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Sustainable Tourism: Divisions among Stakeholders Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2020

Since the fifteenth century, tourism has emerged as a reliable sector in different economies across the world (Matt 2004). However, the economies that benefit from it most are those that posses unique features since, in any given country, the number of both domestic as well as foreign tourists visiting different places of interest is usually tremendous (Richards & Hall 2003).

In addition to this, the tourists, once they have visited the site, will always desire to visit that country again, this is contrary to the situations with countries where there are no such attractions. Nowadays, many efforts are advanced in an effort towards seeing sustainable tourism prevail (McGowan 2001, p. 55).

Sustainable tourism is a term commonly used to refer to tourism which goals are management of applicable resources, such as the aesthetic, social as well as the economic needs that are to be met, while maintaining various aspects, such as cultural integrity, systems for life support as well as biological diversification. According to scholars, tourism has to be developed in order to become sustainable (McGowan 2001, p. 57).

According to them, development of sustainable tourism is a process, and as such, it is intended to meet the present tourist’s needs as well as host communities, where the attractions exist, while still enhancing as well as safeguarding future goals. Many initiatives are to be established to change the nature of tourism (Swarbrooke 2009, p. 42).

However, despite this, the sustainable tourism practices have not yet spread across the industry because the stakeholders of tourism are still divided on how to improve the sustainability of tourist destinations (Antonio 2000, p. 12).

The purpose of this paper is to evidence the divisions that prevail among the stakeholders, with regard to the way the tourist destinations can be made sustainable, that hinders the spreading of sustainable tourism practices across the tourism industry (Goodwin 2000, p. 12).

Stakeholders within this sector play a major role in ensuring that this form of tourism is successfully developed. A stakeholder can be a person or a group that can influence or even be influenced whenever a business goal is attained. To understand the underlying debate first, it is necessary for one to acknowledge who the stakeholders within the sustainable tourism industry are (Matheson & Wall 2002).

There exist various active non-governmental organizations that advocate and follow up to ensure that the right measures and policies are implemented towards achieving the effective development of sustainable tourism (Matheson & Wall 2002). As such, they play major roles which are spearheading practices associated with sustainable tourism development to conducting research, especially on issues that hinder the development of the given sphere (Jones 2005, p. 435).


A tourist can be described as a person who leaves his geographic region temporarily with an aim of making a tour just for pleasure to see other countries and cultures (Twining-ward & Butler 2002). They are also significant stakeholders within the sustainable tourism industry. Due to them, there is a need for tourism, and sustainable tourism in particular.


These are the persons who reside in a particular area. The policies made concerning the tourism sites are capable of affecting them positively or negatively (Holden 2001, p. 32).

Local Government

This is usually a governmental wing, and as such, it is mandated with the responsibility of controlling the local resources. As such, rules, guidelines and policies that govern the attraction sites emanate from the local government (Hunter 2005, p. 7).

Inclusion as well as the participation of stakeholders in tourism industry is vital, especially as far as sustainable tourism development process is concerned (Twining-ward & Butler 2002).

Each stakeholder, especially the non- governmental organizations, holds different views on how tourism destinations can be made sustainable. These revolve around the practices involved which the stakeholders, according to their respective feelings, may see either favorable or even compromising. The best and ideal idea is to see that different perspectives are included as well as different groups that are involved are categorized (Dobson 2006, p. 401).

Divisions among Stakeholders

Usually, tourists as well as the host community find the sustainable tourism principles to be important as compared to other groups of stakeholders (W.T.O & U.N.E.P 2008). According to the recent researches, it is advanced that the tourists and the host communities have similar rankings with regard to the top priorities with regard to the ways in which destinations can be made sustainable. However, these two stakeholders hold differences when it comes to economic as well as planning principles.

According to many of these researches, tourists tend to develop tendencies whereby they find their own contributions to the improvement of the destination to be sustained as insignificant. This is indeed conflicting with the perceptions held by the host community. According to this category of stakeholders, they hold and maintain that to the local, regional or even national planning, the integration of tourism is the lowest priority that ought to be considered in establishing the best ways in which a destination can be made sustainable.

Tourism Concern (1998) further asserts that tourists have a tendency according to which they find the sustainability principles of great importance though this is a thing that the host community disregards.

Such important issues as reduction of wastes, wastewater and water and energy consumption as well as the impact of tourism on environmental and local communities are usually of less or no concern for the tourists (World Tourism Organization 2007). However, to the host community, these are the major aspects in the development of tourism sustainable destinations, and as such, it is a main conflict (Liu 2003, p. 459).

