What is sustainable tourism? It is a concept of eco-tourism that seeks to preserve the environment by limiting its negative environmental impacts on biodiversity, natural resources, ecosystems and human health and well being. It is a movement towards improving the quality of the world’s tourism by ensuring a sustainable development of tourism in its various forms. This includes a diversification of the principles and practices of tourism which are undertaking to meet the diverse needs of the target audience, while respecting and balancing the diverse requirements of people, communities and the environment. It is a complete movement in terms of design, management and financing that seek to create positive and long term changes in tourism through sustainable tourism principles.
Tourism development is all about producing tourism products that sustain and benefit the local people in the host country and abroad. Sustainable tourism is an inclusive concept that addresses the full diversity of impacts on the environment, society and people that result from the construction, management and operation of a particular type of tourism venture. It is an approach that recognizes and compensates for the adverse impacts caused by development on the natural areas, resources, flora and fauna and on the local people.
Tourism management and implementation involve sustainable tourism principles that must be included in the planning, design and operation of any venture. These principles should include sustainable tourism management principles that take into consideration both the need for and the ability of the host communities to provide economically, socially and environmentally sustainable tourism. It also encompasses the needs and capability of individual countries or regions to sustainably develop their natural areas and resources. This includes understanding the limitations of the natural areas and resources, their degradation and vulnerability to negative external impacts. It also includes the ability and the capacity of the local people to manage tourism in a sustainable manner.
Sustainable tourism development aims at two broad objectives. The first objective is to protect, restore and maintain the biodiversity of the natural and ecological areas. The second objective is to ensure the sustainable management and enhancement of the socioeconomic, cultural and social outcomes for the host community through measures that promote environmental sustainability.
A sustainable tourism policy may be considered as an integral part of the overall tourism development policy. The policy must lay down the principles that are required to be implemented in order to achieve sustainable tourism. In addition, it must lay down the monitoring mechanism to ensure that the objectives of the policy are being met. The policy must lay down guidelines for promoting sustainability through tourism development. The primary objective of sustainable tourism policy is to protect the natural resources, environment and the host communities from adverse impacts of tourism development.
An essential ingredient of a sustainable tourism development policy is the commitment of the state and the communities to conserve and/or restore the biodiversity of the area in which the development is taking place. The commitment towards this objective by both the state and the communities should include the creation of priority reserves and areas. Such reserve will provide protection for the biodiversity, promote economic benefits for the host communities and provide socio-cultural benefits to them. The creation of such priority reserves and areas is very important because it will not only help in the reduction of the negative impacts of tourism, but also help in the enhancement of the eco system and will thus prevent any new threats to the biodiversity. These areas and reserve will help in the preservation of the habitat, reduce the pressure on the natural resources and thereby improve the eco system.
Tourism has been a major contributor to the economic benefits for the host communities and have helped them in achieving the goals set forth in their respective development plans. The positive economic benefits provided by tourism can be utilized for the uplifting of the socio-cultural impacts of tourism on the target communities. Tourism can have a direct or indirect impact on the socio-cultural impacts. Direct impact includes the direct employment generation generated by the tourists, direct investment generated through tourism and the direct disbursement received from the tourist industry.
Indirect impacts include the transfer of skills and knowledge, direct and indirect income generated as a result of the employment created, disbursement of funds for health programs, the improvement of infrastructure, reduction in stress levels and overall improvements in the standard of living of the people. The direct disbursement includes the cost of accommodation, food, travel and amusement for the visitors. In a nutshell, tourism can have both an indirect and direct impact on the community. The essence of sustainable tourism is to respect the balance that exists between the ecological and the socio-cultural aspects. Tourism should be viewed in a scientific manner and its effects should be evaluated with a scientific approach.