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Globalisation and elimination of geographical borders foster the rapid expansion of national and international tourism. For dozens of countries from all over the world tourism has already become an essential source of profits and benefits. Millions of people attend tourist destinations in search of unique impressions and experiences.
This is why small and large players of the international tourist market adopt sophisticated strategic planning solutions, to ensure that they can meet customer demands, pursue profitability and safety, and anticipate future challenges faced by the tourism industry. Sustainability is a definitive feature of today’s tourism.
It is gradually becoming the main criterion of business success in the tourism sector, a strategic goal pursued by tourist organisations, and a factor attracting those who want to spend a vacation productively but without any damage to the environment.
However, most sustainable tourism planning initiatives are still in their infancy. Future research must focus on the development of relevant strategic planning frameworks, to meet the demands of the growing sustainable tourism sector.
Tourism Planning and Truths about Tourism
Planning encompasses activities and decisions required to meet organisations and industries’ strategic objectives. Without efficient planning, no industry development is possible. Tourism is no exception: “if tourism is to be incorporated into a country’s development plan it must be organised and developed according to a strategy constructed on sound foundations” (Anonymous, p.200).
Neither national nor international tourism can develop, unless development planning approaches bring together multiple market players and address existing controversies in their visions of the tourism sector’s future. Why is planning so vital to the future of tourism? The answer is simple: tourism has a propensity to overconsume scarce resources (McKercher, 1993).
Tourism is inseparably linked to other industries and communities, and has to compete for scarce business resources (McKercher, 1993). Tourism is so multifaceted that controlling processes and decisions within the industry is virtually impossible (McKercher, 1993).
Therefore, tourism planning is what balances tourist agencies’ needs with resource availability, reduces overconsumption, supports businesses in their battle for scarce economic and material resources, and makes it easier to monitor the impacts of tourism on host communities.
The impact of tourism on host communities is a matter of international concern. Throughout years, tourism sustained a love-hate relationship with host communities (McKercher, 1993). Just recently the philosophy of mass tourism has shifted toward greater importance of “love” and “no-hatred” in relations among tourist agencies, tourists, and host communities.
This is probably when the concept of sustainable tourism emerged. The history of the sustainable business concept dates back to 1987: a new vision of business which considers and complies with the principles of social responsibility and no-damage to the environment was first published in the Brundtland report (Hall & Kearsley, 2001).
Like many other industries, tourism could not ignore the growing value of sustainability principles. The philosophy of sustainable tourism reflected the latest tendencies in the global evolution of business.
Sustainable tourism came to exemplify a complex set of practices, principles, management methods and prescriptions, which would pave the way to continuous development of the tourism sector without damaging the environmental resource base (Ruhanen, 2010).
Sustainable tourism gave rise to a new set of strategic planning concerns: to meet their sustainable goals, tourism industry players would have to engage in new, sophisticated strategic planning exercises. Sustainability would challenge conventional methods of short-term planning, so characteristic of the tourism industry. New methodologies of long-term environmental planning would have to be adopted.
Sustainable Tourism Planning
Sustainable tourism planning would be impossible without setting appropriate indicators and using them to assess the state and changes in sustainability across tourist destinations. Candidate sustainability indicators are numerous and varied (Anonymous, n.d.). WTO’s core indicators of sustainability create a good basis for assessing the current state of sustainability in tourism.
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They are also an early warning to tourism planning, preventing tourism’s irreversible effects on nature (Dymond, 1997). However, a multitude of factors governs the choice of sustainability indicators and their use by agencies and government organisations.
For example, New Zealand regional councils prefer using ecological indicators, whereas regional tourism organisations and territorial local authorities rely on social and economic indicators of sustainability (Dymond, 1997). By contrast, Samoa runs an entirely different system of sustainability indicators (Twining-Ward & Butler, 2002). How to choose the most relevant ones?