In some areas, especially in the developing world, tourism is usually not in the advanced levels and, therefore, can be identified as in the initial stage.

In such cases, some players or stakeholders in the tourism industry within that country, the local governments as well as some non-governmental investors, among them, gradually dawn on them that tourism is an important element, and as such, it can be a vehicle to drive the country to the desired levels of economic growth (Hall & Lew 1998). As such, pressure arises from some stakeholders in an effort of forcing the creation of a conductive atmosphere whereby investing into activities associated with tourism.

It may be found that while the local authorities as well as some of non-governmental organizations advocate for sustainable tourism destinations created through environmental accountability, some other stakeholders see this as not so significant (Gerken 2008, p. 45).

For instance, the residents desire to see a tourism destination become sustainable through the creation of jobs. If these are observed by other stakeholders, especially the local government, the residents usually demonstrate little or no opposition to the initiatives. On the other hand, if these interests are not observed, the host community as well as the local government argues to a point that even the sustainable destination establishment will not be achieved (Cohen 2002, p. 268).

Within the tourism industry, there are several stakeholders and each hold their own goal concerning the sustainable tourism development, and as such, they conflict with the present reality. The dominant issue that can be attributed to the rise of the need for the development of sustainable tourism was the unreliable system of revenue management within tourism destination leading to a massive leakage of revenues (Mowforth & Munt 2009).

This flaw, according to researchers, was brought about by the fact that most of the stakeholders within the tourism industry were not locals. The profits that tourism activities brought about were rarely reinvested within that region. Therefore, the profit generated from these tourism activities does not guarantee or even ensure income, employment or investment multiplier effect in a geographic region (Saarinen 2006, p. 1127).

The local government in any country is usually mandated with the responsibility of coming up with policies that best favour the tourism sector (Edgell 2006, p. 46). In an effort to establish sustainable tourism destinations, the local authority first imposes laws and observes the reaction of the public in regard to their experience with those enforcements (Hall & Lew 1998).

In the recent past, there have been situations when the local government comes up with laws that force to improve the tourism destinations. The non-governmental organizations may find the enforcements as not appealing and thereby conflicts arise (Ashley 2008, p. 92).

This usually comes to be so due to inadequate or no consultations. For instance, in India, the local authority in the region has recently established laws whereby the public, whether willing or unwilling, must be involved in cleaning up the major rivers.

When the river cleanup activities commenced, several non-governmental groups came up opposing the idea, which the Indian government saw as noble (Bramwell & Henry 2006). As such, these stakeholders argued that the local authority must have respected and abided to the rights of the people within India.

They further emphasized that it was not right for a government to force its citizens to perform acts without an accord or consideration of their will. According to Rogers, Jalal & Boyd (2008), Indian scholars and a human rights activists, a party has intentions of making someone perform an action for him/her, it is necessary to approach that person and seek his/her perception with reference to the action at hand (Lett 2009).

If the person being approached is not willing to undertake something, he/she should not put under duress or coerced to perform that action (Drita & Alkida 2009). As such, the Indian non-governmental organizations condemned the government urging it to find professionals to do river cleanups. According to them, such an activity is risky as it puts the lives of the Indian Citizens at risk of contracting diseases ,such as bilharzia as well as typhoid (Rogers, Jalal & Boyd 2008).

Such is an example of conflicting perspectives on the best practices that can lead to the establishment of sustainable tourism destination. The local government may see it ideal to engage the citizens but it might not go along well for other major players within the sector (Bramwell & Henry 2006). In the case study aforementioned, the practice that the Indian government initially saw noble was conflicting with the interests of other players within the sector, that is, the non-governmental organizations (Krippendorf 2006, p. 5).

According to Egri (2007, p. 407), the sustainable tourism stakeholders usually conflict in their views concerning the person who ought to make a decision or even influence a destination’s sustainability indicator.

This question revolves around specific stakeholders, which are the national, regional and local tourism planning authorities. Who should really decide? Further conflicting perceptions exist concerning the body that should be mandated with the responsibility of evaluating the sustainability indicators. With this regard, different agendas among stakeholders exist (Coccossis 2006).

According to a plethora of studies, it is identified that the host group, the residents, is not a single monolith having or holding out common aims as well as interests. The studies described see the presence of visitors as well as developments in the tourism sector to impact them in unpredictable ways (Drita & Alkida 2009).

The question that one can ask himself is whose interest or perspective should be given the first priority whether it should be the regional or the national government, the sociologist, the commerce groups, the environmentalists or the host residents, among other stakeholders.

