INTERNATIONAL YEAR 2017 - Sustainable Tourism is Key to Development

Change is the order of nature. Man anticipates change and consistently strives for change, though often dreading it, for it brings in the unknown element. Change when comes in the form of ‘Development’ is largely welcome and much appreciated by one and all. Change when it is deemed ‘development’ is synonymous with concepts like ‘evolutionary growth’, ‘maturing’, ‘expansion’, ‘enlargement’, ‘build out’, ‘spread’, ‘blossoming’, ‘blooming’, ‘burgeoning’, ‘progress’, ‘making headway’ so on and so forth. Unless one comprehends the nature and scope of ‘Development’, ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Tourism’, it is not possible to offer pointers to ‘Sustainable
To begin with, the first question that arises is: ‘What is Development?’ Development can be described as the process of ‘developing’ or ‘being developed’. It simply means ‘an event constituting a new stage in the ever-changing situation’. Simply put, it could be called “betterment” of the existing situation, structure and function.

We can now safely take it to assume that development is primarily betterment of some sort or the other. This concept of ‘betterment’ to hold water, should then also encompass the preserving of the existing situation, function and structure by ensuring that harmony prevails and sustainability is provided. The reason is that, as with the present, the future too is very important.

There are many schools of development which purport their own definition, model and theory. As discussed above, development as a binary exists as: ‘Development as a state of being or static-condition’ and ‘Development as a process or course of dynamic change’.

American economist Michael Paul Todaro has delineated three main objectives of development. He says that the first should be raising the living levels of all the members of society. These levels include the full spectrum of human existence and needs. This means, the income of each individual, the quality and quantity of consumption of food by all members of the society, food security, medical facilities, education, entertainment, individual and group rights and all relevant growth processes should be accounted for.

The second objective according to Todaro is the creation of right conditions to the growth of peoples’ self esteem through the establishment of social, political and economic systems and institutions which promote human dignity and respect.

The third objective would be increasing peoples’ freedom to choose by enlarging the range of their choice variables, for example: a variety of goods and services and lifestyles.

Many theories of development do not focus on the human aspect of growth or development. There are many alternative interpretations of development. In this kind of interpretation commodity-output is emphasized and development is measured in terms of GNP. Such kind of development has now seized the imagination of the developing world where one can easily see the continuation of a dual economy, where the export contains small number of workers, but takes in massive amounts of technology as contrasted with the traditional sector where a majority of the people work and is dominated by less-skilled workers working with inefficient and obsolete technology.

Another theory lays profound emphasis on the aspect of modernization. This theory lays a great emphasis on the dynamic process of social change, which is a necessary prerequisite to produce economic advancement. The theorists argue that the changes should be permanent in the social, psychological and political level.

The theory also further elaborates on non-economic elements such as psycho-social practices, cultural practices, beliefs, mores, values and customs. The theorists further emphasize that the diffusion and speed of change is very critical as is the removal of various social and cultural impediments. The underlying principle of this theory is that backward internal structures, rather than external factors are the main cause of underdevelopment.

Another theory focuses on how to develop and retain wealth-oriented behavior and values in individuals rather than subsistence and self-sufficiency. Many others argue that true development takes place only when there is a shift from commodities and commodification to the human approach, with an all round investment in primary, secondary, tertiary and specialized education and value-added skill training.

The Keynesian model focuses on the process of capital formation as determined by savings and investment. Domestic savings are eventually channeled into productive investments and these savings result in high number of products. Growth becomes market-driven as income levels rise, savings increase and makes capital available for alternative investment.

To counter the Keynesian model of development, the neo-liberal development theory took birth in the early 70s. This theory emphasized the supply side factors in development, i.e private initiatives and market-driven growth. It asked for moving away from demand-stimulation, interest rate manipulation, import substitution, state management and centralized planning. The next phase of this model would be a gradual industrialization with a steady ‘trickle down’ of the benefits to all social classes.

Meanwhile, a pragmatic group of social scientists proposed the popular development model which asked for the doing away with grand theories and emphasis on solutions viewed within the context of development which is part of the historical process. It reminds all that the context of development is constantly changing in scale, scope and time. This theory accommodates geographical and historical diversity and underlines that grand theories and academic discussions have had little use for those who actually manifested development. Stress was laid on local diversity, human creativity and endeavour, process of social change through pragmatism, flexibility and context. Assessment and comparison of the contributions of private and public sectors and their being complimentary to each other was stated.

