• Distinguishing between traditional and sustainable tourism
• Understanding the basic principles of sustainable tourism development
• Identify tools to manage destinations more sustainably
• Grasp the state of the art of this still-developing field — lessons learned, challenges, and the importance of key players.
You know the scene: it is high season and today the famous historic site is drawing hundreds maybe even thousands of visitors. Tourists trail guides with colorful umbrellas held high. You hear routine explanations about kings, battles, artists, and architecture delivered in English, Japanese, French, Italian, and Arabic.
A minister of tourism (or Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitor’s Bureau) might look at the scene and smile, “Business is good.” Preservationists might look at the scene and fret, “Can the site withstand all this traffic?” Many residents simply avoid the area, while other more entrepreneurial types rush in with their wares and scams to prey on the crowds. And many affluent and educated visitors take one look at this scene and hasten elsewhere, “Too touristy!”
How to handle all this? In 1960, when affordable jetliners helped to launch the modern-day tourism explosion, the world experienced fewer than 70 million international arrivals a year. Since then, humankind has grown — a lot. We are more numerous and more affluent, and we want to see new places. Tourism’s growth confronts destinations with both opportunity and stress. Now international arrivals approach one billion, a fourteen-fold increase in tourism traffic — and that is only a fraction of domestic tourism, which has soared recently in countries with fast-growing middle classes such as China, Mexico, India, and Brazil.
In popular destinations, this increasing visitation offers both challenges and opportunities. Destinations that hope to become popular face a choice: traditional tourism or a more sustainable approach.
For the traditional tourism model, short-term reward often outranks long-term planning. Low- margin quantity can eclipse high-benefit quality; success is measured in sheer number of arrivals, not benefit per tourist. Without careful planning and management, the negatives outnumber positives. The issues transcend just overcrowding. Reckless development harms the environment, degrades scenery, disrupts local culture, and channels tourism revenues away from local communities. Delicate historic, archaeological, and natural sites suffer physical wear and tear. Oil residue from hands and fingers slowly erodes aging limestone blocks and gypsum walls. On coral reefs clumsy divers bump into living polyps, crush them with flippers, or bury them under kicked-up sand. In caves, even carbon dioxide from too many human exhalations can chemically alter both rock formations and prehistoric paintings. Entire landscapes fall victim to resort and vacation home sprawl, and developers force out native residents.
Yet simply adding more planners and managers does not necessarily work. Destination leaders and stakeholders need to embrace principles and techniques to make tourism sustainable.
(To be continued.)
For the full text of this guide on Destination Management see: