Sustainability of Tourism in South Africa

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Tourism, for many countries, is an important economic activity, responsible for the generation of a large portion of the destinations’ income and jobs; however, if approached in an incorrect way, the negative effects of tourism development may be highlighted rather than minimized, causing damage to both the economy and the environment in which it is applied. The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as meeting the needs of tourists and their hosting regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future (WTO, 2001). Sustainable tourism development aims to manage the negative impacts of the industry while developing local communities both economically and socially (UNEP, 2005). Sustainable tourism originally referred to preventing environmental damage from tourism, however, it is now aimed at a variety of different developmental activities related to the tourism industry.

Tourism, when left unmanaged, may have adverse effects on a local community environmentally and economically; this may include soil erosion and soil/air pollution due to the pressures of infrastructure to develop a location into a tourist destination. Increased CO2 emissions due to air travel and water pollution are some of the negative impacts of developing tourism that may impact the locals living in the area (UNEP). Tourism may also stimulate price inflation due to fierce competitive economic environment that causes the cost of land and labor to increase (Cooper & Gilbert, 2008). Socio-culturally, tourism may cause a “commercialization” of a destinations’ local culture, reducing religious traditions, festivals and local cultures to conform to tourist expectations, causing what is known as “reconstructed ethnicity” (Grunewald, 2006).

Two approaches may be applied when developing a long-term plan for sustainable tourism development; one is a proactive approach, that aims at analyzing all the factors attributable to a local community, such as...
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