According to some other stakeholders, the most adopted sustainability indicators are not constituted with predictive power. According to them, the current sustainability indicator tends to evaluate a tourism product once in a long while (Ritchie & Crouch 2003). In addition to this, they have no provision whereby there is a timely provision of timely and relevant information, which is essential, putting the evaluation of future effects into consideration (W.C.E.D 2007, p. 5).

For instance, the growth of the tourists’ arrival may be experiencing an increasing trend, thus indicating the popularity of a tourist destination (De Oliveira & JAP 2003). However, this does not at all help in evaluating whether the situation will indeed prevail in the future (Melucci 2005, p. 793).

Another conflicting perspective that arises among the sustainable tourism destination stakeholders is the issue concerning tourism as a scapegoat of shortcomings suffered by destinations (Butler 2006, p. 234).

According to the findings of several researches, it is indicated that such elements as prostitution, degradation of the environment or even changes in culture do not necessarily come out of tourism. According to them, the mass media as well as other social and economic developments are major conspirators and at times sole perpetrators (UNWTO 2009, p. 12).

In addition to this, the unavailability of a consensus with regard to what makes up a sustainable tourism product is another conflicting perspective for the sustainable tourism destination stakeholders. As such, this conflict revolves around the sustainability as well as the indicators for carrying capacity.

According to W.T.O and U.N.E.P (2008), the indicators used in the sustainable tourism in the modern days, for instance, the stay patterns as well as the tourists’ arrival, are not well established and, therefore, inadequate and ineffective. The author further asserts that some stakeholders hold out that there is vital for the product to be able to meet the needs as well as the expectations of the tourists (Johnson 2003, p. 12).

He further asserts that this is a one-dimensional approach, and it is a major conflict among major stakeholders since it does not take into account the product effects as well as the tourists with regards to the physical as well as the socio-cultural environments (‘The impacts of tourism in environment’ 2009, p. 3).

A category of stakeholders argue that, regardless of whether such impacts are adequately measured or not, there still exists some difficulty in the assignment of the weights to each and every type of impact (Adams 2001, p.23).

Another conflicting perception is that the ideas concerning sustainable tourism are flawed and, therefore, unattainable. According to some stakeholders, this situation has occurred due to the fact that the tourism industry is complex since it is attributable to a large number of structural characteristics.

In addition to this, this category of stakeholders further asserts that the tourism destination sustainability ideas are farces, which can never be attained. Tourism Concern (1998, p. 2) further asserts that tourists have a tendency according to which they find the sustainability principles as of great importance, and that is a thing that the host community around the tourism destinations disregards.

Such important issues as the reduction of wastes, wastewater and water consumption, energy consumption as well as the impact of tourism on environmental as well as local communities are usually of less or no concern for the tourists. However, to the host community, these are the major aspects in development of tourism sustainable destinations, and as such, it becomes a main conflict (Liu 2003, p. 465).

While many researchers have found out that different stakeholder had different perceptions concerning the way the tourist destinations could be made sustainable, there are those advances that assume that the sustainable tourism best practice is generally acceptable, and there are little or no differing views perceptions.

They argue that sustainable tourism has developed tremendously, and many countries have adopted the sector’s best practice just to see the sustainable tourism through. They further assert that the economies across the world have realized the benefits of sustainable tourism, and whenever conflicting perceptions arise, measures are immediately established thereby ensuring the stakeholders come into consensus.

From this analysis, it is clearly evident that divisions prevail among the stakeholders concerning the way the tourist destinations can be made sustainable, and, as such, they hinder the spreading of sustainable tourism practices across the tourism industry (Briguglio & Vella 2005). These divisions revolve around the concept of tourism sustainability.

In order for the tourism sustainability practice to become accepted across various boundaries globally, it is essential that the stakeholders in the sustainable tourism share similar perceptions, and knowledge and have the opportunity to understand the underlying issues that result in the divisions. As such, it may necessitate the provision of education opportunities to all the stakeholders concerning the main topics of interest within the sustainable tourism decision making process (Cooper, Fletcher, Gilbert & Wanhill 2008).

Once all the stakeholders within the sustainable tourism industry attain the same level of relevant knowledge, the most appropriate decisions will be made, and, as such, these final solutions are essential as they best make use of stakeholders’ collective wisdom (World Tourism Organization 2007).

Therefore, it is necessary that all the stakeholders come into a consensus if they want the best practices of the sustainable tourism to become acceptable across the globe. To sum everything up, unity in perceptions is the best drive forward (Swarbrooke 1999, p. 56).


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