The changing face of the tourism industry is throwing up new challenges when it comes to tackling the waste it generates, according to new research.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Southern California have identified gaps in calculating food waste in tourism. When it comes to hotels, restaurants and events, systems are already in place. But the impact made by travellers opting for AirBnB, couch surfing, travelling in recreational vehicles, or other alternatives growing in popularity, is not being picked up.

“We can already see that there are savvy players in the tourism industry who have succeeded in reducing their food waste and have even managed to turn that into an asset. Yet, it is not enough for only the traditional food service and accommodation establishments to reduce their food waste, we need to get all tourist households on board. As the tourism sector changes, research into food waste and sustainability becomes ever more important,” said Juho Pesonen, Research Manager from the University of Eastern Finland.

A staggering 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually, and food ‘has been identified as the most prominent type of hospitality waste’. The researchers say that to cut the amount stemming from tourism, it is vital all sources and amounts being produced by the industry is properly understood. They are also calling for more work to be carried out to discover the ‘drivers of tourist household food waste and barriers to its reduction’.

“We need models that describe how food waste is created in tourist households, and how that possibly changes over time. Moreover, we need to identify platforms and intersections where food waste can be addressed, for example through social media. In the end, it all boils down to sustainable tourism and the circular economy,” added Pesonen.