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The Concept Of Sustainable Tourism Development Tourism Essay

3877 words (16 pages) Essay in Tourism

5/12/16 Tourism Reference this

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The current tourism industries depend on an ironic and diverse, natural and built environment for its economic safety and interests. Tourism development which consistently ignores environmental concerns is unlikely to remain viable in the longer term (Pigram, J.J. 1990). As with other industrial sectors and fields of academic study, tourism has also responded to the popularization of the concept of sustainable development. Globally, tourism has been growing rapidly during the last half a century, from25million international tourist arrivals in 1950 to 698million in 2000 (WTO, 2002), and was expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.3%until 2020 (WTO, 1998). The recent global recession has not caused the tourism industry to grind to a complete halt, and the World Tourism Barometer indicated that the recession only caused a 4% decline in global tourism from 2008-2010 (UNWTO, 2011b) and now it is expected to grow again. The nature of tourism development in any area is affected by a wide range of existing and planned development such as housing, transport, retailing, health service provision, nature conservation and agriculture etc. This essay will discuss issues related with sustainable tourism development and explain the definition and the concept in relation to the tourism industries and the host communities. The last section of this essay is aimed to explain the future of the sustainable tourism development in a destination purpose to suggest ways in which a country can make their tourism industry more sustainable.

The concept of sustainable development:

Sustainability, sustainable tourism and sustainable development are all well-established terms (Zhenhua Liu, 2003). There are two components in the definition of sustainable development. The meaning of development and the condition necessary for sustainability are those two components (Miltin, 1992). Croall(1995) compares sustainability to the “link between development and conservation”, which should not conflict to each other. According to Bartelmus, development implies a process that makes an effort to improve the living conditions of people (Tosun, 2001). Though it is argued that too much emphasis is placed on relatively short term economic impacts at the cost of considering the long term social and environmental impacts of tourism, thereby encourages in a better awareness of the problems that the industry creates (Holloway et al., 2009). The importance of sustainable development is to carry growing successes into the future in such a way that future generations are not troubled (Pearce et al., 1990).

The concept of sustainability first appeared on the public sense in the report by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. The outline of sustainable development is that the economic growth and the environmental conservation are not only friendly but they are partners and one cannot survive without than other .The Brundtland Commission Report definite sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987). The Commission highlighted that sustainable development is not a fixed national agreement, but an active process of changes which ‘are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations’ (WCED, 1987: 46). It is imagined as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity and life support systems. In brief sustainable tourism consists in conserving and preserving an environment for the future generations and providing socio and economic benefits to all stakeholders.

According to Gunn (1994), the most applicable definition is given by Rees in 1989. The definition is “Sustainable development is positive socio-economic change that does not undermine the ecological and social systems upon which communities and society are dependent. Its successful implementation requires integrated policy, Planning and social learning process; its political viability depends on the full support of the people it affects through their governments, their social institutions, and their private activities.”

Sustainable tourism industry

Tourism has become a major economic activity within developed and developing countries, often contributing more foreign currency than traditional primary commodity exports. The growth in the tourism sector and its maturity made people concern that the resources of host countries might be exhausted. Attention have been paid to the relationship between tourism and the environment and to the problems associated with tourism expansion (Pearce 1985; Romeril 1989; Farrell and Runyan 1991; Cater and Godall 2002; Eber 1992; Jenner and Smith 1992). The sustainable development concept arose in response to broader international concerns over ecological issues and has been advocated for the tourism sector as a possible solution to the environmental and social degradation of the industry’s resources and due to the fact that tourism is a resource dependent industry (Cooper, 1995; Murphy, 1998).

In a research done by Zhenhua liu (2003) found that sustainability is praised by Bramwell and Lane (1993) and according to them “it is a positive approach intended to reduce the tensions and friction created by the complex interactions between the tourism industry, tourists, environment and the host communities to maintain the long term capacity and quality of both natural and human resources”. There are three objectives of sustainable tourism identified by Cater (1993).

Meeting the needs of the host population in terms of improved living standards both in the short and long term;

Satisfying the demands of a growing number of tourists;

Safeguarding the natural environment in order to achieve both of the preceding aims.

Sustainable tourism is a tourism that is developed and maintained in a way that remains economically worthwhile for an indefinite timescale and does not undermine the physical and human environment that stands and cultivate it. The format of this tourism must be economically sustainable. If it is not economically sustainable and profitable then a doubtful matter to know whether it is environmentally sustainable. Tourism that is unprofitable and impractical will simply terminate to be present or exist (Harris et al., 2002).

Considering many definitions and concepts of sustainable development Rogers et al., (2001) mentioned that there are three operational criteria of sustainable development. These three operational criteria are related one another. If any destination wants to be sustainable and wants to develop and improve their infrastructure they must have to consider these three factors. Three criteria are:

-Economic objectives should not be maximised without satisfying environmental and social constrain.

