Since the concept of Sustainable development became popular in the mid 80’s with the celebration of the UN World Commission for the environment and development (Bruntland, Our Common Future, 1987) where this concept is defined for the first time: “The development responding to the needs of the present without compromising the development needs and satisfaction of the future generations”.

When applying this concept to the tourism industry, the concept of Sustainable tourism development is also born: “Development considering the economic, social and environmental impacts when satisfying the needs of the visitors, the local communities and the environment” (UNWTO).

Balancing the three dimensions. Therefore, a tourism development supported by an adequate balance of these three dimensions guarantees the destination’s sustainability in the long term, in a way that the destination operators have to:

1) Optimize the use of the environmental resources, a fundamental asset for the tourism development, keeping the essential eco-friendly processes and helping to preserve the natural resources and the biodiversity.

2) Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of the local communities, preserving their cultural assets and their traditional values, contributing to the social equality and the cross-cultural understanding.

3) Ensure that the economic activities are viable in the long term, delivering profits to all stakeholders proportionally, creating opportunities for stable employment for the local communities to obtain income and social services, thus contributing to reduce poverty.

The principles of sustainable tourism may turn into a series of management practices, which are applicable to all kinds of tourism businesses. The purpose of these principles is to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the benefits of the tourism activity in the socio-cultural, business and natural environment. Nowadays there are an increasing number of Governments and DMOs that adopt the sustainability principles within their management practices.

It is possible to say that sustainable tourism is a new fashion thanks to the new kind of traveler, who is better informed, and more linked to the destination’s social and cultural reality, so long as he or she is more exigent with the overall experience and looks for authenticity through the connection with locals. To satisfy the expectations of this new tourist demand, destinations face many new challenges and goals.

Goals for a sustainable management. On one hand, destinations have to adopt interdisciplinary and integrative approaches, including four main goals:

  1. Prove a sustainable management. Through actions such as the crisis and emergency management or the policies to counter the climate change.
  2. Maximize social and economic profits for the local community and minimize negative impacts, through supporting local entrepreneurs and public participation.
  3. Maximize profits for the local communities, visitors and cultural heritage, while minimizing the negative impacts, by preserving the tourist sites and managing the visitors’ behavior.
  4. Maximize the profits for the environment and minimize the negative impacts, by protecting the fragile environments and controlling the emission of toxic gases.

Challenges for sustainable tourism. On the other hand, in accordance with the destination’s sustainable management, the destination executives face new challenges:

  1. Reduce demand seasonality
  2. Tackle the impact of the tourism transport.
  3. Improve the quality of the tourism sector employments.
  4. Keep and improve the local communities’ prosperity and life quality.
  5. Minimize the use of resources and the production of waste.
  6. Preserve and leverage the value of natural and cultural heritage.

All these challenges can be overcome by using tourism as a tool for sustainable development through coordination between the public and private stakeholders.

To sum up, the 17 goals projected by the UN World Tourism Organization in its report “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals” are the following:

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health & well being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water & sanitation
  7. Affordable & Clean energy
  8. Decent work & Economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

This blogpost is from  http://www.visionesdelturismo.es/gestion-sostenible-de-destinos-turisticos/

Posted by Jordi Pera

Jordi Pera is an economist passionate about tourism, strategy, marketing, sustainability, business modelling and open innovation. He has international experience in marketing, intelligence research, strategy planning, business model innovation and lecturing, having developed most of his career in the tourism industry. Jordi is keen on tackling innovation and strategy challenges that require imagination, entail thoughtful analysis and are to be solved with creative solutions.

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