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As socio-environmental and economic consequences of tourism persist, there has been increasing need for the tourism industry to adopt sustainable approaches in its management of protected areas.
Sustainable tourism refers to putting in place measures that ensure that tourism activities have low impact on the region’s environment, economy as well as the local culture while generating economic benefits to the people (Mowforth and Munt 17).
It aims at providing positive experience to tourism firms, the local people as well as the tourists themselves. They also come to understand the local culture as well as the significance of conserving tourism resources.
Business management approaches have continued to dominate tourism institutionally as well as philosophically (Hall and Lew 199). The study therefore is built on market-driven approaches and strategies based on socio-environmental as well as economic strategies aimed at achieving financial sustainability.
Values and ethics of sustainable tourism
Sustainable tourism advocates for inclusive and sustainable community commitment. Tourism development has to involve the community that is seeking to achieve positive benefits from tourism.
Sustainable tourism takes into account the Whole Place Development theory which advocates for development of sustainable communities.
According to Billington, Carter and Husain (5) Whole Place Development refers to the dynamic process of creating public as well as private spaces by utilizing the input of the stakeholders who are the community to develop a desirable place with good living environment where the community is able to sustain itself and prosper.
Whole development helps utilize community partnerships in harnessing strategies, finance, science as well as narratives and cultures in creating socially and economically attractive, vibrant and efficient tourist destinations.
Sustainable tourism also involves balancing economic, environmental as well as social goals of tourism. This should include imposing limits and restrictions on specific tourist activities. There should be limits which are formally accepted by key stakeholders.
In addition, the carrying capacity needs to be clearly defined. Stakeholders in tourism are also obligated to provide tourists with honest information about their destinations regarding travel, hospitality as well as stays.
It has to ensure partnerships as well as establishment of balanced cooperation between tourism providers and tourists in achieving sustainable tourism development plus equitable distribution of benefits.
It must aim at benefitting those who exploit tourism resources and those who neither exploit nor damage the environment in which they stay and earn a living from without direct involvement in tourism. The local communities should be able to share equitably the cultural, social as well as the economic benefits generated.
Tourism policies should be designed to help improve the standard of living of the local people. Socio-environmental concerns have to be effectively addressed as tourist operators and developers aim to attract tourists and increase revenues. Part of the revenue should be used to develop tourism resources.
Tourism infrastructure and activities have to be designed in a manner that helps protect and conserve the natural heritage. Finally, tourism has to promote mutual understanding as well as respect among societies and between people.
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Mass tourism refers to the act of visiting tourist destinations with a large number of people at the same time. It is therefore important to understand the impacts of a large number of visitors on a particular destination or over-exposure of a destination to a single group of tourists.
Tourism operators usually construct physical facilities based on the mental images of the physical appearance of tourist destinations and also tailor images according to what they think consumers need. In most cases, the desired image of the physical facilities influences the services and activities offered.
This could in turn consistently attract a specific group of tourists. Mass tourism is encouraged by technological developments especially in the transport sector and other tourism facilities.
According to Weaver (57) mass tourism is likely to minimize tourist interaction with the local people.
On the contrary sustainable tourism aims at achieving places where tourists and the local community are able to involve in socio-cultural exchange. Meaningful spaces help create positive interactions between the community and tourists.
Tourist operators should also define the limit of social, economic as well as ecological usage of resources to avoid adverse mass tourism impacts. The aspect of carrying capacity is very important and helps define mass tourism.
An increase in the level of mass tourism without adequate control measures put in place could damage the natural environment and the habitats for wildlife thereby interfering with the future capacity of the region to attract tourist.
For mass tourism in natural environments, the tourist operators have to provide a certain timeframe which is enough for recovery. Mitigation measures should be put in place to help avoid or recover from environmental damages attributed to mass tourism.
Market economics refers to a situation where economic decisions as well as prices of goods and services are less controlled by the government but are instead left to be determined by the interactions of citizens and businesses (Dwyer, Forsyth and Dwyer 21).
Under market economy, it is assumed that market forces like supply and demand best determine the country’s well-being. The government therefore less engages in intervention measures like price fixing, industry subsidizations as well as license quotas.
In tourism, market access and economics ensures that the tourism management works hand in hand with the regional destination management units as well as key stakeholders in order to ensure that the industry maximizes global and domestic transport systems to the tourism resources (Bull 64).
They also have to consider accommodation and intermediaries as key components of tourism (Sinclair & Stabler 59). According to market economics, tourism supply should consider the level and nature of inter-firm as well as inter-sector competition and the resulting consequences on the consumer welfare.
