Sustainable tourism is a form of tourism based on the respect of great principles of sustainable development. The Global tourism organization (United Nations institution charged of the promotion of responsible, sustainable tourism accessible to all) defines sustainable tourism as such: ‘’tourism that takes fully into account its present and future economic, social and environmental impacts, by answering to the visitors, professionals, environmental and the local community’s needs.’’ (Sustainable Development of Tourism, 2019)
Take note that tourism has become in 2015 one of the most important economic activities in the world, representing 10% of the GDP and 6% of the world’s exports. (World Tourism Organization, 2016)
Concretely, we are talking here of management and operation techniques that oversee the touristic industry in all its components. These components are very complex and transversal. In order to establish base criteria to better define the destinations or businesses fitting in the sustainable tourism, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) created criterias with multiple partners, some of which United Nations agencies, ONgs, gouvernments and large touristic businesses (Global Sustainable Tourism Council, 2019). Those criterias created by the GSTC are regrouped in 4 categories:
1: Demonstrate the sustainable aspect of the destination’s management (14 criterias)
2: Maximise economic advantages for the local community and limit the negative impacts (9 criterias)
3: Maximise advantages for the communities, visitors and culture; limit to a minimum the negative impacts (6 criterias)
4: Maximise the beneficial effects on the environment and reduce the negative impacts to a minimum (12 criterias)
Source: Global Sustainable Tourism Courncil, 2019
In these large objective groups, we can quickly identify 3 predominant dimensions: environmental, social and economic. The Global tourism organization goes in the same direction by indicating clearly that sustainable tourism must:
1: Make an optimal use of environmental resources that are a key element of tourism development by preserving the essential ecological processes and by contributing to the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity.
2: Respect the sociocultural authenticity of the local communities, conserve their living and built culture as well as their traditional values, and contribute to the tolerance and intercultural understanding.
3: Guarantee long-term viable economic activities bringing to all involved parties positive equitable socio-economic value, notably possibilities of stable jobs, stable income, social services for the supporting community as well as contributing to fighting poverty.
Source: Sustainable Development of Tourism, 2019
In 2006, the United Nations organization for education, science and culture wrote a report called ‘’Tourism, culture and sustainable development’’ (UNESCO, 2006). This report talks about the large dimensions of sustainable development and sustainable tourism by stating its importance and the role these practices can play in ‘’The capacity of the planet’s inhabitants to better live together and to contribute to elevate in men’s spirit the defenses of peace.’’ (UNESCO, 2006)
Added are also reasonings on how sustainable tourism preserves the cultural and natural heritageto ‘’Make it available to all, better publicize cultures and civilizations, enhance daily living conditions and reduce poverty.’’ (UNESCO, 2006)
By reading the ‘’Tourism, culture and sustainable development’’ report, we can notice the complexity of a real execution of the principles of sustainable tourism, but also all the positive aspects that sustainable tourism can bring to enhance humanity and the planet.
Here are some prominent elements that can be learnt from the report:
- Tourism ‘’rests on the fundamental principles of the exchange between people and is at the same time an expression and a cultural experience.’’
- Tourism ‘’favors direct contact between people of different cultures.’’
- There is a close link existing between cultural environment and natural environment and it is clear that ‘’by protecting both, we contribute to their protection and the renewing of their resources.’’
- ‘’Tourism has the advantage of creating jobs and revenues at a relatively low cost by using cultural and natural resources.’’
Source: UNESCO, 2006
Concerning the application of sustainable tourism, multiple tools exist, including the ‘’Sustainable tourism toolbox in global UNESCO patrimonial sites.’’ (UNESCO, 2019). This toolbox presents a 10 steps approach with a guide for each one to institute a management system for sustainable tourism. The 10 steps are:
10: Follow up
Source: ‘’Sustainable tourism toolbox in global UNESCO patrimonial sites.’’ UNESCO, 2019
The tool developed by the UNSECO for sustainable tourism in global UNESCO patrimonial sites will be highly useful as a reference document for Contact Nature’s strategic planning, in particular for its action plan.