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Tourism is the “sum of activities and relationships between various parties, which arises from the travel and stay of non-residents of a certain location to new locations, as long as the movement does not involve an earning activity or permanent residency.”1 Environmental degradation is one of the major factors that threaten the existence of humankind. Tourism is one the factors that may have a negative impact on the environment.
Therefore, it is vital to ensure the sustainability of tourism activities. Sustainable tourism strives to reduce the impact of tourism on the environment while ensuring that tourism activities provide future benefits to the local people.
The major aspects of sustainable tourism are environmental, economic, and socio-cultural. Sustainable tourism strives to maximize the positive impacts of tourism while minimizing the negative impacts.2 Protection of the Amazon River basin is one of the major sustainable tourism initiatives. Whistler Resort and Kangaroo Island are some of the major sustainable tourism initiatives in Canada and South Australia respectively.
Whistler resort is the brainchild of a group of adventurers. The adventurers wanted the area to host the 1968 winter Olympics. They created the Girabaldi Park to enable the area host the winter Olympics. After the failure of the bid, they converted the valley into a huge ski resort. Whistler resort comprises of restaurants, 4 championship golf courses, skiing resorts, more than 200 shops, bars, accommodation and hiking spots. These features make Whistler Resort one of the best mountain resorts in North America.3
In the early 1990s, Whistler Resort introduced a program that monitored various indicators of environmental, social, and economic changes. This enabled the resort to conduct town hall meetings with the local community to discuss the growth of the community.
However, significant increase in the levels of “tourist flows, rising real estate development pressure and infrastructural costs, and emerging climate change impacts” necessitated Whistler to change its approach.4 These factors necessitated the development of a Comprehensive Sustainability Plan (CSP).
CSP incorporates the views of the community in devising a strategic plan that would increase Whistler’s sustainability. Local values and core sustainability principles guide the CSP. CSP provides an interconnection between the traditional values of sustainability and individual actions.
This holistic approach to sustainability provides a sustainability filter for all individual actions. The CSP has various sustainability program tasks that act as benchmarks for sustainability. CSP has several key performance indicators (KPI) that use three pillars of sustainability as their foundation. Whistler Resort, the municipal government and other partners monitor the CSP.5
One of the major strengths of Whistler’s CSP is that it incorporates the views of the local community. This helps in improving the welfare of the local community. However, members of the community do not understand most aspects of the sustainability rubric.6 Therefore, it is vital for the resort to use sustainability rubrics that the public can easily understand.
Kangaroo Island is an island in the state of South Australia that is popular for its indigenous wildlife, beautiful scenery, and expansive beaches. The Island is home to more than 4,000 Australians. The island’s exotic features attract more than 100,000 tourists to the island annually.
Rapid expansion of tourism in Kangaroo Island necessitated the development of a tourism policy for the Island. In 1991, the government developed a tourism policy that divided the Island into 11 tourism zones. The policy helps in identifying the resources in each zone and outlining the potential future development of the tourism zones. To achieve the above objectives the government developed the Tourism Optimisation Management Model (TOMM). The program helps in monitoring sustainable tourism in Kangaroo Island.7
TOMM strives to make Kangaroo Island one of the world’s leading nature based tourist destinations. In addition, TOMM ensures that tourism improves the quality of life of residents of the island. The development strategy incorporates the views of the local community. Prior to the development of the strategy, residents of the island had to come to a consensus on the type of core data and monitoring programs that should be set up.8
At the local level, Kangaroo Island Council, Kangaroo Island Development board, and Tourism Kangaroo Island, are the major agencies that manage tourism on the island. At the state level, Department of Environment and Heritage, and the South Australia Tourism Commission are the agencies that manage tourism on the Island.
TOMM established benchmarks in the areas of “economic, market opportunity, environmental, experiential, infrastructure/development and socio-cultural.9 TOMM has KPI in each of the above benchmarks. Some KPI of the tourism development strategy include percentage of people who derive their income from tourism activities and the percentage growth of visitors in various tourism segments.10
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TOMM helps in monitoring sustainable tourism in Kangaroo Island. Monitoring helps in determining whether tourism activities are within certain ranges. When the activities exceed the ranges, the government identifies the causes and effects of exceeding the ranges. This helps in formulating management activities that bring back the indicators to within the accepted ranges.11
One of the major strengths of this tourism management model is the fact it provides a holistic approach to tourism. It gives weight to various dimensions of tourism and the local community. However, TOMM is tourism-centric. It prioritises the development of tourism in Kangaroo Island.12 Therefore, it is vital for the model to shift its focus to the sustainable development of the island.
Both Kangaroo Island and Whistler Resort appreciate the need for having sustainable tourism. To formulate a holistic approach, it is vital to incorporate the views of the local community. This enables the sustainability efforts to be beneficial to both the tourist companies and the local community.
Beeton, S, Community development through tourism, Landlinks Press, Collingwood, 2006.
Buhalis, D & C Costa, Tourism management dynamics, Routledge, London, 2012.
McCool, SF & RN Moisey, Tourism, recreation, and sustainability: Linking culture and the environment, CABI, Oxfordshire, 2008.
Robinson, P, S Heitmann & PUC Dieke, Research themes for tourism, CABI, Oxfordshire, 2011.
Stephen Leacock Ulysses Travel Guides, Vancouver & Victoria travel guide, 5th Ed., Hunter Publishing, New York, 2006.
Swarbrooke, J, Sustainable tourism management, CABI, Oxfordshire, 1999.
1 P Robinson, S Heitmann & PUC Dieke, Research themes for tourism, CABI, Oxfordshire, 2011, p. 220
2 J Swarbrooke, Sustainable tourism management, CABI, Oxfordshire, 1999, p. 83.
3 Stephen Leacock Ulysses Travel Guides, Vancouver & Victoria travel guide, 5th Ed., Hunter Publishing, New York, 2006, p. 273.
4 SF McCool & RN Moisey, Tourism, recreation, and sustainability: Linking culture and the environment, CABI, Oxfordshire, 2008, p. 123.
5 Ibid., p. 125.
6 Ibid., p. 124.
7 D Buhalis & C Costa, Tourism management dynamics, Routledge, London, 2012, p. 54.
8 S Beeton, Community development through tourism, Landlinks Press, Collingwood, 2006, p. 69.
12 Buhalis & Costa, Tourism management dynamics, p. 55.