In market economies, suppliers who are the management of tourism firms, determine the prices for tourism services and products.
The prices charged and output decisions of a firm has no significant effect on another since they may offer different quality using varied approaches to conserve and develop the resources and facilities.
According to Hunt (7) if the community that aims to benefit from tourism builds the place to give it its own identity, character as well as community presence, so as to achieve sustainable tourism, tourists will be attracted and it will in turn benefit the community and the region.
Bergstrom (11) states that increasing the quality of the tourism resource, experiences and facilities by applying the whole place development strategy highly determines the quality of tourists who visit the place.
This calls for careful planning as well as cooperation with the local community, tourism developers together with heritage managers to further direct tourist traffic to preferred areas taking consideration of the desired number.
This ensures that tourists receive satisfactory experience giving the destination its identity and the income it desires while ensuring community satisfaction.
According to market economics approach, tourism organizations have to operate to ensure that supply and demand meet economies of scale both in terms of financial and socio-environmental sustainability (Sinclair and Stabler 82).
Tourism organizations have to put in place economic indicators as well as measures that mitigate risk factors in the sector.
In market economies where the tourism sector is unregulated, funding for research and developments in the sector might prove to be a great challenge.
In such situations therefore, tourism firms including protected areas have to depend on revenues from products and services to reinvest in conservation activities (Sinclair & Stabler 65).
Inadequate protection and conservation of wildlife and other protected areas could certainly lead to degradation of natural as well as social capital. Depletion of economic, social as well as natural capital often causes externalization costs to the general public (Cohen and Winn 42).
Players as well as societies in market economies may sometimes underestimate natural capital since they are not wholly aware of the actual cost of its degradation. This makes them less capacitated to make informed choices.
Cohen and Winn (42) assert that as opposed to the economic theory, most firms including tourist organizations are not perfect optimizers. As such they do not prioritize resource allocation since they take important business activities and aspects as usual.
Tourists who visit a place are normally attracted by the image of the area environment. The quality of the environment greatly determines the success of tourism of a place. Sustainable tourist development therefore requires commitment by all the stakeholders involved to protect and improve the environment.
However, it should be noted that tourism development could have impacts on the environment. The impacts could either be positive or negative. Tourism impacts are therefore the consequence of tourism activities which can be both negative and positive.
Economically, tourism earns revenue to the community and country as a whole and also creates jobs for the local people.
According to Weaver (46) alternative tourists generally spend money especially on more locally owned as well as operated facilities across a wider region. This means that wealth generated from tourism expenditure spread throughout the tourist destination.
According to Stynes (4) part of the money that tourists spend while receiving services and also on goods leak out of the area to cover for the cost of goods imported to carter for the needs of the residents and the tourists themselves.
Sustainable tourism also plans the needs of both the tourists and the community simultaneously. It improves the community’s qualities which include functionality, aesthetics as well as overall reputation benefits.
Tourism therefore helps the community acquire social amenities, safety, reliable transportation as well as proper waste management for satisfaction of both the residents and the tourists thus improving the quality of life of the residents (Billington, Carter and Husain 8).
The quality of life determines the residents’ civic participation in tourism activities as well as their level of satisfaction.
Conversely, tourism often makes it necessary to import most of the tourists’ requirements meaning that much money has to leave the country. In addition, overseas investors who finance some of the tourist facilities also export their profits to their countries.
Tourism developers also require the government to improve infrastructure and to provide specific financial advantages to tourist organizations which makes tourism costly for the country.
Tourism could also create long-term social impacts in tourism development. Tourists come from diverse societies with different cultural values and lifestyles and since they come seeking pleasure, they usually spend much money and always behave in ways not even acceptable in their own societies (Crandall 236).
The local people may be tempted to behave the same way as the tourists. Perhaps the most affected by tourism impacts is the natural environment. Tourism developers often prefer to build tourist facilities on the coast, where the facility will be close to a beach or may a coral reef (UNEP Islands 8).
However, the coast is very fragile and vulnerable. This could lead to environmental vs. economic conflict or conflict between uses. In general, tourism projects not carefully planned and managed could lead to significant damage to the natural environment. It could also create serious pollution to the environment.
On the other hand, developing transport infrastructure could help open up remote areas and increase convenience of travel across the country.
Sustainable tourism needs to consider and balance various aspects of the business including the environment, social and economic aspects. It has to balance the aspects of market economies with environmental and social sustainability in order to achieve sustainable economic and socio-environment gains from tourism.
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