What is sustainable tourism?
Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing and most important industries and is a major source of income for many countries. Nevertheless, like other forms of development, tourism can also cause its share of problems, such as social issues, loss of cultural heritage, economic dependence and ecological degradation.
Learning about the impacts of tourism has led many people to seek more responsible holidays. These include various forms of alternative or sustainable tourism such as: ‘nature-based tourism’, ‘ecotourism’ and ‘cultural tourism’. Sustainable tourism is becoming so popular that some say that what we presently call ‘alternative’ will be the ‘mainstream’ in a decade. Sustainable tourism, similarly to responsible tourism, relies on the premise of taking care of the environment, society and economy.
Sustainable tourism principles intend to minimize the negative impacts of tourism, whilst maximizing the positive impacts. As the tourism industry continues to expand and evolve, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. It is ironic really, that while tourism, in many instances, relies on the natural environment (think lying on the beach, gorilla trekking or skiing), it also destroys it.
Local Communities Benefits
Local communities benefit from sustainable tourism through economic development, job creation, and infrastructure development. Tourism revenues bring economic growth and prosperity to attractive tourist destinations which can raise the standard of living in destination communities. Sustainable tourism operators commit themselves to creating jobs for local community members. Increase in tourism revenue to an area acts as a driver for the development of increased infrastructure. As tourist demands increase in a destination, a more robust infrastructure is needed to support the needs of both the tourism industry and the local community. A 2009 study of rural operators throughout the province of British Columbia, Canada found “an overall strong ‘pro-sustainability’ attitude among respondents. Dominant barriers identified were lack of available money to invest, lack of incentive programs, other business priorities, and limited access to suppliers of sustainable products, with the most common recommendation being the need for incentive programs to encourage businesses to become more sustainable.
Is sustainable tourism really sustainable?
Let’s start with a harsh truth: if we continue to travel as unsustainable as we always have, we will destroy the world we live in. Something must be done and this is where sustainable tourism comes in; this is defined as a form of tourism that involves travelling to a destination as a tourist whilst trying to have a positive impact on the environment, and respecting a destination’s culture, environment, and local communities.
Negative impacts of tourism:
- Damage to the landscape: litter, erosion, fires, disturbance to livestock, vandalism
- Traffic congestion and pollution
- Local goods can become expensive because tourists will pay more
- Shops stock products for tourists and not everyday goods needed by locals
- Demand for holiday homes makes housing too expensive for local people
- Demand for development of more shops and hotels
- Jobs are mainly seasonal, low paid with long hours
Sustainable Travel in Tanzania
The beauty and wonder of Tanzania are truly the things of legend. Of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, three (Mount Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti wildlife migration) are found in this single dazzling country spanning from the Swahili Coast across forests and savannas to the shores of Lake Tangyanika. But despite its striking aesthetics and abundant natural resources, Tanzania has its challenges.
A Tanzania safari, a Kilimanjaro trek, or a visit to exotic Zanzibar is a dream for travelers around the world, and the tourism industry is a powerful and growing asset to promote the wellbeing of this captivating nation, as well as its people. Growing right alongside it, however, is the need for more sustainable travel practices that ensure maximum benefit for residents and travelers, the local economy and environment, and our planet as a whole. Sustainable travel and development are not new ideas by any means, and they go hand in hand — the latter having been first described in 1987 in Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report.
As the document states, “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable tourism, like any sustainable business endeavor, balances economic, social, and environmental needs to comprise a “triple bottom line,” as opposed to the more conventional business bottom line of maximum fiscal profit. This concept is becoming an ethical choice for all businesses that care about creating a positive global future, and it’s rapidly gaining popularity.
In fact, tourism operators in East Africa and around the world inherently rely on robust local economic infrastructure, intact and vibrant traditional cultures, and an ecologically sound natural environment for their success. And, locally run and managed initiatives that advocate for place-based culture and enterprises built with ethical business practices are popping up more frequently, allowing for more responsible and sustainable tourism and travel.
The consequences of tourism for sustainable water use on a tropical island: Tanzania
Many developing countries in the tropics have focused on tourism to generate additional income sources and to diversity the economy. Coastlines in particular have been on the forefront of tourist infrastructure development. Here, the presence of a large number of tourists has often had negative consequences for the sustainable use of the available resources, which in turn has had an effect on the integrity of the ecosystems. In this paragraph, the situation is described for the use of freshwater resources on Tanzania. This region is water poor, relying on freshwater derived from seasonal rains and stored in less efficient aquifers, which consist of freshwater lenses floating on the underlying seawater.
Tourism in the area has grown rapidly in recent years and is expected to further increase in the future. This development is expected to put additional pressure on the freshwater resources of the east coast, which show already signs of over-use. The consequences of over exploitation can include the lowering of the groundwater table, land subsidence, deteriorating groundwater quality, and saltwater intrusion. These, in turn, determine the living conditions in coastal areas and the effects will be felt both by the local populations and the tourist industry. An investigation is made into the causes and consequences of water abstraction by the tourist industry. The results show that present levels of withdrawal are not sustainable, and parts of the local populations are already experiencing water deficits on a daily basis. In the future, if the expected increase in tourist numbers occurs, the pressure on the aquifers will correspondingly increase. The results could be that the tourism in the area becomes unsustainable, which could have an adverse effect on the national economy and also on the local population and environment. Therefore, a precautionary water-management approach is suggested.
In some developing countries local communities at the tourist destinations, such as in all safari parks in Tanzania, do not necessary gain anything from the tourism which is one of the main challenges for the local communities. Many tourist operations do not benefit the local development country industries/businesses as majority of the tour payments. It stays in the western tour agencies and in the developing countries they may only provide the necessary services (for example: water).
Also, in many cases tourist never meet the local people and societies during their safari trip. Sometimes if they are meeting local people it is because they are visiting to Masai village as short tourism introduction to see how “African people” live to for photo shootouts.
Way to build up a plan for sustainable tourism
To enhance success of sustainable tourism in Tanzania, the stakeholders should develop a sustainable tourism strategic plan to provide, direction, vision and strategic alternatives to the systems. Furthermore, the strategic plan must be implemented.
Secondly, stakeholders within the sustainable tourism framework must ensure adequate exposure, publicity, awareness, education and training to the community and other stakeholders as well is undertaken to enhance the success rates of sustainable tourism.
Finally, there should be increased community participation in development and implementation of sustainable tourism. Furthermore, the government must offer incentives such as subsidies and tax holidays to enhance the success of sustainable tourism. In addition, a reward management system must be introduced to recognize exemplary performers in sustainable tourism!