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Essay: Explaining Sustainable Tourism: Concept and Industry Practices

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Sustainable tourism is based on the ideology of sustainable development; sustainable development encompasses many things not just tourism.

“Sustainable development meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainability came from growing concern and awareness during the 1960s at the exponential growth of industry, relating to the health and well-being of the human population as well as the environment. For tourism, being sustainable is balancing the resources and impacts from specific areas, these areas being socio-cultural, economic and environmental. Each area covers certain aspects that tourism can affect: environment covers land and natural resources as well as man made heritage like the pyramids in Egypt. Socio-cultural is about local communities and how they need to be protected from tourism.

Finally, economic is being sustainable with things such as capital, labour, companies and buildings.

Tourism needs to be sustainable as it is one of the biggest industries globally. It contributes significantly to the global economy and employs hundreds of millions. In being one of the biggest industries it also contributes significantly such as global emissions, this being from the ever-increasing use of air travel as tourism is one of the biggest factors as to why people choose to fly. “To be sustainable, tourism will need to consider the needs and quality of life of local communities, enhance and respect culture and local traditions, contribute to local economic prosperity as well as minimise damage to the environment” (Welsh Government, 2007).

Sustainable tourism is divided into 2 levels: local and global. Local level is dealing with the 3 areas previously mentioned, socio-cultural, environmental and economic, whereas the global level relates to concerns such as climate change and green-house gas emissions. A good example of sustainable tourism is in New Zealand where they understand people visit for the environment and its rural draw. New Zealand understand their environment is a core factor to their tourism revenue. They do this with things such as whale watching and out-door activities. These are sustainable as they don’t affect the environment too much (although there is research to suggest whale watching affects whale behaviour when it comes to breeding and feeding).

The tourism industry improves sustainability with “alternative tourism” where the aim is to minimize the impact and retain benefits in the local area. Alternative tourism is where people go to areas to experience the culture first hand and live like the locals. Alternative tourism is a much smaller scale than that of mass tourism. Mass tourism happens in places like Benidorm, where people travel to and over crowd the destination. This is applicable where theme parks (such as Disney Land) are built.

Alternative tourism is an approach to make tourism more sustainable with people’s experiences up to the local community instead of big corporations. This is seen as sustainable as the greater portion of money spent goes to locals and not multinational companies. They also tend to have less environmental impact, accepting that of flying.

Alternative tourism typically involves more outdoor activities (such as walking, enjoying landscapes etc) reducing carbon footprint. There can be issues of course – erosion caused by walking popular paths can be problematic.

Alternative tourism is sustainable as it embraces local culture instead of causing change. It aims to share the culture of the area visited.

There are further steps that can be taken by enterprises to be sustainable such as conservation, preservation and restoration. These steps aim to protect environmentally valuable areas from tourism. Conservation, preservation and restoration aim to prevent unnecessary use of the resources in a given area. Conservation aims to safeguard resources in an area, an example being the work of charities such as the World Wildlife Foundation to protect wildlife, as well as government work in making National Parks.

Preservation aims to remove human activity from an area, an example being parts of the Australian coral reef where the public are not allowed. Restoration aim to restore areas by investing money and creating an environment for wildlife to exploit.
There are other interventions that can be done and the tourism industry is looking to do this to be more sustainable. Promoting domestic tourism in Britain, with established infrastructure, can help protect other foreign, more vulnerable areas from the negative impacts of tourism. It is desirable that a profitable tourism industry aims to be sustainable and safeguard destination areas.

Discuss the key positive and negative economic impacts that tourism can have on a destination. Provide examples to support your answer.

Tourism brings many economic impacts; it generates money and provides jobs for people and countries. Tourism can beneficial to areas with the most obvious impact being the spending of disposable income. The local economy benefits with money spent. It is estimated that Britain’s tourism industry will be worth over £257 billion in 2025, approximately 10% of the national Gross Domestic Product and this it is suggested will support around 3.8 million jobs (Visit Britain, 2020). Increased tourism can lead to the expansion of local businesses in an area to fulfil the needs of tourists – examples being travel lines like airports, hotels, catering, attractions and retailers. These examples have suppliers that would be supported – plumbers and electricians for the maintenance of hotels, farmers sourcing food, engineers maintain facilities etc.

Tourism brings many positives to an area economically, as it is an important source of income for many places (worth billions annually to the UK). This income can be used to develop areas, with many less economically developed countries (LEDC) using money from tourism to develop their country, with better education and better facilities for locals to use to help improve their area.

