Introduction Figure 1: 'Tourism depends for its very existence on quality natural environments. But the world over, tourism itself plays a considerable part in damaging those natural resources on which it depends' #. The contradiction displayed in the above quotation lies at the core of the modern tourism industry. Now the largest industry in the world with over 12% of the world's GDP (WTO 2000) it is only now it is starting to change the way it goes about its business. There are those who say that tourism as it stands, is an impossible dream that can never be sustainable because the price we all pay is too high in terms of environmental and socio-cultural impacts. Others argue that 'greening' the industry is worth doing despite these reservations.
Managing and developing tourism involves working and changing relationships between visitors, the visited and the place. Such relationships touch on economic, environmental, social and cultural issues, which can be amenable to change in line with sustainability principles. The Historical context of Sustainability Sustainability or sustainable development are terms taken from forestry. Sustainable forestry means that only so much wood is removed from a forest in a year as can grow back in the same period. At its simplest, sustainability means the ability to go on and on and to bear a burden without it collapsing#.
Concern over the human impacts on the environment is not new. In the late 1960's European Green movements began questioning industrial growth and its potential irreversible damage to the natural environment. In the 1980's their discussions encompassed the concept of sustainable development. The argument put forward was that if development was to be genuinely sustainable, economic growth should not be the only measurement to be taken into account. The first UN summit to consider this issue was in Stockholm in 1972, which highlighted the importance of conservation to protect the world's flora and fauna.
However, the concept of sustainability only really gained meaning since the publication of the report Our Common Future, by the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987 (Brundtland Commission). The UN Brundtland Report of 1987 offers this definition of sustainable development: 'Figure 2: Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. This report was based on the idea that: Figure 3: 'We do not inherit the Earth from our forefathers, but borrow it from our children' # This requires a development without over exploiting natural resources and without destroying the basis of existence. The goal must be to make growth possible in the long term, while environmental stress and energy consumption decrease. Although this definition offers a broad overview of sustainable development, it fails to mention how this goal can be achieved and implemented. The Brundtland Commission recommended that the United Nations hold a formal conference to discuss the concept of sustainable development.
The UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (Earth Summit) in 1992 adopted Brundtland's report and produced a global action plan - Agenda 21, which 182 international governments including the UK signed up to. This commits national governments to considering the environment and development across numerous activities. Agenda 21 has affected most areas of global activity, including tourism, with the World Travel and Tourism Council, the World Tourism Organisation, the Earth Council translating Agenda 21 principles into practice. Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry (1996) recommends actions for tourism organisations to adopt sustainable principles. Sustainable Tourism Recognition of the damaging effects of tourism has lead to a focus of the industry encouraging alternative forms of tourism, although it raises the debate alternative to what? Most authors agree that this refers to alternatives to mass tourism, a kinder and gentler form of tourism that is generally smaller in scale, more environmentally sensitive and socially aware than the former.
However it is often a way for the industry to capture a niche market. A number of alternative themes have emerged and are now part of international and domestic tourism markets. Sustainable tourism, ecotourism, green tourism and nature tourism are a few examples. Growth in these areas has boomed since the 1990's, but critics argue that diversifying tourism products to environmentally sensitive or culturally different regions is prone to negative impacts thus contradicting the principles of sustainability. It is therefore suggested that sustainable tourism should not be viewed as a niche market but as an ethos and include the whole tourism industry. What is Sustainable Tourism? Sustainable tourism in many respects has been moulded to fit the needs of the tourism industry and therefore there is no widely accepted definition.
One option is to define sustainable tourism within the scope of the Brundtland Report: Figure 4: 'Forms of tourism which meet the needs of the tourists, the tourism industry, and host communities today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' #. The main principle of sustainable tourism is to strike a balance between the local community, the tourists and the environment. In 1997 Clarke# suggested four approaches of how sustainable tourism can be viewed: Polar opposites - sustainable and mass tourism are opposite to each other. A continuum - where there are shades of sustainability and mass tourism that merge together. Movement - were positive action can result in mass tourism becoming more sustainable. Convergence - where all forms of tourism can achieve sustainability.
Swarbrooke (1999) provides a useful definition of sustainable tourism in relation to the three core elements: Figure 5: 'tourism which is economically viable but does not destroy the resources on which the future of tourism will depend, notably the physical environment and the social fabric of the host community'. There have been many debates over the meaning of sustainable tourism, partly due to the lack of accepted definitions which has lead to confusion by many academics. McKercher summarises the meaning by dividing into two sections: Development centred Ecologically centred Whilst development centred ideas consider sustainable tourism in terms of sustaining the industry, ecologically centred ideas concentrate on protecting the environment over financial gain. In addition, sustainable tourism could refer to environmental practices that both tourists and the industry could implement, e. g. recycling and reducing the need to travel.
Alternatively one could take a holistic approach which involves considering about the environment and the impact we have upon it. Principles for Sustainable Tourism Derived from the 1992 Rio Declaration on the Environment by the WTO, World Travel and Tourism Council and the Earth Council. Travel and tourism should assist people in leading healthy and productive lives in harmony with nature. Travel and tourism should contribute to the conservation, protection and restoration of the Earth's ecosystem. Travel and tourism should be based upon sustainable patterns of production and consumption. Nations should co-operate to promote an open economic system, in which international trade in travel and tourism services can take place on a sustainable basis.
