Tourism planning and sustainable development (Last of 3 parts)

By: Benito T. Jimena

Sustainable Tourism Development. The environment is the tourism industry’s most important resource”.  The key concepts of tourism sustainability include meeting the needs of both visitors and host communities and protecting and enhancing the tourism attraction for the future.

The two key factors of sustainable tourism are community-based tourism and quality tourism. Community-based tourism “focuses on community involvement in the planning and development process, and developing the types of tourism which generate benefits to the local communities.  Quality tourism basically offers tourists “good value for money.”

UNWTO Indicators Of Sustainable Tourism. There are two sets of indicators that managers can use and that we look at further in this chapter: The General core indicators of sustainable tourism that can be applied to all destinations and the Destination-specific indicators that can be applied to particular ecosystems or types of tourism at a particular site, location, and destination. Ecosystem-specific indicators (for example for coastal areas, parks, protected areas, or mountainous areas); while Site-specific (developed for one specific site).

Managers that identify and measure these indicators are able to see specific cause-and effect relationships between tourism and the environment. This includes being better able to identify emerging issues and prevent or mitigate them;  identify impacts early enough to act before they become problematic;  support sustainable tourism development while identifying the limits and opportunities; and promote management accountability, and develop responsible decision making built on knowledge

Indicators and their Specific Measures.  1. Site Protection – Category of site protection to International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN); 2) Stress – Tourist numbers visiting site (per annum/peak month); 3) Use intensity – Intensity of use in peak period (persons/hectare); 4)       Social impact – Ratio of tourists to locals (peak period and over time); 5) Development control – Existence of environmental review procedure or formal controls over development of site and use densities; 6) Waste management – Percentage of sewage from site receiving treatment;  7) Planning process- Existence of organized regional plan for tourist destination (including tourism component); 8) Critical Ecosystems – Number of rare/endangered species; 9) Consumer Satisfaction – Level of satisfaction by visitors (questionnaire based); 10) Local Satisfaction – Level of satisfaction by locals (questionnaire based); 11) Tourism – Proportion of total economic activity generated by tourism only; and 12) Contribution to local economy – % of GDP generated from tourism

Composite Indices:  1. Carrying Capacity – Composite early warning measure or key factors affecting the ability of the site to support different levels of tourism; 2. Site Stress – Composite measure of levels of impact on the site (Its natural and cultural attributes) due to tourism and other sector cumulative stress; 3. Attractiveness – Quality measures of those site attributes that make it attractive to tourism and can change over time.

Supplementary (Destination-Specific) Indicators:  1. Ecosystem-specific indicators; and 2) Site-specific management indicators.

Agenda 21 – Helps define priority areas for the travel and tourism industry for action, complete with objectives and suggested steps to achieve them; the guiding principles for the industry:  1.Travel and tourism should assist people Ieading healthy and productive lives in harmony with nature; 2. Should contribute to the conservation, protection, and restoration of the earth’s ecosystem; 3. Should be based on sustainable patterns of production and consumption; 4. Travel and tourism, peace, development, ad environmental protection are interdependent; 5.  Protectionism in trade in travel and tourism services should be halted or reversed; 6) Environmental protection should constitute an integral part of the tourism development process; 7) Tourism development issues should be handled with the participation of concerned citizens with planning decisions being adopted at local levels; 8. Nations shall warn one another of natural disasters that could affect tourists or tourist areas; 9. Should use its capacity to create employment for women and indigenous peoples to the fullest extent;  10. Should recognize and support the identity, culture, and interests of indigenous peoples; and 11. International laws protecting the environment should be respected by the travel and tourism industry.

Strategic Environment Assessment.  The Green Globe Programme evaluates the current level of environmental performance of  a tourism entity by using a strategic environmental assessment.

Results include the following information: 1. Cataloguing and documenting of positive and negative environmental impacts currently affecting the destination; 2. Identifying critical environmental performance gaps that exist between the current state of the destination and its environmental vision for the future; 3. Identifying the opportunities for remedial action through  both public and private initiatives; 4. An environmental policy for  the tourism sector; 5. A detailed report of the current situation; 6. Identifying specific sustainable development recommendations for the destination.

Once the above has been done, Green Globe can work with the destination or tourism entity to set environmental improvement priorities and implementation timetables, as well as research sources of funding. Then sustainability indicators with which all parties can monitor and review their achievements are introduced.

Climate Change.  The 1992 UN Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCD Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro attempted to address a controversial agenda designed to protect the earth’s environment and to foster less destructive industrialization and development.  Unfortunately, the outcomes have been limited.  The second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism (Davos, Switzerland, October 2007) underscored the need for the tourism sector to rapidly respond to climate change if it is to develop in a sustainable manner.

This requires actions to mitigate greenhouse gases from the tourism sector, derived especially from transportation and accommodation activities; adapt tourism businesses and destinations to changing climate conditions; apply existing and new technologies to improve energy efficiency; and secure financial resources to assist regions and countries in need.

These measures represent a vital element in poverty reduction efforts and for the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

At the international level, in 2003 the World Tourism organization issued the Djerba Declaration on Tourism and Climate Change, urging governments to do the following: 1. Adopt the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions; 2. Research and collaborate on climate change; 3. Move tourism up the agenda in the climate change discussion; 4. Implement sustainable water use practices and the ecological management of sensitive areas; and 5. Raise consumer awareness of the issue

Tourism planners, sustainable development experts, some government officials, environmentalists, and many tourists realize that tourism has an impact on global climate change and that we need to act now to avoid further pollution, including erosion of the ozone layer.  Transportation, particularly air and motor vehicle travels, are sources of tourism pollution.

Challenges and opportunities:  1. Making it clear that protecting the environment is not incompatible with economic development, and that sustainable development clearly benefits both the economy and the environment; 2. Connecting environmental sustainability to the fight to eradicate poverty and to eradicate hunger in the world – the first and the seventh respectively of the UNWTO’s Development Goals.

An interesting case of the impact tourism on climate change is Cambodia which is one of the highly vulnerable countries in the Mekong region.

Tourism and especially eco-tourism are highly climatic sensitive sectors.  Tourists love good weather – if the weather is too hot or too cold, tourists find it very hard to travel.

The recent climate changes have brought extreme weather hazards to Cambodia such as storms, floods, droughts and the resultant devastation.  This hits developing countries like Cambodia harder than it would a developed country.

Eco-tourism is a good way to promote environmental education and awareness to both host and guests.

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