Tourism is believed to be one of the most influential and fastest growing industries across the world. Its growth over the recent years has been on a steady rise with numerous countries across the world witnessing an upward mobility in their tourism industries (Dabour, 2003, p.25). According to Sharpley and Telfer (2002, p.1), both international and global tourism are estimated to be worth US$3.5 trillion. This report is supported by Lindsay (2003) who states that “Worldwide, tourism generates annual revenues of nearly 3 trillion US dollars and contributes nearly 11% of the global GNP (Gross National Product), making it the world’s largest industry.”
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In a more recent documentation by UNWTO (2011), the industry of tourism is reported to generate estimated global revenue of US$919 billion just from its exports alone. This clearly shows the immense value of tourism as a vital aspect in the development and planning of today’s business-oriented world.
Many studies conducted today attest to this fact—with a good number of them prospecting a better future for tourism in spite of being, admittedly, aware of the looming dangers prospected to come in the near future. One such scholar is Kim (2010, p.1) who says that:
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts that the world tourism industry will grow at an annual rate of 4.1% by the year 2020 with international arrivals reaching nearly 1.56 billion by the year 2020 in Tourism 2020 Vision, its long-term forecast and assessment of the development of tourism.
But before delving into such intricacies, what really does the term tourism mean? In essence, tourism generally refers to the act of travelling for purposes of leisure, recreation and business (Tezak et al., 2010, pp.202-212). Its categories include heritage tourism, ecotourism, wildlife tourism, religious tourism and cultural tourism.
Fundamentally, several factors contribute variably to the progress or advancement of tourism. These factors include (but are not limited to): good management policies by the concerned tourism bodies and people, the availability of rich ecosystems which encourage visits, relative efficacy of financial institutions and viable cooperation among stakeholders (Lindsay, 2003). However, based on the varying nature of development in countries; tourism development and planning (whether national, regional or international) occurs differently across the world. For example, in Southeast Asia and the Pacific which are reported as the fastest growing tourism regions; tourism development and planning tends to be more efficient as opposed to slow-growing regions like Africa (UNWTO, 2011).
Even more importantly, changes in needs and wants across regions have led to tourism development being regarded differently. As explicatively detailed in chapter 1 and 2 of the book Tourism and development: concepts and issues by Sharpley and Telfer, development in tourism is today viewed as self-actualization, economic growth, capitalism or socialism, structural change, cultural reliance or even autonomous industrialization; all at the same time. As a result, the tourism planning taken by people or organizations differs from one place to the other (Selby, 2004, pp.15-20).
On another note, the change in time has also brought its fair share of viewpoints in tourism development and planning. According to Sharpley and Telfer (2002, p.39), in the 1950s and 1960s, development and planning of tourism was mostly geared towards agendas such as modernization. However, as we moved in the 1970s and 1980s, the agendas changed into issues such as economic neoliberalism. These two interrelated, yet distinct, agendas brought by time are bound to have an effect on the nature of tourism development and planning. A succinct analysis of some of the four major development paradigms or characteristics presently used in tourism planning (including their merits and demerits) is given below.
Firstly, we have modernism. In this development paradigm, the major focus is on using modern tools as a way of advancing tourism. Often, we have the involvement of governing bodies like the state—which greatly helps in keeping development plans in perspective (Sharpley & Telfer, 2002, pp.39-41). On the downside, however, too much involvement of entities like the state can be easily subjected to manipulation by those in power thus reducing objectivity.
Secondly, we have Dependency. In this category, efficacy in tourism development is sustained by depending on those who are well-off. This gives the dependants some leverage in whatever developmental plans they have. The problem with dependency, however, is that the countries or regions people depend on can decide to place some limiting sanctions for their subjects (Sharpley & Telfer, 2002, p.42). Also, these subjects may be depending on organizations that are misguided. Problems from those who are depended upon, can be catastrophic if it spreads to the subjects (Todaro, 1994, pp.81-84).
Thirdly, there is the paradigm known as economic liberalism. Here, power is somewhat distributed liberally such that everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity for amassing economic strength through fair completion (Sharpley and Telfer, 2002, pp.39). However, as we know, at no point can we ever find equity and equality. In one way or another, the equilibriums voiced by neoliberalists is simply a mask meant to hide ugly truth of anomalies like controlled ,markets, privatization of public entities or even marginalization of the “have-nots” (Todaro, 1994, pp.83-85)
Fourthly and finally, we have the alternative development paradigm which is loused on the mindset that provision of basic needs to people is the major reason for any given development (Sharpley and Telfer, 2002, pp.39). Other endeavors such as power and profits which are normally emphasized in most development circles are given second priority. However, some people or organizations already have adequate systems that give them all the basic needs they need (Sharpley and Telfer, 2002, pp.45-47). To such masses, issues like self-actualization (as explained in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) come in quite handy.