The Marxist view of development too exists and has had a deep impact on planning of many nation states. The leftist view emphasizes mode of production, elements and activities necessary to produce and reproduce real materials and thereby impact material life. The theory delineates that the market economy driven by capitalists depends on wage labor, whose labor power produces a surplus of wealth, which is accumulated and appropriated by the employer/capitalist. This results in creating two distinct classes of people in society, the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and thus resulting in class conflict and chaos.

Yet another theory of development, especially targeted to African, South American and Asian countries is that ‘Development’ is ‘Westernization’. So whatever models of development or growth that western nations, specifically West European and North American countries adopt are the best and that these targeted nations too blindly follow them.

We now come to the second key question. What is Tourism?

Tourism is multi-loaded word. Interestingly the word ‘tourist’ was first used in 1772 and the term ‘tourism’ in 1811. Tourism comes from the word ‘tour’, which is derived from the Old English word ‘Turian’, from the Old French word ‘Torner’ and from Latin ‘Tornare’ which means to turn on a lathe, which in itself is derived from Greek word ‘Tornos’ meaning lathe. Its literal meaning is take a ‘turn’ as in travelling.

The modern meaning of tourism is travel and visiting of places by an individual or group for pleasure. Tourism also comes to mean a theory or theories, it is also, as we know a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. Before the second world war, the then League of Nations defined a foreign tourist as “a person travelling abroad for at least 24 hours”. After the war the United Nations Organisation amended the time period to a maximum of six months.

The World Tourism Organisation defines tourism as “beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only”. It now comes to mean anybody travelling outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes. Tourism is both domestic and international and has massive implications for the exchequer of the country. In 2010 the number of tourists travelling all across the globe has surpassed the milestone of one billion. Tourism has come to occupy a major place in the economy of many countries. The impact is so pronounced that, a good or a bad ‘tourist year’ has now far reaching political, social and economic ramifications.

To promote the industry of tourism, ‘tourism trade fairs’ and ‘fetes’ are held across the world and these are the most coveted and anticipated events. Tourism is very significant for the whole society. Tourism helps the service sector grow. It also helps the manufacturing sector and the real estate sector. In 1980 nations across the globe recognizing this vital and vibrant sector brought about the Manila Declaration on World Tourism of 1980. The declaration said that tourism was “an activity essential to the life of nations because of its direct effects on social, cultural, educational and economic sectors of national societies and on their international relations”.

It is now a known fact that tourism industry brings in large amounts of money into the economy as tourists pay for the goods and services. This is nearly 30 percent of the world’s trade and services and nearly 6 percent of exports of goods and services. It can be surmised that nearly all sectors of the economy are connected to the process of and the industry of tourism.

To sum up, since ancient times, man has been curious about the planet and has been travelling to get new experiences. Tourism has evolved and many sophisticated and specific forms of tourism have emerged.

Some of the kinds of tourism are:

  • Mountain Tourism
  • Cruise Ship Tourism
  • Winter Tourism
  • Modern Day Tourism
  • Mass Tourism
  • Niche Tourism
  • Eco Tourism
  • Forest Tourism
  • Wildlife Tourism
  • Pro-Pour Tourism
  • Recession Tourism
  • Medical Tourism
  • Educational Tourism
  • Cultural Tourism
  • Creative Tourism
  • Experiential Tourism
  • Dark Tourism
  • Social Tourism
  • Doom Tourism
  • Space Tourism
  • Sports Tourism
  • Sustainable Tourism Agri Tourism
  • Astronomy Tourism
  • Birth Tourism
  • Culinary Tourism
  • Cultural Tourism
  • Extreme Tourism
  • Geo Tourism
  • Heritage Tourism
  • LGBT Tourism
  • Medical Tourism
  • Nautical Tourism
  • Pop Culture Tourism
  • Slum Tourism
  • Virtual Tourism
  • War Tourism
  • Wellness Tourism
  • Wedding Tourism
  • Divorce Tourism
  • and so on and so forth.

This year has been declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. We now come to the question, What exactly is ‘Sustainability?

‘Sustainability’ is the key word for the survival of all systems, including the very presence of the planet Earth. Sustainability is about maintaining harmony and incorporating evolutionary growth. Sustainability also means anything that is being able to be maintained at a certain rate or level. It also means something that being able to be upheld or defended. The bottomline is that anything that is not sustaining will perish.

Finally we ask the question: What is Sustainable Tourism?

The World Tourism Organisation states that “ sustainable tourism is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.”

While the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 address says that sustainable development implies “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to mee their own needs”.

In simple words, sustainable tourism is a concept and a process of “visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society and economy”.

