Sustainable Tourism Development
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School of Business, Oxford Brooks University, Wheatley Campus, Wheatley, Oxford OX33 1HX Based on an extensive literature review, this paper proposes a framework of approaches to sustainable tourism. The framework is composed of four positions, chronologically sequenced according to the dominant understanding of sustainable tourism as a possession or goal. The positions are those of polar opposites, continuum, movement and convergence. The framework offers insights into the development of the sustainable tourism concept and enables identification of an author’s approach to the concept. Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013
Introduction The understanding of sustainable tourism has developed from the early ‘is it or isn’t it sustainable tourism’ debate, to the acceptance that research energy should be channelled into practical ways of assisting all forms of tourism to move towards sustainability. The fundamental difference is the assumption of the former, that sustainable tourism is, in some manner, already a possession of certain types of tourism or situation, against the acknowledgement of the latter, that sustainable tourism is not an inherent characteristic of any existing form or situation, but a goal that all tourism must strive to achieve.
The tremendous volume of output on the subject over the last decade (Brown, 1991) has contributed to the recognised ambiguity in terminology (Beioley, 1995; De Kadt, 1990; Lanfant & Graburn, 1992; Murphy, 1994; Pearce, 1992, etc. ) and the surfeit of labels. For example, ecotourism has no unequivocal usage. It has been expressed as a symbiotic relationship between tourism and nature conservation (Farrell & Runyan, 1991; Valentine, 1993), been equated with nature tourism (Boo, 1990), and constructed as a Venn diagram (Buckley, 1993; Wight, 1995). Occasionally, labels are combined to produce hybrids (see, for example, Dernoi, 1988; Wight,l995).
As a concept, sustainable tourism is still evolving. A Framework of Approaches to Sustainable Tourism Based on a critical literature review of both academic and industry contributions, the proposed framework comprises four positions of understanding of sustainable tourism. These four positions: · are broadly chronological, reflecting the dominant approach to sustainable tourism and offering insights into the concept’s development; · provide a structure within which an author’s approach to the concept may be identified, affording insights for literature reviews.
The framework is envisaged as complementary to other work (see, for example, Cazes, 1989; Pearce, 1992). As early literature commonly fixed on scale as the distinguishing feature, this is the unifying theme for the framework. As a 0966-9582/97/03 0224-10 $10. 00/0 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM ©1997 J. Clarke Vol. 5, No. 3, 1997 224 A Framework of Approaches to Sustainable Tourism 225 criterion, scale has shifted from an emotive or even antagonistic role to neutral ground. An overview of the framework shows the positions forming two pairs.
The first pair regard sustainable tourism as a current possession of a particular scale of tourism, whilst the second pair treat the phenomenon as a goal to be striven for. Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013 The first position of polar opposites A term adapted from Pearce (1992), the first, and probably the earliest of the four positions, was that of mass tourism and sustainable tourism conceived as polar opposites (see Figure 1). Alternative tourism was the popular label for sustainable tourism, mutual exclusion being implicit in the term.
As a force, sustainable tourism was understood to be pulling away from mass tourism, which served as a point of repulsion (for commentary, see Butler, 1991; Cazes, 1989; Krippendorf, 1987; Nash, 1992; Richter, 1987; Travis, 1988; Valentine, 1993). Thus, sustainable tourism and mass tourism were stereotyped as the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. The negative social and environmental impacts experienced at destinations were attributed solely to mass tourism, which was couched in emotive terms such s ‘hard’, ‘ghetto’, or ‘destructive’ tourism. Of course, mass tourism also related to scale, and the scale of the tourism involved was the principal defining characteristic for the polar opposite approach. Wheeller (199la) summarised scale as the focal point: the traveller is preferred to the tourist, the individual to the group, specialist operators rather than the large firms, indigenous accommodation to multi-national hotel chains, small not large — essentially good versus bad. Wheeller, l991a, author’s emphasis) Representing mass tourism, a Director of the Thomson Travel Group lampooned the approach by recounting his situation as an ecotourism speaker at a Royal Geographical Society gathering as being: rather like a cattle baron addressing a congress of vegetarians. (Brackenbury, 1992: l0) At its most extreme, advocates of alternative tourism pressed for a total replacement of mass tourism (cited in De Kadt, l990, 1992; Lanfant & Graburn, 1992) and of Cohen’s (1972) institutionalised tourist.
