Sustainable Tourism: Origins and Definitions

The concept of sustainable tourism emerged in the early 1990s. According to Bramwell and Lane (1993: 2) it is defined as “an economic development model conceived to improve the quality of life for the local community, and to facilitate for the visitor a high-quality experience of the environment, which both the host community and the visitors depend on.” It was inspired by the already existing concept of sustainable development that emerged in the mid-1980s as a result of increasing interest in environmental protection, and increasing awareness of existing ecological problems. The concept of sustainable development was introduced in Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, by the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987: 41) and defined thus: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:

  • • the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given;
  • • and the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

Since the Brundtiand Report, numerous studies of various industries have considered the importance of environmental and ecological variables. Well-known examples are related to: energy production, water management, waste management and recycling, agriculture, among others. Some authors propose general equilibrium models and environmental variables, such as mega models (Beaumais and Schubert, 1994; Hoeller et al., 1991), and study issues linked to current environmental problems. These models differ from the traditional general equilibrium models by including previously omitted variables such as: natural resources, technical progress, and demography (Beaumais and Schubert, 1994). They describe the interactions between the environment and the economy generally in relation to energy use/saving. Beaumais and Schubert (1994) make an important distinction between standard and “green” products, produced respectively by standard (creating solid final wastes unemployable in any other production), and sustainable sectors (clean production resulting in no waste). They also propose an indicator of environmental damage that has an important influence on consumers’ preferences and surplus and takes into consideration nonprofit phenomenon generated by environmental policies. Finally, the model outcomes shed light on waste management and clean energy policies,1 the management of pollution2 at the national and European levels, and suggest the implementation of a European ecological labeling.

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