-Environmental benefits should not necessarily maximise without satisfying economic and social constraints.

-Social benefits should not be maximised without satisfying economic and environmental constraint.

The goal of environmentally sustainability is a maximum level of desired outcome such as economic profit, quality of life what will maintain in a steady way, subject to constraints imposed by environment. Basis on this concept it can be said that environmentally sustainable tourism implies a key importance on maintaining a certain level of environmental quality. This is highlighting that, a sustainable environment and a viable tourism industry are essential elements to make an environmentally sustainable tourism (Johnston & Tyrrell, 2007).

Moreover the willingness of tourism industry is much more essential for any host country to go for an implementation of the thinking of sustainable tourism. According to Tony Griffin and Terry DeLacey, at least three issues to consider before adopt self-regulatory sustainable tourism practices for any tourism enterprises (Harris et al., 2002) are:

Knowledge of appropriate practices and technologies to adopt in certain context

The perception that some benefits will arise as a result of adopting such practices

To ensure that an appropriate level of environmental performance is maintained.

Given that the most desirable sustainable outcomes differ across groups, the search for sustainable tourism outcomes must combine environmentally sustainable outcomes (which are often many) with socially acceptable compromise solutions that lie somewhere between the goals for each distinct group (Johnston & Tyrrell, 2007).

Sustainability and host community

Sustainable tourism involves social and economic benefits along with the best possible use of environmental resources for the host communities as well as provision of a secure employment and the respect for their cultures and traditions. The key elements of tourism sustainability include meeting the needs of both visitors and host communities for present and for the future. The relationship between tourists, host communities, businesses, attractions and the environment is complex, interactive and symbiotic. The host population is itself a part of the tourism ‘place’ product. The locals are subjects to be viewed and interacted with, or settings for tourist activities, and their attitudes and behaviour constitute the ‘hospitality’ resource of a destination (Smith, 1994). According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (1993), tourism is sustainable when it “improves the quality of life of the host community; provides a high quality of experience for the visitor; and maintains the quality of the environment on which both the host community and the visitor depend”.

Smith and Krannich (1998) identified host communities in three types as either tourism saturated, tourism realized or tourism hungry. Tourism hungry communities can maintain positive attitudes despite negative impacts as long as economic benefits are forthcoming. In general, economic benefits are an important influence on residents’ attitudes towards tourism (Haralambopoulos & Pizam, 1994; King, Pizam, & Milman, 1992; Lindberg & Johnson, 1997).

An evocative way to analyse sustainable tourism is to scrutinize how it can meet the needs of the host population in terms of improve standards of living in the short and long term. “If social and economic development means anything at all, it must mean a clear improvement in the conditions of life and livelihood of ordinary people” (Friedmann, 1992). The more local people gain from tourism the more they will support tourism activities and the more they will be motivated to protect the natural resources and heritages. If the resident do not get any benefits from tourism they will try to drive tourists away from the destination and as a tourists no one like to visit a place where they are not welcomed (Zhenhua Liu, M, 2003).

In Butler’s (1980) destination Life Cycle a destination evolves-exploration, involvement, development, consolidation and stagnation. Residents’ attitudes depend, in part, on these stages. Doxey (1976) described that resident’s attitudes are positive during the initial stages of tourism development such as in exploration, involvement and in development stages but become increasingly negative as a destination evolves towards stagnation.

Working in partnership:

Sustainable development requires involvement of various government departments, public and private sector companies, community groups and experts to be successful (Wahab & Pigram, 1998). The development is determined by answering what the stakeholders want it to be and Stakeholders include tourist; tourist businesses including investors, developers, operators, shareholders, management, employees, public and private sectors; the host community and their government (Zhenhua Liu, 2003). All stakeholders and different groups are always important for gaining the goal of sustainable tourism development. The history of tourism developments has shown that all groups are equally important and that long-range objectives and sustainability not possible to achieve if one group is continually subordinated to the others. Sustainable tourism development requires consecutively meeting the needs of the tourists, the tourist businesses, the host community and the needs for environmental protection (Zhenhua Liu, 2003). It mentioned by Zhenhua Liu (2003), as Bramwell and Lane (2000) debate, for the effective planning and implementation of collaboration and partnerships among various stakeholders in the process of tourism development. By merging these needs and concerns, the host community will achieve an improved quality of life, while the tourists gain satisfactory experiences, the tourism industry makes a fair profit and the environment is protected for continuous future use. (Zhenhua Liu, M, 2003).