Arguably, the position of polar opposites was strengthened by the presentation of mass versus sustainable characteristics in diametrically opposed tables (see, for example, Krippendorf, 1982; WTO, 1989). Such tables were developed into concrete notions of ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ (see Lane, 1989, 1990). ‘Mass tourism’ Conceptual barrier ‘Sustainable tourism’ Figure 1 Position 1: polar opposites 226 Journal of Sustainable Tourism Thus the earliest understanding of sustainable tourism was one of a dichotomised position.
Believers in the polar opposite approach clearly regarded sustainable tourism as a possession of an existing type of tourism based on small scale characteristics. Ownership was claimed by tourism forms opposed to mass tourism. In short, small was synonymous with sustainable. Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013 The second position of a continuum By the 1990s, the original position of polar opposites was generally rejected as unproductive, but the notion of a continuum between sustainable tourism and mass tourism presented a flexible adaptation of the earlier ideas (see Figure 2).
In recognition that sustainable tourism utilised the infrastructure, transport and reservation systems of mass tourism (see De Kadt, 1990, 1992; Krippendorf, 1987; Wheeller, l991a), spawned an accompanying tourism industry structure (see Cohen, 1987, 1989; Krippendorf, 1987), and had the potential to develop into mass tourism if not properly managed (Butler, 1990, 1992; Tourism Concern, 1992), the simplicity of polar opposites was adjusted to a continuum between the two extremes. Variations were appropriately placed along the spectrum (see, for example, Davidson, 1992).
Although allowing some measure of degree, the continuum understanding of sustainable tourism still regarded the phenomenon as a possession and used scale as the defining criterion. Polar opposites and continuum therefore formed a natural pair. However, the continuum approach to sustainable tourism was only ever loosely established; understanding was moving in a new direction. ‘Mass tourism’ ‘Sustainable tourism’ Figure 2 Position 2: continuum Criticisms: too simple, too impractical Criticisms and queries have been voiced over these early approaches to sustainable tourism.
The idea of polar opposites representing ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ was denounced as ‘grossly misleading’ (Butler, 1990). Most criticisms related to one or both of the following: · Too simple: the inadequate appreciation of tourism as a dynamic and complex phenomenon resulting in the inherent flaws in this understanding of sustainable tourism. · Too impractical: the question of scale and the inability of this narrow view of sustainable tourism to offer practical solutions to the global problem of the burgeoning volume of tourist arrivals.
Tourism is a complex and dynamic phenomenon (Heath & Wall, 1992; Przeclawski, 1993), yet sustainable tourism from the polar opposite and continuum positions assumed a homogeneity and simplicity in conflict with reality (Cooper et al. , 1993). Faced with the dramatic growth in international tourism from the 25 million trips of 1950 (WTO, 1993) to the 531 million of 1994 (WTO, 1995a) and its continued predicted growth (WTO, l995b), the replacement of mass tourism with the sustainable tourism promoted by the two positions was illogical. Being small scale, sustainable tourism lacked the capability (Butler,
A Framework of Approaches to Sustainable Tourism 227 Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013 1990; Cohen, 1987; Cooper et al. , 1993; Fennell & Smale, 1992; Pearce, 1992). Sustainable tourism could neither manage the number of arrivals nor replace the economic benefits accrued (Butler, 1992; Cohen, 1987). For Wheeller (1990, l991a, l991b), the idea was a ‘micro solution’ struggling with a ‘macro problem’. Furthermore, this understanding was inward-looking, failing to recognise the importance of other industry sectors and the wider perspective of sustainable development (Hunter, 1995).
Indeed, the second pair of positions better demonstrate the influence of the sustainable development landmarks that shaped the concept (for example, IUCN, 1980, 1991; The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987; the GLOBE ’90 and ’92 conferences; The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development with Agenda 21). Other criticisms concerned issues such as elitism (Cazes, 1989; Richter, 1987), the problems of ensuring local ownership and control (Cater, 1992), and inbalances in power (Wheeller, 1990, l991a, l991b).
