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Journal of Sustainable Tourism
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Sustainable Tourism Development: A Critique
Zhenhua Liu Version of record first published: 29 Mar 2010.

To cite this article: Zhenhua Liu (2003): Sustainable Tourism Development: A Critique, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 11:6, 459-475 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669580308667216

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Sustainable Tourism Development: A Critique
Zhenhua Liu The Scottish Hotel School, University of Strathclyde, Curran Building, 94 Cathedral Street, Glasgow G4 0LG, United Kingdom Sustainable tourism has become an increasingly popular field of researchsince the late 1980s. However, the sustainable tourism debate is patchy, disjointed and often flawed with false assumptions and arguments. This paper is a brief critique of some of the weaknesses in the sustainable tourism literature. In particular, it explores six issues that are often overlooked but must be addressed in research: the role of tourism demand, the nature of tourism resources, the imperative of intra-generational equity, the role of tourism in promoting sociocultural progress, the measurement of sustainability, and forms of sustainable development. Finally, it is argued that in order to transform research on sustainable tourism to a more scientific level, a systems perspective and an interdisciplinary approach are indispensable.

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Introduction
Since the late 1980s, sustainable development has become a buzzword in development studies in general and in tourism research in particular. However, a literature review led the author of this paper to the belief that the ‘muddy pool’ (Harrison, 1996) of debate on sustainable tourism is patchy, disjointed and at times flawed. Indeed, ‘little appears to have been written, in depth, on the meaning and implications of sustainable tourism development’ (Hunter & Green, 1995: 69). Most research ‘had advanced little beyond the stage of formulating and discussing various principles and assumptions’ (Komilis, 1994: 65); while the case studies which explore the ways of applying sustainable principles to practice, often through small eco- or alternative tourism projects, provide at best a micro solution to what is essentially a macro problem (Wheeller, 1991: 93). With a full appreciation of the contributions made by numerous writers towards the progress in tourism research, this paper attempts to make a brief critique of the research on sustainable tourism. However, it does not intend to inveigh against the literature at large; rather, it is a personal observation of the debate about tourism and sustainability. Indeed, it is a glimpse at the other side of the sustainable tourism debate, the side that has largely been...
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