However, there are also negative effects, with tourism generating a lot of money for countries it’s easy for countries to become over-dependent on this revenue. Greece is a popular tourist destination that’s primary source of income is tourism. Events such as the current global Coronavirus pandemic may result in countries or local areas having an economic scare as the money they depend on will not be there. The absence of tourists may mean reduced income whilst expenditure remains the same.

Another impact of tourism is economic leakage which happens in less economically developed tourist destinations. Economic leakage is investment from tourists in the area that doesn’t stay within the area. This is predominantly down to multinational companies exploiting a tourist destination. Franchises that set up in certain areas usually gain the money from the area and spend it elsewhere, and move money in a way they can avoid certain tax. This hurts an area because it is money not being spent in their local economy. More economically developed countries usually don’t have this as the multinational companies are based in those countries.

There are other impacts to the economy from tourism such as costs incurred by local communities by tourism such as importing goods, raw materials and food. The cost of building tourist facilities is also an impact to the economy, as well as the management of the franchises that will come into the tourist destination such as McDonalds. There is further expenditure such as the cost of promoting an area, especially internationally. These expenses, it might be argued, could be better spent on other development in an area.

There is competition from other tourist destinations and this can mean the source of income is not always reliable. This may affect a local area/country if it is over-dependent on the income tourism provides. Failure of tourists spending can result in question being asked as to how money might have been better spent – an example being the world islands in Dubai where the construction costs estimated at $8 billion. Due to the financial crisis in 2008, the islands were left abandoned and some also ended up sinking due to erosion which resulted in more expenditure (Daily Mail, 2014).

A positive impact from tourism is the Multiplier Effect. The multiplier effects explain the varying amount of different ways money is generated by tourism. Firstly, there is direct expenditure, this is people paying money in hotels, airports and attractions. This is where money is spent directly into tourism. Indirect expenditure comes from the spending money in the supply of goods and services that goes to the tourism industry. This can be things such as spending money on food, and spending money on service like electricians. Finally, there is the induced effect tourism causes, this is the money spent by employees of tourism such as receptionists and bar staff when they spend money from their wages into the local economy. This further generates money for the area they work in.

Overall, the economic impact of tourism is one that needs to be managed, as long as a country is not over-dependent of tourism and is investing in tourism smartly they can balance the negative effects with positive ones.

Discuss the key positive and negative environmental impacts that tourism can have on a destination. Provide examples to support your answer.

The environmental impacts from tourism is something that needs to be managed. Environmental impacts can be divided into 3 categories: physical, natural and social. Physical is natural resources such as earth, water and air. Natural is all things concerning ecosystems, landscapes and wildlife. Social is things to do with heritage sites, towns, and roads.

Tourism has an effect on all these categories along with other industries such as production and agriculture. Every type of tourism, whether it be mass tourism, domestic tourism and alternative tourism has an effect to some extent on these areas of the environment. All these categories must consider the carrying capacity of an area (the carrying capacity is the number of tourists it takes before damage is caused to the environmental categories). Physical issues caused by too many people can include shortages of necessities and resources such as water, especially with tourism peak periods occurring when water is naturally low in the summer. Natural issues are damages to the landscape visually, as well as the negative effects on the plants and wildlife. Social issues can be an overcrowding and pollution, which can then discourage certain types of tourists.

The categories also have their own specific problems. Firstly, with the physical effects of tourism there is carbon emissions that globally effect the environment, the carbon emissions come from the transport caused by tourism, with planes and cars being the main producers of carbon. But not all tourism has the same levels of carbon emissions. Tourism types such as alternative and domestic attempt to be greener when compared to mass tourism. Domestic tourism does not usually involve air travel to get from place to place although there are other impacting factors such as methods of travel, where you choose to stay, how long you choose to stay and what you intend to do on your trip. All of these need to be accounted for in measuring the carbon your trip has caused.

There is increased global awareness on environmental issues caused by humans. With increased media coverage and the activity of people like Greta Thunberg, there is increasing awareness and people aiming to take more eco-friendly holidays. But this can also lead to issues even in greener tourism methods such as resource depletion for the locals. A key example of this is within Nepal where deforestation is occurring due to tourists using the wood in the area for firewood. This causes issues to the locals as they need the natural resources within their country to make profit to continue development. Many locals feel the use for firewood would not be as significant as using the wood for other projects such as building and expanding.

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