WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE TOURISM?
While mass tourism is considered a supplementary revenue source for countries and local communities, it has nevertheless caused degradation in social and natural environment in some destinations through indiscriminate and non-planned practices. In some other destinations, mass tourism has not progressed to create positive impact on the local people, tourism factors and local values. Thus the concept of sustainable tourism has emerged to respond to the problems entailed by mass tourism. The basic purpose of sustainable tourism is simply to ensure that tourism activities are sustained in the longer term by prioritising natural and social values as the primary resources of tourism.
While increased transport means and advanced information technologies enable larger masses to engage in tourism, such growth is accompanied by a destruction of natural, environmental and cultural assets in destinations without right planning. It is possible to observe examples ranging from destroying natural beauties for such needs as accommodation and infrastructure to focusing on tourism-oriented economic activities for short-term gains to the detriment of local values.
We can propose a basic definition of sustainable tourism as an approach to tourism which considers the needs of host communities as well as visitors; protects natural, environmental and cultural values; and thereby aims to create not short-term but permanent benefits.
Through sustainable tourism, it is possible to
• Sustain ecological processes, protect natural heritage and bio-diversity, and hand down environmental resources to future generations through optimal use;
• Respect the socio-cultural values and assets of host communities, preserve cultural heritage and foster inter-cultural understanding;
• Create socio-economic returns that are equitably distributed through lasting employment and income means in host communities, create lasting and scalable development models at local level; and through egalitarian participation models, create income sources benefitting women, rural and poor communities;
• Ensure that visitors explore the local habitat, wildlife, local cultural values and traditions and respect the local culture;
• Create awareness on the part of local people for natural, historical and socio-economic values, develop social capital and ultimately encourage the preservation of such resources.