Butler (1990) argued that the approach to sustainable tourism portrayed a static picture of impacts. The revision of features related to time and process produced a less flattering scenario (Butler, 1990). For example, the more intense contact between host and guest over a longer duration resulted in greater damage to the fragile host culture than was readily apparent in the ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ tables. The emergence of these tables was partly a response to an over-simplistic interpretation of Krippendorf’s work (1982, 1987). Krippendorf (1987) was not opposed to mass tourism as long as it progressed towards ‘harmonious’ tourism.
In fact, he urged that: only if we succeed in living with tourism as a mass phenomenon, ? , can we claim to have made a decisive step forward, (Krippendorf, 1982: 111, author’s emphasis) an assertion often overlooked by proponents of a polar opposite or continuum approach. The third position of movement Criticisms of the earlier understandings of sustainable tourism, coupled with a closer alignment to sustainable development, resulted in the demand to change mass tourism to more sustainable forms (see, for example, Bramwell, 1991; Butler, 1990, 1991; Cohen, 1987; De Kadt, 1990; GLOBE, 1990; EIU, 1992).
If the main problem of modern tourism is that of its huge number, (Krippendorf, 1987: 42, author’s emphasis) then mass tourism was the most visible and sensible candidate for initial reform. The sustainable tourism as understood under movement differed from the earlier definitions of sustainable tourism on three key dimensions: · The issue of scale became more objective and less emotive. Mass tourism became the subject for improvement, rather than the derided villain. · Sustainable tourism became the goal for attainment, rather than the possession of an existing scale of tourism. Operationalising current knowledge to move towards the goal became the 228 Journal of Sustainable Tourism (’mass tourism’) Large scale tourism Sustainable Tourism Goal Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013 Figure 3 Position 3: movement practical focus of effort, rather than the ‘is it or isn’t it sustainable tourism’ debate of previous years. Figure 3 illustrates the understanding of sustainable tourism by movement advocates. As a label, large scale tourism is preferred to mass tourism, for it sheds the negative connotations.
Viewed objectively, large scale tourism possesses strengths which could be used to advantage: · The environment is attacked by other industries, such as mining and manufacturing (EIU, 1992; McKercher, 1993), and tourism is dependent on environmental quality. The tourism industry must protect its assets; size is important, as large players exert pressure through lobbying power. · Large scale operators have the marketing and communication skills, plus contact opportunities in bulk, to actively foster interest in sustainable tourism amongst the millions of consumers who purchase their products. Large size confers influence over suppliers and distributors, which could be used as a persuasive force for the introduction of sustainable policies along the supply chain. Of course, there are less altruistic reasons for large scale tourism to instigate movement towards the sustainable tourism goal. The imposition of environmental regulatory control by governments grappling with world problems of acid rain, ozone layer depletion and global warming require a minimum response of compliance.
From the demand side, the rise of consumer interest in green issues (see ETB, 1992a, 1992b; Green, 1990) provides the classic incentive of consumer needs. The interest expressed by consumers through financial institutions in environmental practices is a further motive. There are over thirty an ag em en im ts pa ct ys -e as nv ses tem iro nm s s – re ent men use t al Guid , re au eline cyc di s for le, red t susta uce inab le to urism Equity Company/organisation focus ta lm s pac im cts al pa lob G im al sic y ph al/ gic olo Ec (’sustainable tourism’) Small scale tourism iro nm en En v -e nv iro nm e nt al A Framework of Approaches to Sustainable Tourism 229 Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013 environmental or ethical funds in the United Kingdom, representing approximately ? 750 million of investment; according to independent financial advisors Holden Meehan (1994), the idea of ‘profit with principle’ has moved from the fringe to the mainstream.
