Kelly S. Bricker

In June 2012, the world came together and attended the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - or Rio+20 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This meeting resulted in an outcome document focused on measures for implementing sustainable development, as well as the initiation of a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), post-2015. With the SDGs now in place, work has begun on specific strategies and implementation tactics that deliver more than rhetoric, theories and political agenda. There is no doubt countless examples exist of what has worked in implementing sustainable tourism and what has not.

Often, we fail to pay attention to the past, which can significantly inform our future. All too often, as academics, planners, natural resource managers, tourism bureaus, state and local planners, we find ourselves in silos, separating not only our immediate scope of work from that of our community but also ‘humankind’ from the environment, hence limiting the view of possibilities. Granted, it makes daily professional work something we can manage, and thus complete the objectives set before us. Frequently, the divisions we create extend into the world so that we no longer recognize the necessary interconnections of our planet, regions and local communities. Instead of fostering an integrated systems approach, which honours the way things work, we create an assembly line approach, piecing together ideas in hopes of a positive outcome.

This text supports the opportunity to explore connections between communities and the networks built within them and move beyond the silo approach. A systems approach is taking us in this direction. As Walker and Scott have stated, ‘the ruling paradigm - that we can optimize components of a system in isolation of the rest of the system - is proving inadequate to deal with the dynamic complexity the real world. Sustainable solutions to our growing resource problems need to look beyond a business as usual approach’ (Walker and Salt, 2012, p. 8). Indeed, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has recognized this, conveying that sustainable tourism is:

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. (UNWTO, n.d., p. 1)

The commitment put forward by the SDGs called for the international community to rally around an expanded vision of poverty reduction and pro-poor growth that situates human development at the centre of social and economic progress. It also recognized the critical role biodiversity conservation plays in supporting these concepts, particularly the dependence of the poor on natural resources. Hence, ‘local economic effects of tourism are determined by the share of tourism spending in the local economy as well as the amount of the resulting indirect economic activities’ (UNWTO, n.d., p. 1).

Research has demonstrated that ‘increasing the involvement of local communities, especially the poor, in the tourism value chain can contribute to the development of enhanced local economies’, leading to poverty reduction and economic and social resiliency (United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2011, p. 418). The degree to which tourism benefits communities and poverty alleviation primarily depends on the level of locally owned and supplied tourism, which is an important focus of this book (UNEP, 2011). There is also increasing evidence that more sustainable tourism in rural areas can lead to more positive poverty-reducing effects. For example, the tourist industry provides a ‘vast number of jobs to workers with little or no formal training; it can provide opportunities for those facing social and skills disadvantages in a way not always offered by other industries’ (International Labour Organization (ILO), n.d., p. 1). According to the ILO and many others, ‘tourism’s value chain and its significant connections to other sectors such as agriculture, construction, utilities and transport can contribute to poverty reduction’ (ILO, 2013, p. i). Concerning the supply chain in tourism, one job in the core tourism industry indirectly generates 1.5 additional jobs in the related economy (ILO, 2013).

Collaboration and partnerships will be key to the tourism sector driving a global response to climate change, yet it starts at the local level - establishing partnerships, infrastructure and relationships that can support locally sourced tourism products, be it food, art, culture, is a step in a positive direction. This includes many ideas such as the development of financial systems, cooperation with the private sector, including the benefits of new technologies, and the nexus between rural and urban areas.

As demonstrated in this text through case studies and literature, partnership opportunities exist through many mechanisms such as direct community-based tourism development, stimulating small business for long-term partners and buying from a community-based tourism organization or local tour operator. This book addresses three critical thematic areas: rural-urban linkages, fringe tourism, and culminating with strategies for sustainable tourism - each inclusive of case studies and literature that assist the reader towards an understanding of complex yet real-world endeavours which help us garner new insights into innovative solutions and move towards realistic action on the SDGs in coming years.

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