The Lake District tourism and Conservation Partnership (LDTCP) is the best example of partnership working towards tourism which was established in 1993. Their aim was to raise funds from visitors, tourism and related businesses and other in order to maintain and enhance the sustainability of the Lake District landscape. The founding organisations were the Cumbria Tourist Board, The national trust and The Lake District national park Authority. Initial support was provided by the Cumbria Training and Enterprise, Council and the Rural Development Commission. The LDTCP is a proven successful pioneering partnership in sustainable tourism and is recognised as such within the UK, Europe and beyond. The sharing of the best practice extends as far as Holland, Greece, and Indonesia (Hind and Mitchell, 2004).

Contribution to development:

In 1960, tourism was seen as an effective developmental growth-pole, as indeed it continues to be seen in some contexts (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008). A variety of actors representing the public, private and non-profit sectors work together in development process for tourism development process (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008) and then Tourism will contribute to development, as it enhances the development of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises that cater to the tourist demand for goods and services. In the case of Kenya, the development of tourism-based community-based enterprises (CBEs) has become the principal business format (Manyara & Jones, 2007). The conservation orientation of CBEs makes it an ideal form for tourism businesses to adopt. The same is true in South Africa, which relies on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) (Burns & Barrie, 2005). Adopting a policy of larger tourism development provide greater economic benefits in term of income and employments and this why in many developing countries tourism represents a potentially valuable development option though it is related with selection of costs or impacts from environmental shabbiness to dependency on international corporations (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008).

Lepp’s (2004) suggest that at destinations with no prior knowledge of tourism, initial tourism development will be met with suspicion, anxiety and fear. This was the case in the rural community of Bigodi, Uganda, when tourism was introduced in 1991 residents reacted to tourism with anxiety, suspicion and fear. In fact, they believed tourists would steal their land (Lepp, 2004). But in 2006, a study by Lepp’s shows that 94% of respondents expressed positive attitudes towards tourism while only 6 % shows negative attitudes where negative attitudes were rarely expressed by the local people and positive attitudes were connected with the belief that tourism creates community development, opportunities for earning income, improved agricultural markets, and a chance at good fortune.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, tourism is endorsed as an effective avenue for poverty reduction in the case of developing countries. There is empirical and testimonial confirmation of this in parts of Kenya (Manyara & Jones, 2007), Botswana (Mbaiwa, 2005) and South Africa (Burns & Barrie, 2005). Controversies arise, however, as to the effect of so-called sustainable tourism in other areas. In the case of small island developing states (SIDS), a large influx of tourists may in fact be unwitting agents of further poverty proliferation. The small economies of SIDS are characterized by diseconomies of scale, limited resources, narrow economic base, and isolation from major markets. Ebbs and flows of tourists could therefore easily disrupt the delicate economic balance (denoted by stability in supply and demand) in the locality (Scheyvens & Momsen, 2008)

When considering sustainable tourism policies, different groups may consider different outcomes as their goal. For example, local people may benefit from tourism income, jobs and revenue (Haralambopolous and Pizam, 1996), but most of the time people react negatively towards tourism related activities, congestion, environmental degradation, and noise, as well as exclusion from the use of natural resources or infrastructure officially reserved for visitors (Johnston & Tyrrell, 2007). It is a common pattern is that local residences realize greater negative effects of tourism or costs related to tourism, such that sustainable goal for local residences are fewer tourists than the tourism industry desires (Johnston & Tyrrell, 2007).

Sustaining tourism and the future

Strategic planning for sustainable tourism:

Strategic planning is an essential requirement for the sustainable development and is considered vital in ensuring a destination’s resources are managed and sustained for the future, while still responding to environmental, financial, community and tourist needs (Ruhanen, 2010). The UNWTO have claimed that “the absence of planning has been responsible for most of the negative results of tourism development” (1983). A strategic plan will usually describe the present and planned directions and priorities, consider the scope or domain of action within which the organisation will try to achieve its objectives, while taking into account the skills, resources or distinctive competencies to be used to achieve its objectives (Ruhanen, 2010). According to Hall (2000), there are three objectives in the strategy for sustainable tourism; conservation of tourism resource values; enhanced experiences of the visitors who interact with tourism resources; and the maximisation of the economic, social and environmental returns to stakeholders in the host community (Ruhanen, 2010). There are many examples can be cited of potential projects of sustainable tourism without appropriate strategic tourism plan. The national Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration 2004-2006, which lost the opportunity to be a great success, have far received mixed reviews. Millions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure with almost no funding has been devoted to providing assistance to rural communities along the trail to develop marketing and promotional strategies or to incorporate specific sustainable programmes (Edgell, 2006).

