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What is sustainable tourism?
Written by Rachel Dodds, Sustainable/Eco Tourism Consultant


It is true that the popularity of tourism can be supportive of natural and cultural heritage through restoration and preservation of destinations BUT the popularity of tourism can result in unacceptable levels of use and consequential damage to vulnerable ecological and cultural features.

Some of the impacts of tourism can be:

  • Overuse and deterioration of resources
  • Overdevelopment of facilities
  • Congestion in terms of visitors
  • Reduced Quality of Life for locals
  • Reduced Quality of Visitor Experience (reduced visitor numbers and spend)
  • Inability of local operations to handle numbers, impacts and changes

Because of the growing numbers of tourists worldwide, and especially in Florida (74.5 million arrivals in 2003), it is important to recognise that every business must play a part in preserving and protecting the very resources that attract tourists.

Sustainable tourism in essence is 5 things:

1. Having a Long Term View
2. Being Locally Focuses
3. Aiming to have a lesser impact on the environment
4. Being Socially/culturally supporting
5. Being equitable

Can it be beneficial?
For moving towards more sustainable tourism, you can also gain public relations benefits? How so?

Avoiding negative media

  • Favourable media-related publicity can be gained or unfavourable publicity avoided (e.g.’Watchdog’) by altruistic and positive actions resulting in improvements in environmental operations. No cash value can be put on such benefits.

Increased market share

  • New markets can be attracted from consumers who are environmentally conscious, e.g. Canadians spend $11 billion annually on nature-related activities, 67% of which is spend on outdoor activities in natural areas.

Increased value of assets

  • For example, the company “Explore” gained an estimated $15 million in value when sold because of a good image that was based on altruistic environmental practices.

Customer support (and sometimes loyalty)

  • Guests tend to indicate strong support for environmental initiatives. Over 97% in a London sample supported the reuse of sheets, 90% the re-use of towels, 97% the use of low energy light bulbs. Paying more for special air and water filters in their room was supported by 68%.
  • A 2001 UK surveys suggest 52% of customers would book a holiday with a company guaranteeing to protect the environment and 59% said they would pay more if the money went to protect the local environment (among other things), average extra expenditure being £40 on a holiday costing £500, up from 49% willing to pay £20 on a £300 holiday 8 years before. (source: Tearfund 2001)For more information on sustainable tourism or how you can undertake measures, visit www.sustainabletourism.net.

 

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