Sustainable Development in Tourism

The following sample essay on Sustainable Development in Tourism about attention to our environment.

For society to continue developing in the way it has done in the past, it is important to pay more attention to our environment. How this is best achieved is often a matter of opinion rather than fact, dependent upon different perspectives of the environment and views of nature. Recently, a concept has emerged that has attempted to bring together the best aspects of these different viewpoints, and to harmonise the development of mankind with the protection of nature.

This is the concept of “Sustainable Development”. One of the most common understandings of this concept is that it involves maintaining our current rate of development whilst still leaving a suitable quantity and quality of resources behind for later generations to continue to develop. As one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, tourism has a key contribution to make to sustainable development.

For many countries tourism is an industry of great economic significance and is seen as a main instrument for regional development, as it stimulates new economic activities (Amedeo Fossati et al.

, 2000: 9). When it is broken down, it is generally agreed that tourism has a positive economic impact on the balance of payments, on employment, and on gross income and production. However, it is then vital to acknowledge the negative effects, namely on the environment.

Problems in this area must be tackled by considering their relationship with the state of the economy and the wellbeing of society.

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In fact, it has been explicitly stated that the environment, the economy and society taken together, include everything that we need to consider for a healthy, prosperous and stable life. Although it can be seen that sustainable development is all about integrating the environment, society and the economy; it is also important to be aware that the economy, and in turn society, exist within the wider context of the nvironment. This just illustrates the interdependence that exists between these three factors and the significance of this with respect to tourism is that when its impacts on any one of these factors is being assessed, considerations for the other factors must also be made. When attempting to search for deeper definitions of sustainable tourism development a frequent problem seems to arise with differentiating between this and the more general and commonly researched area of sustainable development for the economy as a whole.

Here it is important to note that there is a very close associating link between these two concepts as the idea of sustainable development refers to a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations, while sustainable tourism development is more specifically concerned with how the changes in tourism patterns directly affect various countries differently in terms of the positive and negative externalities that are imposed.

The concept of sustainable tourism development has only just emerged during the past two decades as it was given further impetus in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in a report entitled, Our Common Future (WCED, 1987). Known as The Brundtland Report. The findings and recommendations made in this report led to sustainable development becoming a buzzword in the international development community, and more importantly alerted the world to the urgency of making progress toward economic development that could be sustained without depleting natural resources or harming the environment.

The Brundtland commission was created to address growing concern about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences of that deterioration for economic and social development. The report itself focused primarily on the needs and interests of people, and was concerned with securing a global equity for future generations by redistributing resources towards poorer nations to encourage their economic growth.

Tourism is usually said to be the most important industry at world level; it is estimated to represent between 6% – 7% of GDP (Amedeo Fossati et al. , 2000: 16). A glance at the latter half of the twentieth century reveals a remarkable increase in international tourist arrivals from 25 million in 1950 to 664 million in 1999, an average annual growth rate of 7% (Tony Griffin et al. , 2002: 25).

It is clear that for less economically developed countries (LEDCs), such as Indonesia, tourism is essential for them in terms of economic growth. Figures published by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) more recently in the December of 2004 that specifically analysed International Tourism Expenditure illustrated a continuous increase from 1990 to 2003 across the board and using the example of Indonesia, they saw a substantial rise from 836 million (US dollars) to 3082 million (US dollars) over this period.

This further emphasises how developing countries highly rely on the tourism industry and as the great surges that have occurred in the last few decades have largely benefitted their economies, this only results in an increase in LEDC’s incentives to keep thriving in the tourism sector. This would appear to be a positive outcome and only lead to LEDC’s driving to adapt in order to welcome more tourism and reap the benefits from this.

However, the emerging destinations of the less developed world are less likely to have their long-term interests protected as tourism develops (Tony Griffin et al. , 2002: 28). Less developed nations are particularly vulnerable for a number of reasons. They possess environmental and cultural features that tourists from the developed world wish to experience, given the right health, safety and security conditions, and given their existing low material standards of living, they possess a powerful incentive to continue to develop tourism rapidly and with as few constraints as possible.

It is believed that tourism ultimately degrades the attractive natural and cultural features of a place, so by encouraging tourism growth on a vast scale it is highly likely the developed country will suffer in terms of how the beauty of the country itself and the environment as a whole is affected. As this has been brought to the attention of the international community, the need for policy intervention, via governments, and explicit sustainable development guidelines to be published has been acknowledged and in some countries put into action.