Investors are stakeholders requiring satisfaction. There are many examples of large scale tourism proactively moving towards the goal of sustainable tourism (see Middleton & Hawkins, 1993, 1994; WTTERC, 1991–1994). British Airways was one of the first tourism companies to publish an environmental report (British Airways, 1991), the International Hotels Environment Initiative was a sector-specific project (Van Praag, 1992), whilst the ‘Green Globe’ programme was targeted across the tourism sectors (WTTERC, 1994).
The World Travel & Tourism Council, a coalition of Chief Executive Officers from international tourism companies, established the World Travel & Tourism Environment Research Centre (WTTERC) to monitor, assess and communicate objectives, strategies and action programmes in respect of environmental management (WTTERC, 1992). Over one hundred guidelines and codes of practice relating to tourism were identified (WTTERC, 1993); the environmental guidelines of the WTTERC itself provide a useful synopsis of the large scale understanding of sustainable tourism (WTTERC, 1992).
As Figure 3 demonstrates, the focus of this approach is on the physical/ecological environment, with an emphasis on environmental management systems, incorporating techniques such as environmental audits of products, processes and issues, and environmental impact assessments. The fourth position of convergence The framework culminates in a position of convergence (see Figure 4). This position represents the latest understanding of sustainable tourism as a goal that all tourism, regardless of scale, must strive to achieve (see, for example, Inskeep, 1991).
Accepting that the concept of sustainable tourism is still evolving, the absence of a precise goal definition is less important than general movement in the correct direction. Appreciating the wider role of sustainable development, this final position recognises two interpretations of sustainable tourism. The large scale interpretation of sustainable tourism (as portrayed in position three) has a dominantly physical/ecological perspective expressed as a business orientation. The small scale interpretation of sustainable tourism offers a social slant from a local or destination platform.
It is akin to the understanding of sustainable tourism as alternative tourism under position one, except for the crucial recognition of the concept as a goal rather than a possession. Both interpretations: · focus on the implementation of their current knowledge of sustainable tourism to move towards the ultimate goal of sustainability; · seek future progress towards the desired goal through the twin processes of further development of ideas inherent in their own interpretation and by adaptation of ideas found in the other.
Together, this results in convergence towards the goal of sustainable tourism. For example, in this quest, large scale tourism is experimenting with techniques for inducing shifts in tourist behaviour compatible with environmentallyfriendly travel, an educational component instigated by the small scale enterprises. Thomsons now provide environmental guidelines for guests; TUI 230 Journal of Sustainable Tourism Downloaded by [113. 210. 1. 106] at 07:28 22 March 2013 Large scale tourism al nm vi ro En Figure 4 Position 4: convergence ave produced an environment ranking for products featured in all their mainstream Euro-brochures. In turn, small scale enterprises are learning about the development of effective environmental management systems, originally the territory of large scale organisations. In the UK, the environmental audit was promoted for small scale concerns by the West Country Tourist Board’s (1993) ‘Green Audit Kit’; the project was then taken nationwide. In addition, by embracing sustainable development, both interpretations are receptive to further ideas generated from outside the tourism sector.
Like large scale tourism (see position three), the small scale interpretation of sustainable tourism has produced guidelines and codes of good practice (see, for example, ETB, 1991; Countryside Commission, 1991; Green, 1990), established destination-based projects (for example, the Devon-based Tarka Project) and offered and disseminated advice to interested parties (ETB, 1992a, 1992b, 1993). -e nv iro nm en ta l en t im g olo Ec m an ag em y ph al/ ic al sic en ts pa ct ys -e as nv s e s te m ir o nm sm s – re en use tal ent Guid , re au eline cyc s for le, r dit sust edu aina ce ble t ouri sm Equity Company/organisation focus ba Gl p l im s act p im Sustainable Tourism Goal ts ac Local area identity focus Equity Guid e Loc lines for al c sust ont aina Ed rol ble t uc ouri ati To sm on u of Au ris hos tc th t/to e n ha r uri tic act st ity eri s ti cs s act ts mp pac y al i rit ultur l im a c teg loc In o cial/ tion/ a S stin De Small scale tourism A Framework of Approaches to Sustainable Tourism 231 The completed framework Taken as a whole, the framework both structures and partially explains some of the conflicts and debates that have occurred in sustainable tourism.
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