Tourism is a major economic activity for many countries across the globe. A country such as New Zealand has relied on tourism industry for economic growth. The concept of sustainable tourism development has expanded in the last 40 years following the increasing public awareness of environmental issues.
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Bhatia (2007), in his study suggested that sustainable tourism development refers to any form of tourist activity which is economically and socially equitable and acceptable, respects the environment and conserves cultural and natural resources.
According to World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism development is aimed at meeting the needs of visitors and the host countries and cities and at the same time furthering the future prospects (Smith, 2010, P. 2). Thus, sustainable tourism development should be economically viable and also protect the tourist resources i.e. cultural, historical and natural resources (Curtin, 2003, P. 2).
Importance of adopting a Sustainable Tourism Planning Approach
The following are the benefits of adopting a sustainable tourism planning approach. First, a tourism plan provides the criteria for measuring new tourism projects. With this regards, a tourism plan aims at defining the objectives, implementation procedures and policies for developing new tourism projects.
A research that was done by Pearce & Butler (2002) suggested that a tourism plan plays an important role of developing new prospects within a planned framework. A tourism plan facilitates the development of new policy measures of supporting tourism organizations and improving their competitiveness. A tourism plan clearly explains the strategic themes and priorities for a country’s engagement in tourism.
A tourism plan provides the tourism stakeholders such as tourists, companies, environment and the community with a sense of involvement and ownership. The stakeholders participate in the planning process because most of the decisions have implications on them (Hall & Kearsley, 2001, P. 273-294).
Towards creating a sustainable tourism development
Achieving a sustainable tourism development calls for an interactive process. It is important for tourism managers to assess the developments on a current basis in order to mark any significant changes. Indicators of Sustainable Tourism supply the tourism management team with required information for making decisions for sustainable tourism development (Fennell, 2008, P. 10).
Indicators enable tourism management team to find out whether sustainable tourism has been achieved or not. They function as an early warning system to monitor economical and social changes over time thus preventing negative effects (Weaver& Oppermann, 2000, P. 354). The World Tourism Organization has proposed several Indicators of Sustainable Development that can be used by tourism management team in decision making.
The indicators include site protection, stress and use intensity, social impact and development control, waste management, planning process, critical ecosystems, consumer satisfaction, local satisfaction and tourism contribution to local economy. According to Dymond (1997), the indicators are aimed at meeting ecological, planning, social and economic goals.
The role of local authorities in Sustainable Tourism planning (public sector)
According to Swarbrooke (1999), the government intervenes in order to liaise, manage and plan the various group of interests that have a stake in tourism. The government is also responsible for marketing and promotion of tourism destinations.
The government through its tourism department is responsible for managing tourism throughout the state. The government usually obtains funds from taxes and the private sector in order to promote and market the country as a tourist destination.
The role of private sector in Sustainable Tourism Development
Sustainable tourism planning cannot be managed by the public sector alone. The government is usually not well equipped at local level to respond to the rapidly changing demand of national and global tourism demands. The private sector on the other hand possesses broad as well as powerful tourism planning techniques that are well coordinated.
The roles of private sector in developing a sustainable tourism include the following: Private sector business provides accommodations, transport, attractions and other visitor facilities and services. The private sector encourages and promotes tourism marketing and development.
Usually, the private sector intervenes in tourism to ensure that the business objectives like revenue maximization and others are balanced with stakeholders’ interests and local needs in relation to attractions, beaches, infrastructure and other resource base which are utilized by the tourism (Middleton & Hawkins, 1998, P. 106).
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Private sector provides the financial resources that are required for tourism development and planning. They also provide the staff expertise which is required to enhance tourism planning and development (Swarbrooke, 1999, P. 97).
Steps that are involved in creating a Sustainable Tourism Planning
Tourism planning refers to the act of managing future events with the purpose of achieving objectives. The tourism development planning process involves a number of steps. The study recognition and preparation is the first stage in the process. In this stage, the planning authorities i.e. the private sector and the public sector, recognizes the strategy that is required for planning process (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
The second stage that is involved in tourism development planning process is setting the goals to be accomplished. For a development plan to be effectively designed, it is important to set clear goals that are to be accomplished.
A clear understanding of tourism goals enables the management team not to lose sight during the planning process. The objectives to be accomplished should not be vague and unachievable. Also, the objectives to be accomplished should not be conflicting (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
Survey of existing data is the third stage. Tourism management team should search for the available information before carrying out data collection. Surveying the available data is important because it saves time and resources (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
Implementing the new surveys is the fourth stage that is involved in tourism development planning process. This stage plays an important role of filing the information gap once the present data have been surveyed (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
Analysis of primary and secondary data is the other stage. Both the primary and secondary data is analyzed by taking into consideration various issues such as asset evaluation, market analysis, development planning and impact analyses (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
Policy and plan formulation is the sixth stage that is involved in tourism development planning process. This process enables the tourism management team to develop and evaluate alternative plans that facilitate the accomplishment of most tourism goals (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
Recommendations is the next stage. In this stage, various recommendations are put forward in order to facilitate policy choice (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 164).
Implementation of the plan and monitoring is the last stage that is involved in this process. During this stage, the preferred plan having been completed is implemented and closely monitored with a view of detecting any deviations (Kandari & Chandra, 2004, P. 163-167).
Good tourism planning is the means of achieving economic prosperity. Both the government and private sector plays an important role in tourism development planning. It is important for the planners to involve all the main stakeholders such as the visitors and tourist companies during the planning process.
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