Goeldner and Ritchie (2006) explained in their research that why sustainable development needs to be well planned and managed. According to them,

“Sustainable tourism development is development that has been carefully planned and managed. It is the antithesis of tourism that has developed for short term gains. Because of the expected continuing growth of tourism, sustainable development is the approach that will be needed. Because of the pressure on the world resources, it is the only sensible approach.” (p.490)


Making tourism really sustainable requires action on a number of fronts. Regulation by government can help a host destination to be more sustainable. For example establishing minimum standards of performance with certain environmental impacts, environmental planning for tourism, supported by laws relating to land use and environmental impact assessment can help to take protective measures to prevent or at least mitigate anticipated potential problems arising (Harris et al., 2002). The role of governments in achieving sustainable tourism will most likely be boosting the chances of achieving sustainable tourism, offsetting market failures, assisting innovation and changes, managing planning permissions, creating and improving sustainable infrastructures of many types including public transport and protected areas. Gössling et al., (2009) suggest that the leadership from the government should come through political and financial supports. In January 2008, it was announced by Norwegian government that 1.2 million US dollars has been awarded to develop a sustainable tourism strategy for Norway that will be carbon neutral by 2030. It is a good example of important initiatives by a government in the field of sustainable tourism (Gössling et al., 2009).

Private sectors:

There are numerous civic and conservationist societies, multilateral institutions, associations of tourism entrepreneurs, donors, and other organizations that express interests or champion the causes of environmental preservation and the promotion of sustainable tourism (Scheyvens & Momsen, 2008).Private sectors range started from small-scale entrepreneurs such as local tour guides, small and medium sized enterprises (SME) to domestic and international hotel chain and corporations including hotel companies and tour operators (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008). Though the larger corporations always attract the most attention, it is small and medium sized informal sectors plays a great role in terms of employment and opportunities for local participates in the tourism industries. Aside from the advocacy groups, the community itself could form the basis for private ownership of tourism. The formation of CBEs/CBOs and their involvement in the local industry assure the sustainability inherent in indigenous tourism, as well as the service of justice in tourism and the interests of the community (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2010).

The research community:

The research community can play a vital role to make the tourism industry more sustainable. To achieve sustainable tourism researchers need to engage and involve with the industry and the problems of governance and regulation. They need to research market belief and new form of marketing. They can use the ideas in the social sciences to explore decision making and social trends. Sustainable tourism is an Arts and Science both. Researchers need to reflect on use analysis skills from both arts and the science. In modern days a new generation of highly skilled academics are now researching, publishing and building on the work of the first generation with new visions and force (Gössling et al., 2009).

Strategic planning and the role of Government: Case study New Zealand

New Zealand tourism strategy first published in 2001 and the NZTS 2015 is supported by two key principles: guardianship and responsibility, creating a uniquely New Zealand approach to sustainable tourism. The strategy realize that the tourism sector of New Zealand must play a lead role to protect the environment to ensure that New Zealand’s environment will continue to be enjoyed by future generations linking with other strategies and integrated approach to sustainability. The strategy is a fundamental document but in terms of directly relating to local government planning, it is recognised that the tourism sector and local authorities should understand the bene¬ts tourism offers and lead destination management and planning initiatives and processes to maximise bene¬ts (Connell et al., 2009).

Local Government New Zealand has increased its tourism work by actively encouraging local government participation in tourism projects. To engage with tourism issue, LGNZ issued its response to NZTS 2010, entitled “Postcards from Home” with the strategic aim “to engage local communities in planning for tourism which is socially, economically, environmentally and culturally sustainable” (LGNZ, 2003). It was familiar that there was a need to raise awareness among elected officials and council staff about the local government involvement in tourism (Connell et al., 2009).


To be truly sustainable in tourism a standard is needed to measure the result either it is going towards progress or regress, as the assessment of progress cannot be judged and determined unless a standard is provided. The assessment necessarily demands comparison between the previous and current state of system quality. Qualitative or quantitative data can be used to produce information for the standard. There are a number of issues in the destination which cannot be explained by quantitative data. The wisdom and experience of stakeholders might be more valuable than these statistical data to cope with their issues (Tae Gyou Ko, 2005)

The achievement of sustainable tourism development is necessary but it is a lengthy process. Any kind of change towards good cause takes time and as we know that all long journey begins with first step. The world and its people cannot change in few years. The tourism industry needs to realise that there is no magical button that will transform its future towards sustainability and make it more sustainable. The future for sustainable tourism is more complex than it seems to be. Future success in managing sustainable tourism will depends in part on training, education, and public awareness. The development of long term policies rather than short term, is essential to assure that the tourism growth occurs in a socially, economically, and environmentally responsible. It will need a partnership approach what will work with stakeholders and with competitors. Partnership approaches are apprehensive with problems but it is necessary for the future of tourism. The survival of the industry is at stake, in crisis all parties survive by working together (Bramwell and Lane 2000, 2004).

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