Travel and tourism, peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent. Environment protection should constitute an integral part of the development process. Tourism development issues should be handled with the participation of concerned citizens, with planning decisions being adopted at a local level. Travel and tourism should use its capacity to create employment for women and local people to the fullest extent.
Tourism development should recognise and support the identify, culture and interests of the local people. International and national laws protecting the environment should be represented by the travel and tourism industry. Source: Tourism - Towards Sustainability (1998) Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Although these principles are useful in setting guidelines, they do not identify measures of how the industry can achieve them or distinguish sustainable from non-sustainable forms of tourism. The table below highlights the differences between these two forms of tourism, although it is vital to consider that these should not be viewed simply as good or bad tourism as many forms lie somewhere in-between. Table 1.
Sustainable versus non-sustainable tourism development. Adapted from Krippendorf (1982), Lane (1989, 1990) and Godfrey (1996) #. Sustainable Non-sustainable General concepts Slow development Rapid development Controlled development Uncontrolled development Appropriate scale Inappropriate scale Long term Short term Qualitative Quantitative Local control Remote control Development strategies Plan, then develop Develop without planning Concept-led schemes Project-led schemes All 5 landscapes concerned Concentrating on 'honey pots' Pressure and benefits diffused Increase capacity Local developers Outside developers Locals employed Imported labour Vernacular architecture Non-vernacular architecture Tourist behaviour Low value High value Some mental preparation Little or no mental preparation Learning local language No learning of local language Tactful and sensitive Intensive and insensitive Quiet Loud Repeat visits Unlikely to return Volunteer tourism In addition to the previously mentioned forms of tourism, volunteer tourism offers an alternative that is seen to look to the future. This new contemporary form of tourism underpins the case study in part two which analysis the sustainable components of a volunteer tourism organisation. Volunteer tourism describes tourists who choose to undertake holidays and volunteer in an organised way. This might involve aiding some groups in society or helping to protect environments.
Whatever their purposes, volunteer tourists tend to seek experiences which are mutually beneficially, not only to their own personal development, but as a direct positive impact to the social, economic and environmental factors in the area they participate in. Volunteer pressure groups clearly aid the course of sustainable tourism by raising awareness of certain issues and campaigning for change. However, they are usually made up of people from outside the destination and questions over the power and rights of the local community arise. The Tourist To date there has been much written about the green tourist, although there is little evidence that tourists are actively trying to change the industry, for example by insisting that hotels recycle. One way is to discuss tourists in terms of shades of green, where the market varies from not green at all (typical mass tourist) to totally green where people do not take holidays away from home. Volunteer tourism features high on the green scale, although they are few tourists which could honestly say they fall within the dark green category.
Despite this, tourists attitudes are changing with people becoming more aware of environmental issues and the ability to travel to further destinations. Poon describes this change as old tourists and new tourists. Table 2: The difference between old and new tourists. Old Tourists New Tourists Search for the sun Experience something different Follow the masses Want to be in charge Here today, gone tomorrow See and enjoy but do not destroy Just to show that you had been Just for the fun of it Having Being Superiority Understanding Like attractions Like sports Precautious Adventurous Eat in hotel dining room Try out local fare Homogeneous Hybrid Sustainable Tourism Dimensions Sustainable tourism encompasses environmental, economic and social impacts concentrating on maximizing the positive and minimizing the negative. There are clear links between these three aspects of tourists, as shown below#.
Economic Efficiency Economic sustainability of tourism Sustainable tourist development Sustainability Tourism as part of sustainable development Ecologically sustainable tourism Social Equity Environmental Conservation Although all three aspects are equally important, this report focuses on the natural environmental factor. Mostly, tourism is seen as negative towards the environment, however it raises awareness of environmental issues which has lead to many conservation projects being sent up. This is further discussed in Part Two. Problems in achieving sustainable tourism One of the major dilemmas involving sustainable tourism is there is no precise definition and therefore no set measures to aid the practice of these goals. Although good in theory, few very tourism industry sectors have adapted sustainability in their practices.
Those that have predominately use 'green' labels as a way of marketing their product and capitalizing on profits they earn. Sustainable polices tend to focus on the benefits associated with it, but often fail to consider that by promoting sustainable tourism it could lead to the results encountered with mass tourism. According to Muller (1994) # there are four main reasons why achieving sustainable tourism is so difficult: Too many theories and experts - too few resources and little time to act. Continuing boom in tourist demand. While there is a growing awareness of the environment, the predominance of a hedonistic philosophy means a trend towards indulgence of pleasures on holiday rather than responsibilities. A change of paradigm is needed to move towards socially and environmentally compatible lifestyles - a long and difficult process.
This last point emphasises that people should integrate environmental and sustainable practices into their everyday lives, but in reality can you really envisage everyone acting this way! . Conclusion It is evident that the tourism industry needs to do something to protect the resources that it relies upon, introducing sustainable polices offers the most advantages, yet is it just an impossible dream or could it be a reality? At this stage it is to early to predict the future but what is clear is that the whole industry needs to work together. The best the industry could do is move towards better environmental practices. Consumers need to be aware of issues not just as tourists but in their general life. May (1991) #provides six steps which can be taken to move closer to the sustainability goal: Better understanding of the value of environments. More complete information about environments, local values and susceptibility to outside influences.
Greater attention to the regional effects of development. Use of environmental economics in relation to assessing development. Improved measures of environmental accounting. Developments should be designed with long term environmental quality in mind.