The guiding principle of sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development recognises the interdependence of environmental, social and economic systems and promotes equality and justice through people empowerment and a sense of global citizenship (2). There is no certainty with regards to what the future may bring, but it is generally agreed that the more preferable future is a sustainable one.

It has been established earlier that essentially the problem with tourism is one of externalities; tourists visiting a site impose negative externalities in terms of damage to the natural and constructed fabric of the place as well as imposing congestion type costs on each other. It seems a lot of the discussion about sustainable tourism has focused on the potential for self-regulation by the tourism industry. Such self-regulation involves regulations, rules or standards about the conduct of the industry, tourists or communities that are neither created by governments nor enforced by governments.

The instruments of self-regulation include company-led environmental management systems and social responsibility initiatives, and voluntary codes of conduct set up by companies or by associations of companies (B. Bramwell et al. , 2010: 1). These aren’t legally binding as they rely on voluntary agreements, and therefore, are difficult to enforce. So it is proposed that more effective management systems for sustainable tourism do require intervention and regulation by the governments.

The use of market based instruments in the regulation of such environmental externalities mentioned above has been extensively studied. The main problems that remain are to design the use of such instruments in a practical context, taking account of the market structures that exist and setting values for the instruments on the basis of adequate knowledge about the external costs (Amedeo Fossati et al. , 2000: 145). The UK Government has recognised four objectives for Sustainable Development.

These include social progress and equality, environmental protection, conservation of natural resources and stable economic growth. Everybody has the right to a healthy, clean and safe environment. This can be achieved by reducing pollution, poverty, poor housing and unemployment. One key policy to attempt to achieve these objectives regarding sustainable development is to raise awareness of the problem and educate people on what it is and how they can help to change the situation.

This is a policy that is currently being implemented worldwide through the increased public displays and higher accessibility of information and statistics on the problem of pollution, and an abundance of advice informing individuals how they can make small changes to their lifestyle to hugely benefit the environment. Linking this more specifically to tourism, by educating individuals on how their small activities have detrimental effects on new environments, people can then be more aware of this when entering those new situations and adapt their actions accordingly.

A drawback of a policy of this nature is that it is difficult to accurately measure the direct effect this has on achieving the objective concerned. The United Kingdom committed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12% to 15% below 1990 levels by 2010. In order to achieve this, currently one-fifth of the UK sustainable development indicator set is related directly to air emissions. The government itself is actively taking steps to encourage business and policy makers to plan with these targets in mind (C. Jones et al. 2007: 167). So, by signing up to this agreement the UK government have set a direct target and aim for the whole country to strive to achieve, which in itself makes the objective of reducing emissions more attainable. Relating this to the tourism industry, the business owners involved in this sector are now made fully aware of the environmental aspirations of the country, and should consequently feel much more obligated to take actions to support this, as they would be putting their business at risk if they did not act in favour of this movement.

A developing country example where steps have been taken to accommodate tourism growth, in a sustainable fashion that wouldn’t burn out the surrounding environment and cultural aspect of the place, is in a country located in Central America called Belize. In 1991 the Toledo Ecotourism Association (TEA) initiated the construction of guesthouses in six indigenous villages (Kekchi, Mayan and Garifuna) in the district of Toledo. Each guesthouse sleeps eight visitors and is built in traditional style, using local materials (Martin Mowforth et al. 2003: 226). This was felt to be necessary after there was a lapse in tourist activity due to the need to upgrade the facilities, and as the money and support needed from the government gradually came in, the programme took off and the economy benefitted from the increased arrival of visitors into the villages whilst keeping negative environmental impacts to a minimum.

Problems only arose with this initiative when a foreign government created competition in the villages and better funding was provided for this. The result of this was hat it only succeeded in producing an example of an agency’s complete lack of cultural sensitivity and demonstrated all the undesirable consequences of uncontrolled tourism. In conclusion, sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.

Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst the. In order for sustainable tourism to be successful the interdependencies that exist between the environment, society and the economy should be taken into consideration. Sustainable tourism development should be considered one part of a planning process that integrates tourism with other economic development initiatives in attempting to achieve sustainable development.

It can be accepted that a fully developed economic and environmental impact solution for our region is still some way off (C. Jones et al. , 2007: 171). However, now that awareness of the problem has been raised, steps are being taken in the right direction towards significantly reducing the potential problem of unsustainable tourism, and increased understanding of the global consequences of this provides a promising basis for more substantial transformations to the world economy for the future.

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Sustainable Development in Tourism. (2019, Jun 20). Retrieved from

Sustainable Development in Tourism
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