Pointers towards Sustainable Tourism Development

There is now broad consensus among all the nations that tourism development should be sustainable or else the price that the future generations will have pay will be horrendous.

The big question of how to usher in sustainable tourism and achieve all the goals envisioned are to be debated and realized.

There is now broad consensus among all the nations that tourism development should be sustainable or else the price that the future generations will have pay will be horrendous.

The big question of how to usher in sustainable tourism and achieve all the goals envisioned are to be debated and realized. Suitable tourism development should and promote the principles of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted by UNWTO and endorsed by the UN General Assembly as well as the recommendations and guidelines provided by Multilateral Environmental Agreements and conventions as appropriate, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the World Heritage Convention, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Code of Conduct for the protection of children against sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. Sustainable tourism development can be defined as that kind of development that is likely achieve long-lasting satisfaction of human needs and improvement of the quality life and encompasses. Sustainable tourism development is the one that will help the poorest of the poor who are so desperate that to survive, they are left with no option but to destroy the very environment that they live in. Sustainable tourism development is the very idea and practice of self-reliant development with natural resource constraints. Sustainable tourism development should adopt tourism planning at the national, state and sub-regional levels and should coordinate and interact and execute plans with the local level in mind. Sustainable tourism development in principle is cost effect development using different economic criteria to the traditional, which is that tourism development should not degrade environment and end up destroying it. Sustainable tourism development should address important issues of health control and management at both the macro and the micro level. Sustainable tourism development should only adopt and utilize only such technologies that are deemed appropriate. Sustainable tourism development should ensure food self-reliance perpetually. Sustainable tourism development should ensure clean water for all. Sustainable tourism development should ensure afforded and appropriate shelter for one and all. Sustainable tourism development should ensure that all activities are necessarily people-centred. Sustainable tourism development should acknowledge that human beings are the resources in the whole sconceptualization of the scheme. Sustainable tourism development should minimize negative economic, environmental and social impact. Sustainable tourism development should generate greater economic benefits for local populace and enhance the well-being of the host communities, improve working conditions and access to the industry. Sustainable tourism development should ensure that planning should be closely connected to policies for sustainable development, which means that national sustainable development strategies, poverty reduction strategies are closely connected to the local agendas. Sustainable tourism development should see to it that public and private institutions and organizations engaged in tourism planning, including tourism master plans, should make use of credible and reliable scientific methods and tools encompassing economic, environmental and social approaches and assessments for sustainable tourism development that will help stakeholders relate to different components of the value chain understand their environmental and socio-cultural impacts. They then should work to maximize benefits and reduce negative impacts. Sustainable tourism development should involve local population in the decisions that affect their lives. Sustainable tourism development should make positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage to the maintenance of the Earth’s diversity. Sustainable tourism development should provide more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with the local population and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues. Sustainable tourism development should provide immediate and greater access to persons with disabilities. Sustainable tourism development should ensure that the plan is is produced by a multiple stakeholder participatory planning process (these encompass NGOs, local law making and administrative bodies, community-based organizations, enterprises, experts and destination management organisations, etc.), as well as through the development of firm partnerships at local, state, national and international levels. Sustainable tourism development should see to it that the local communities are encouraged to reflect on all agreed priorities and process and plans for tourism in their own work thus paving way for a two-way process of give and take. Sustainable tourism development should be culturally sensitive and engender respect between tourists and hosts and eventually help build local pride and confidence. Sustainable tourism development should envisage the establishment of structures that enable the participatory processes of different stakeholders, especially local communities and also ensure that local communities indeed have their say in how tourism is developed and managed.

Policy pointers to boost Sustainable Tourism Development

Sustainable tourism development depends on many factors. But success or failure of the whole industry and eventually the economy depends upon the kind of policies that are adopted and tested. Whether a policy is right or wrong only time will tell. Here are some pointers towards sustainable tourism development policy.