Twining-Ward and Butler (2002) propose establishing and using a multidisciplinary advisory panel; the latter will identify the most important sustainability indicators that reflect the realities of different tourist destinations and facilitate converting assessment results into planning and management actions, with a concern for the long-term preservation of nature and the environment, reasonable use of scarce resources, and ability to meet diverse community needs (Page & Thorn, 1997).
Sustainable Tourism in New Zealand: Implications for Planning
It should be noted, that New Zealand’s national tourism strategy has undergone a profound shift. First, the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 was developed to take into consideration the major trends in global and international travel patterns; second, Local Government New Zealand empowers and encourages local authorities to participate in national tourism projects (Connell, Page & Bentley, 2009).
With this in mind, adventure tourism has become the culmination in the evolution of New Zealand’s sustainable tourism and a reflection of the country’s commitment to the principles and values of sustainable tourism planning.
Adventure tourism is one of the brightest features of sustainable tourism in New Zealand and a challenge faced by the country’s tourism planners and policymakers. The adventure tourism market displays unprecedented growth capabilities, but how to plan adventure trips effectively and sustainably is one of the most difficult questions.
The field of adventure tourism is dominated by low-difficulty products for unskilled customers (Kane & Zink, 2004). Private and public conservation areas like Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve or whale-watching offer brief guided tours with special activities engaging tourists into the whirl of extreme impressions (Buckley & Sommer, 2001; Curtin, 2003).
A triumph of strategic sustainable planning, adventure tourism marks a turning point in the evolution of sustainability in New Zealand, with an emphasis made on long-term preservation of natural resources and their protection from the forces of commercialism and commodification.
Yet, not everything is well with sustainable tourism in New Zealand. Issues surrounding the quality and efficiency of sustainable tourism reveal serious gaps in sustainability planning. First and foremost, injuries and accidents impede the development of relevant sustainable tourism frameworks. Falls, slips, and injuries caused by animal riding are not uncommon (Bentley, Page & Laird, 2001).
Adventure tourism is responsible for 22% of international visitor fatalities and 20% of visitor injuries in New Zealand (Bentley et al, 2001). These accidents and injuries confirm the inadequacy of the existing sustainability indicators, which evaluate objective features of each tourist destination but ignore the importance of visitors’ safety.
Second, sustainable tourism development in New Zealand is focused on the analysis of direct environmental effects of tourism, with no regard to indirect and future effects (Patterson & MacDonald, 2004).
For example, a tourist purchases a hamburger, which passed a long production chain from farmers to consumption and, as a result, could be responsible for additional environmental impacts like land erosion and CO2 emissions (Patterson & MacDonald, 2004). Sustainable tourism planning approaches must account for these indirect influences.
Eventually, the commodification of adventure in New Zealand challenges the stability and intactness of indigenous populations (Cloke & Perkins, 2002; McIntyre, Jenkins & Booth, 2001). Apparently, sustainable tourism planning in New Zealand is still in its infancy.
WTO’s sustainability indicators cannot suffice to bring New Zealand’s tourism sector to the desired end. Future research must focus on the development of relevant strategic planning frameworks, to meet the demands of the growing sustainable tourism sector.
Sustainability is a definitive feature of today’s tourism. Sustainable tourism exemplifies a complex set of practices, principles, management methods and prescriptions, which pave the way to continuous development of the tourism sector without damaging the environmental resource base. Sustainable tourism planning is impossible without setting appropriate indicators.
WTO’s core indicators of sustainability create a good basis for assessing the current state of sustainability in tourism. However, different countries set and use sustainability indicators in entirely different ways. Moreover, in its sustainable tourism planning, New Zealand is faced with a variety of problems.
Sustainable tourism planning in New Zealand is still in its infancy. WTO’s sustainability indicators cannot suffice to bring New Zealand’s tourism sector to the desired end. Future research must focus on the development of relevant strategic planning frameworks, to meet the demands of the growing sustainable tourism sector.
Anonymous. (n.d.). Chapter 10: Tourism and development planning.
Anonymous. (n.d.). Chapter 11: Sustainable tourism.
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