Still, the TOT take is one of his (and the government’s) principal metrics of success and I'm sure he is intent on increasing it as much as possible. The many hotels currently in the pipeline and coming online in the next few years should add mightily.

This flier comes on the same day as two other pieces of tourist news. The first is the major modification of the Beaulieu Vineyards use permit due to come up before the planning commission on June 6th. The request in the modification is for an increase in the visitation from 167,000 visitors/yr to 213,000 visitors/yr. and another 49 parking spaces to accommodate the increase. No increase in production capacity is requested.

As with many requests coming before the planning commission, it represents the shift of the wine industry into an entertainment industry, and the further conversion of an agricultural-based economy to a tourism-based one.

Beaulieu is, of course, one the handful of "original" wineries at the base of the wine industry in Napa, and I for one, would like to see all winery tourism activity concentrated at the major marquee wineries on that strip of Hwy 29, with a rural-urban line to separate wine tourism from wine production in the rest of the county.

Unfortunately such a tourism zone is not likely to happen. Every plutocrat now buying property in the remote corners of the county has dreams to build their brand into a Beaulieu Vineyards, in terms of visitation if not production. If BV can get 45,000 more vis/yr why not us?

And finally, a news article from Space Daily, a science blog reporting on an Australian Research finding on the CO2 cost of tourism dependent economies. (research abstract here.)

Tourism nearly a tenth of global CO2 emissions

The county will soon be taking up the stalled County Climate Action Plan, which will presumably look at the CO2 costs of our increase in visitation and expansion of our vineyards at the local level. But the costs of a mass tourism economy go beyond that. "The multi-trillion dollar industry's carbon footprint is expanding rapidly, driven in large part by demand for energy-intensive air travel". ... to places like Napa.

This issue has already surfaced in a decision in a Sonoma court case. The cost to the planet of travel to get to a destination is now becoming as important as the cost to the planet once here. If this reality is not reflected in the County's Climate Action Plan it will be a dereliction of the county's responsibility to its residents - and to the world.

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