Sustainable Tourism Development Planning

Planning is one of the most important starting points for any blueprint of sustainable tourism development. Economies are both micro and macro and operate at national, state and local levels impacting each other and feeding off each other. The first need is to integrate and synergise the national-state-regional grid of the sustainable tourism plan. Importance should be given to ensure that the plans address both national and local concerns and needs. Next all the resources, whether they be short term or long term should be gathered to execute the plans. Along with the resources, skills should be developed and fine tuned. Public policies, governance mechanisms and tools and all stakeholders’ involvement should be firmly incorporated into the framework outlined in the national and regional sustainable tourism development plan. Planners should clearly identify and utilize legal and fiscal regimes, traditional and modern and relevant information, basic and specialised knowledge, evaluation tools and cooperative processes among professionals, academia/researchers and civil society at large. Planning envisages a vision for tourism and general public use development and management. This would include zoning systems with appropriate visitor experiences aligned with that particular zone. Desired conditions serve as the primal basis for planning and product development. Descriptions of the desired conditions are basede on local, state and national values, existing national legislation and goals and objectives of all the authorities. All stakeholders should be taken into consideration when planning the desired condition and product. All tourism plans need to be developed so as to preserve the destination values by outlining processes to monitor change, monitor processes, evaluate threats, sense opportunities and permit public and private parties to respond to key values so as to maintain the destination’s destiny. Planning can also check and in many places offset the potential negative impacts of extensive and relentless tourism on the ecology.

Organisation of Resources for Sustainable Tourism Development

After the plan is ready, now comes the ardous task of gathering all the resources to execute the plan. Tourism investment plays the most important role. As the American saying goes “if you want to have a change of Scene you need a lot of Green” or in Indian context “ Maal Hain toh Taal Hain”. But finances come with a catch. Care should be taken to be skeptical with all kinds of tourism investment. Financing from national and international organizations, whether they be public or private dealing with investments in infrastructure should estimate and analyse their social and environmental impacts and adopt measures to offset and compensate unavoidable negative impacts. Strict measures should be taken by the authorities to ensure that all rules and regulations are met. Regulatory instruments with fully integrated and functional environmental and social criteria should be applied in the tendering processes, licensing and permit-approval procedures. These regulatory instruments should incorporate and support the application of tools and fixtures such as strategic environmental impact assessments, environmental and social impact assessments and all other relevant enforcement and monitoring processes. Instruments giving rise to sustainability should be designed to help governments to build institutional capacity and develop streamlined and coordinated procedures for this purpose. The concept of Total Economic Value should be stressed and the benefits of tourism investment should include ecosystem services and social accounting benefits. Main emphasis should be given to the inclusion of impacts on society at large and local communities. An overall philosophy should be encouraged to ensure that corporations adopt corporate social and environmental responsibility principles in their tourism investments. It is very importat to invite traditional investors and business stakeholders to strengthen their commitments towards responsible investments as they are in the know of the business and best suited to promote sustainable tourism.

Sustainable Tourism Development Operations and Management

After all the policies have been delineated and defined, plan blueprints drafted and approved comes the ardous task of executing the plan and then managing it. Land, water and energy are precious resources that should be judiciously used. With awareness about the disastrous impact that negligence and inappropriate behavior is causing a lot of damage to the environment it is but imperative that all tourism businesses, public institutions and individuals should be made to adopt innovative, suitable and appropriate technology, techniques to improve the efficiency of all resources, face the challenge of climate degradation, minimize and if possible eliminate greenhouse gases, minimize waste and protect bio-diversity. The rule of law should be followed all the business operators and tourists with regards to the policy, legislation related to sustainable tourism development, environment, socio-cultural sensitivities and the economy. Generally accepted, standardized protocols should be adopted to implement sustainable tourism policies. A lot of policy initiatives worldwide regarding tourism and especially sustainable tourism have taken place. Notable among them is the ‘Davos Process’ which gave a lot of teeth to the International Task Force on Sustainable Tourism Development to tackle climate degradations and the negative impacts of tourism. Also, to be mentioned for their contributions are the Sustainable Investment and Finance in Tourism Network, the Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council. It has been seen that tourists/consumers can make more informed and sustainable choices if efforts are made to communicate clear and transparent information on labels and brands claiming sustainability. To do this two strategic developments are necessary. One is that there should be better consistency between such labels and nomenclature and secondly a clear cut validation of content on the said labels.

It is important that the consumer and seller have the best possible and correct information delivered consistently to them in the most suitable way possible. This will help them make sustainable choices in the tourism industry. Overall the whole of the economy and the country should go into a sustainable development mode, so that all sectors work in collaboration to integrate true sustainability into their policies and management practices. Only such a philosophy and a move would ensure that sustainable tourism development is a success and is here to stay.

Sustainable Tourism Development Promotion and Marketing

What is a business product or service if it is not sold and revenue made. Tourism is serious business as it involves a lot of time, money and energy. No effort should be spared to turn the tourist venture into a grand success. Success not only enhances the country’s honour but also strengthens its economy. Tourism promotion and marketing are keys to success. At the level of policy and implementation all marketing and promotion strategies should promote the idea and the immense need for sustainability. All traditional and modern promotion channels should emphasise the merits of sustainability. These messages should be made mandatory for sustainable tourism development and to influence consumer choices. The basic philosophy behind any policy, any initiative, any endeavour, any project should be sustainability and governments at all levels, businesses, NGOs, civil society organizations should be encouraged to focus only on sustainable tourism. The success or failure of each tourism destination and tourism process should be evaluated not only in terms of arrivals of tourists or the money they are bringing, but the impact they are having at the psycho-social levels on the lives of the local people and the negative impact they are having on the environment. Local goods and services, which has little negative impact on the environment should be promoted. This will minimize leakages and do away with unnecessary carbon print. The use of local services and products will help generate employment, boost investments in the local infrastructure and economy. This will bring skills, hitherto unavailable to local youth. As part of socio-economic sustainability drive, tourism businesses should be promoted by traditional, conventional and modern marketing techniques that ensure adequate access of local tourism enterprises, local communities, guilds rather than national level or international players. Sustainable tourism should also be promoted and marketed to tap the local tourist, so that heritage is shared all social groups come to value their collective inheritance and strive to preserve it.

Capacity Building for Sustainable Tourism Development

All plans will fail eventually if they are just tall dreams and mere castles in the air. For successful tourism enterprise across the spectrum and for sustainable tourism development it is very important that Capacity building takes place. As attention is given to quantity and quality all stakeholders should be encouraged to build capacity for sustainable tourism and apply this capacity in all their internal operations as well as be a role model and influence the decision of other stakeholders within their periphery and zone of impact. It is to be emphasized that within this framework, the capacities of the local communities should be enhanced, while respecting their traditions and strengthening them so as to enable them to build sustainable, local and community-centric initiatives and endeavours. Also, care should be taken to respect local customs, beliefs, mores, traditions and habits. All stakeholders including business persons, business houses, international organizations, NGOs, academia, professionals, intellectuals should be engaged to promote and support the capacity-building of all the stakeholders as well at the level of policy making. Only then will the objectives of the sustainable tourism development be realized.

Consumption of Sustainable Tourism Goods and Services

It is now the need of the hour that all consumers should be encouraged to go local and use locally developed products and services that generate local employment, boost local economy and support initiatives for social and infrastructure community development. This development should include education, healthcare, sanitation and local public utility infrastructure.

It is to be stressed that all consumers of tourism products and services should be sensitized to evaluate and assess ecological, socio-psycho-cultural footprint and politico-economic ramifications of their individual and collective decisions. The consumers should also be encouraged to purchase locally produced sustainable tourism products and services. These include all products, food, non-food items and crafts. All those involved in the tourism industry as well as members of civil society should be aware of general and specific guidelines for the behavior of the hosts and the guests right from the start of the tour. All means of communications including print media, television, radio, social media and NGOs should be used extensively to provide information about appropriate behavioural guidelines. The police, volunteers and tourism promoters workers throughout the value chain should work hand-in-hand to ensure that no untoward incident takes place that will mar the image of the country and harm the economy.

Monitoring and Evaluation of Sustainable Tourism Development

While life is totally unpredictable and random, humans and their behavior too are totally so. Monitoring the execution of the plans and evaluation of the results are always necessary to ensure success in sustainable tourism. It is imperative that the government bodies and business houses should set a baseline and measurable targets. They should also have regular interaction to review progress with regards to the sustainable tourism development objectives and goals. The UNWTO guide on ‘Indicators for Sustainable Tourism’ should be adopted for as a guideline for practical applications. It has been seen that an activity is acceptable in one context and at one scene and very harmful in another monitoring, analyses and evaluation should be done and the right choice should be adapted to that specific context of each local destination according to resources, forms and volumes of tourism and management capabilities. It has now been mooted that a concept and nodal body of a global observatory on sustainable tourism’ may be considered to establish a network of regional, state and local observatories. The objective of this global observatory would be the promotion of systematic application of monitoring and information management techniques as well as those processes connected with communications and reportage thus supporting informed decision making by the powers that be regarding sustainable tourism development. To sum up it very important that feedback is got from the ground so that meetings and discussion become meaningful and task-oriented. Policy and action on the ground go hand-in-hand and should always be so

Factors that need attention to boost sustainable tourism development

There are many areas of focus in tourism that need immediate attention. If attention is paid to these areas for the improvement of quality and quantity. Then definitely tourism industry will flourish. Some of the areas that need attention are:
Infrastructure Security and Safety
Protection of Sites
Countering Pollution of Air, Water, Noise, Food.
Protection of Flora and Fauna
Protection of Women, Children, Senior Citizens
Promotion of Tourism for the Handicapped