As glimpsed above, all these paradigms influence the process of tourism development and planning differently. It is therefore vital that one knows the controlling paradigm or idea that is being used in a particular place before venturing into making any tourism development plans (Todaro, 1994, p.90-93).
Needless to state, even though the nature of tourism development and planning has commendably advanced over the recent times, it still faces a good number of challenges and limitations. These include: terrorist attacks, limited or total lack of cooperation among its stakeholders and shareholders, negative human activity on ecosystems (for example; over-cultivation, poaching or even deforestation), internal and external wars in countries, the unchecked growth of technologies and related facets like globalization and finally, unstable or poorly managed markets (Smeral, 2009, pp.32-36; Sharpley & Telfer, 2002, p.36; and Chavez, 1999).
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In effect, tourism planners are bound to have a lot of hiccups in their sustainable tourism endeavors (Shunnaq et al., 2008, pp.1-14). This, therefore, necessitates the need for solutions to be found. And in order for us to find these solutions, more researches need to be done to help augment the studies that have already been done.
Remarkably, there is a good deal of theoretical solutions that have been brought to light. However, on the practical aspects, very little has so far been done. In the quest to finding solutions to the existing tourism challenges; Sharpley and Telfer (2002, pp.2-3) recommend that, more emphasis should be put in finding practical solutions and not just presenting impracticable theories.
Leading by example, (Sharpley and Telfer, 2002, pp.1-2) say that there has been an excessive obsession in getting profits from tourism agendas to the point that salient issues like creating sustainable tourism development plans are no longer given the attention it deserves. As a solution, the two scholars propose that more attention should be paid to objectives, influences and process of tourism-related development (p.1).
Additionally, Sharpley and Telfer (2002, p.35) lament that, in spite of the fact that development theory and tourism evolved along similar timelines, very little connection has been established between the two. Effectually, growth in tourism has been greatly limited. To solve these, the two scholars propose that the ideologies and strategies (which are the two basic components of the development theory) should be channeled such that they accentuate agendas of objective tourism (pp.37-38).
In conclusion, it is worth reiterating the sentiments of Sharpley and Telfer (2002, p.2) by saying that, just because tourism may be sustainable; it does not mean that it will accrue development or become beneficial. Similarly, the fact that people are profiting from tourism does not mean that it is sustainable. There are many discrepancies that exist in the business-oriented world we live in. In the bid to appear get profits, which is the main aim of any given business, some vital practices, laws or rules may be pushed aside thus deviating from the real objective of tourism. In order to solve this, it is needful for the concerned parties to ensure that there is a balance between profitability and sustainability when planning for tourism development agendas.
As clearly revealed in the discussions above, there is indeed a relationship between tourism and development—which needs to be continually nurtured to ultimate fruition. However, for there to be full fruition, there is need for the concerned parties to work together in adding the benefits while intermittently eliminating the challenges and limitations. It is only through this, that Sharpley and Teller’s dream of having an “all-rounded” tourism industry can be truly actualized.
List of References
- Chavez, R., 1999. Globalization and tourism: deadly mix for indigenous peoples.
- Dabour, N., 2003. Problems and prospects of sustainable tourism development in the OIC countries: ecotourism. Journal of Economic Cooperation, 24 (1), pp.24-62. [Online] Web.
- Kim, T. Y., 2010. Establishment of a tourism network in the Korea-Japan strait.
- Lindsay, H. E., 2003. Ecotourism: the promise and perils of environmentally-oriented travel.
- Selby, M., 2004. Understanding urban tourism: image, culture and experience. New York: Tauris.
- Sharpley, R., & Telfer, D. J., 2002. Tourism and development: concepts and issues. Bristol: Channel View Publications.
- Shunnaq, M., Schwab, W.A., & Reid, M. F., 2008. Community development using a sustainable tourism strategy: a case study of the Jordan River Valley tourist way. International Journal of Tourism Research, 10, pp.1-14.
- Smeral, E., 2009. Impacts of the world recession and economic crisis on tourism: Forecasts and potential risks. Journal of Travel Research, 49 (1), pp.31-38.
- Tezak, A., Sergo, Z., & Luk, N., 2010. Impact of economic crisis on motivations for selecting a tourist destination. Tourism & Hospitality Management 2010, Conference Proceedings, pp.202-212.
- Todaro, M., 1994. Economic development (5th Ed.). New York: Longman
- UNWTO., 2011. UNWTO tourism highlights 2011 edition.