What Is Sustainable Development and Sustainable Tourism?

The environment and tourism should be integrated in order to maintain environmental integrity and successful tourism development. The underlying concept of sustainable tourism development is equating tourism development with ecological and social responsibility. Its aim is to meet the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing environmental, social, and economic values for the future. Sustainable tourism development is envisaged as leading to the management of all resources in such a way that it can fulfill economic, social, and aesthetic needs while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems (Dowling and Fennell 2003).

Sustainable tourism development should be ‘accepted as all kinds of tourism developments that make a notable contribution to or, at least, do not contradict the maintenance of the principles of development in an indefinite time without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs and desires’ (Tosun 1998).

Butler stated that sustainable development in the context of tourism could be taken as: tourism which is developed and maintained in an area (community, environment) in such a manner and at such a scale that it remains viable over an indefinite period and does not degrade or alter the environment (human and physical) in which it exists to such a degree that it prohibits the successful development and well-being of other activities and processes. That is not the same as sustainable tourism, which may be thought of as tourism which can maintain its viability in an area for an indefinite period of time (Tosun 2001).

Butler has distinguished sustainable tourism development from sustainable tourism. Although this distinction seems not to be widely recognized, it is important. Sustainable tourism development, as an adaptive paradigm, is a broad and multidisciplinary concept (Tosun 2001). The concept of sustainable tourism development is multidimensional, indicating the interrelationship of economic, social, and cultural development and its compliance with the needs and constraints of the environment (Angelevska-Najdeska and Rakicevik 2012).

Sustainable tourism, which draws its inspiration from the definition of sustainable development, is defined as a tourism which satisfies the requirements of the present generation without using the capacities of the future generations (for satisfying its needs). Sustainable tourism is planned and executed in a way not to have any negative effects on the environment, economy, and the culture of the host society. In light of these definitions, sustainable tourism is the tourism which simplifies the sustainable development achievement (Azizi et al. 2011).

A concise and precise definition would need to recognize the primary importance of one of the key aspects of sustainable tourism, e.g., environmental protection, or economic growth, a parallel process to choosing between weak and strong versions of sustainable development (Harris et al. 2002).

With the rising number of tourists visiting natural areas, it was clear that at some stage the environmental movement would confront tourism development and object to the increased adverse impacts caused by mass tourism. This occurred in the 1980s and became a major focus for disenchanted environmentalists, who were rallying against the environmental destruction caused by the rapid growth (Dowling and Fennell 2003).

The term ‘sustainable tourism’ began to be used from the late 1980s, when tourism academics and practitioners began to consider the implications of the Brundtland Report for their own industry. At that time, the term ‘green tourism’ was used more widely, and the environmental problems such as overpollution and global warming were not yet apparent. Since the early 1990s, the term ‘sustainable tourism’ was recognized in the Green Paper on Tourism published in 1995 by the European Union and has become more commonly used (Swarbrooke 1999). ‘Sustainable tourism’ has come to represent and encompass a set of principles, policy prescriptions, and management methods which chart a path for tourism development such that a destination area’s environmental resource base (including natural, built, and cultural features) is protected for future development (Hunter 1997). The first definition of sustainable tourism was declared by the United Nation World Tourism Organization in 1996: ‘tourism which leads to management of all areas, in such a way, that the economic, social and environmental needs are being fulfilled with the cultural integration, ecological processes, biodiversity and supporting the development of societies.’ In addition, with reference to the concept of sustainable development, UNWTO said that sustainable tourism was also a process that ‘takes into account the needs of present tourists and traveler needs of future generations as well’ (Fennel 2003 cited in Janusz and Bajdor 2013).

After the declaration of the United Nations’ principles of sustainable tourism, the World Tourism Organization and United Nations announced the Hainan Declaration on sustainable tourism of the Asia Pacific Regions in 2000, Quebec Declaration on ecotourism in 2002, and Djerba Declaration on Tourism and Climate change in 2003, which are all related to the sustainable development of tourism (UNWTO 2009 cited in Dede and Ayten 2012). Also, regarding the role of local authorities in the development of sustainable tourism, ‘Tourism and Local Agenda 21’ was prepared in 2003 (UNEP 2003 cited in Dede and Ayten 2012). This is an important document as it recommends participatory structures, management processes, and actions for sustainable tourism as well as the promotion of sustainable tourism development within Local Agenda 21 processes (UNEP 2003 cited in Dede and Ayten 2012). Finally, in 2005, the World Tourism Organization declared 12 objectives for sustainable tourism (UNWTO 2009 cited in Dede and Ayten 2012).

World Tourism Organization (WTO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) define ST as: ‘Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.’ Concerning the social component of ST description, WTO-UNEP rationalization is divided into two main factions: (1) the visitors and (2) the host communities. The interrelation between these two target groups with natural environment is critical for the development of SD in tourism, primarily to address matters as environmental impact reduction, cultural preservation, promotion of community livelihood, and visitor satisfaction (Ingelmo 2013).

Natural environments have long been utilized as a resource for tourism development. Tourists are particularly attracted to breathtaking landscapes in protected areas. Unfortunately, these tourists may not be aware that they could easily damage the environment they visit. Miller et al. (2009 cited in Chen 2015), in their study of public understanding of sustainability, reported the unwillingness of tourists to change their behavior toward the environment, which includes walking, driving, and camping in sensitive environments, whose damage takes a long time for nature to recover from. If the degradation issue at the destination is out of control due to the mischief, neglect, or ignorance of tourists, the number of visitors will be eventually reduced. It is therefore imperative to develop and enforce appropriate practices in accordance with sustainability concepts before the mass arrival of tourists in protected areas causes further disruption to nature (Chen 2015).

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