Discuss the contention that sustainable tourism is, perhaps, an impossible dream.
The definition of sustainable tourism is much debated. However, a suitable meaning can be inferred from the broadly used definition of sustainable development, an economic process to which sustainable tourism is intrinsically linked. Sustainable tourism would be that which ‘meets our needs today, without compromising the ability of people in the future to meet their needs’ (Swarbrooke, 1999, p. 3). These needs would be those of all involved in the tourism, ‘the host population, tourism guests, tourism organisations and the natural environment’ (Cater, 1995, p. 21). These needs are equitable to the prime interests of said parties, for example the tourist’s need to travel, locals’ need for employment, the tourism organisation’s need to maintain their business and for the environment not to be damaged. Sustainable tourism would be that which allows these present stakeholders to achieve these things, without inhibiting the potential of future stakeholders to do so. Given that ‘there is probably no other economic activity which cuts through so many sectors, levels and interests’ (Cater, 1995, p. 21) as tourism, a fall in its levels would affect a huge amount of people. This highlights the importance of sustainable tourism and all that it encompasses, such as Ecotourism and Green Tourism. To achieve this ideal tourism must be done in a manner which limits the ‘negative environmental and social impacts’ (Forsyth, 1997, p. 272). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) definition of Ecotourism reinforces this: ‘Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas in order to enjoy and appreciate Nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present) that promotes conservation, has low negative visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations’ (IUCN, 1996). Many companies do operate in a sustainable manner. For example, Peru Treks and Adventure are a small organisation based in Cusco, Peru, that offer treks around the Inca trails. They pride themselves in their sustainable operation. They are fully aware of their economic responsibility, making sure they employ as many locals as possible (all bar one employee at present), they purchase as much equipment as possible locally and they pay all local taxes (Gonzales, 2009). This maintains the economic well being of the hosts, ensuring they benefit economically as well as the tourism organisation. They take care of the environment they use, operating a zero tolerance litter policy, utilising clean burning fuels and ensuring any disposable items used are fully biodegradable (Gonzales, 2009). This allows the tourism to occur with a negligible effect on the environment used, allowing the same tourism to continue into the long term. The company also has a socio-cultural agenda; they directly aid numerous welfare projects in the area, for example the construction of two schools in mountain villages (Gonzales, 2009). This further enhances the benefit of the tourism in the area, ensuring that tourism is always an advantage for the region and not a burden. However, tourism such as this is still not entirely sustainable. Tourists still have to travel to the area, usually by aircraft and motor vehicles. These obviously have adverse effects on the environment they travel though, with extensive carbon emissions from the vehicles causing negative environmental effects, such as acid rain and global warming (EnergySavingTrust, 2009). Whilst various innovations such as catalytic converters are in place, and hydrogen and electrochemical fuel cells are being produced (CarbonTrust, 2009) the negative effects of this travel are yet to be completely removed or compensated for. This effect is exacerbated when tourist origins are taken into account, given that the majority of...
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