Weak Governance and Sustainability of Sustainable Tourism

By Dripto Mukhopadhyay

When we talk of sustainable tourism, a crucial question comes to our mind that have we achieved any success till now? This question is crucial since in several countries sustainable tourism or ecotourism or other forms of tourism that generally talks of similar objectives stated almost for a couple of decades by now. However, evidences suggest that if for the time being we keep aside other components of sustainable tourism and focus on the environmental aspect of it, it is quite a controversial topic. The reason being total carbon emissions from tourism activities in absolute term have been increasing unabatedly though it has declined to some extent on per capita basis. The primary reason for the increase of carbon emissions from tourism activities is increase in number of tourists significantly. And, in that too international tourism has been increased significantly during the last decade or so. Aviation industry itself is responsible for more than 40% of carbon emission that can be attributed to tourism activities. About 25% can be attributed to other surface transport. Fortunately, since technology has improved tremendously and rate of emissions has been reduced in all segments involved with tourism activities, we have been able to reduce per capita emissions of carbon and other green house gases. But, the reduction rate is not enough to meet the targets set for the tourism sector. If we need to meet the target set for 2020 regarding reducing carbon foot print of tourism sector, per year reduction rate should be about 6% from now onwards which is not only difficult but impossible.

Till now, I have talked mostly negative about achieving sustainable tourism. However, that is not a complete picture. Several initiatives have been taken from all different stakeholders to adopt sustainability mode, especially in terms of environment. Lots of awareness generation activities, regulatory aspects, knowledge transfer, and sustainable business practices have been experienced by the tourism sector all over the world, particularly, in developed countries. The prime reason why I have raised this issue today is the importance of governance in driving sustainable tourism goals. Though there are positive governance shown in bits and pieces in some cases, in general the policies can be considered as a failure. To prove the governance as an “effective instrument” to reduce environmental impacts of sustainable tourism, “policy learning” is a must based on previous and new experiences. The major reason for failure of the policy makers is that most of them opt for some adjustments to existing policy instruments only. Though in some cases some strategic changes are incorporated, but profound shifts in the policy paradigm and goals are completely missing from the policy makers related to sustainable tourism. This requires conceptual learning which need acceptance amongst the policy-makers for developing an alternative sustainability paradigm that changes the current “state” of tourism itself. Since, the existence of the mankind is at stake, it is high time that the governments and policy makers develop regulations and other governance instruments that affect and control those undesirable factors related to tourism activities that contributes to climate change.


3 responses to “Weak Governance and Sustainability of Sustainable Tourism

  1. Hi Dripto, you raise some interesting points and facts in your blog. I feel that sustainable tourism cannot be viewed in isolation as an end in itself, since so many elements of tourism are in fact interdependent and linked to other elements of living, doing business and community life. Just like the Balanced Scorecard methodology, that looks at various KPIs within a dashboard format to evaluate overall performance, then sustainable tourism SHOULD also be looked at, not in isolation, but within a ‘balanced’ framework of indicators. Here in the UK, we aim to work within 4 elements – the Visitor, the Industry (Businesses/Economy), the ENVIRONMENT and lastly the Community to look at overall tourism development. So sustainable tourism development then becomes a function of each of these four principles or elements and relates to each of them and how they have a cause and effect on each other interdependently. Such an approach then enables the real KPIs that make a difference to be identified and not masked by those that we find easiest to measure because we can. Definitely, more work reuquired within this area.
    So sustainable tourism then becomes,
    The RIGHT VISITOR product and service
    provided and offered within the RIGHT COMMUNITY
    which produces the RIGHT ECONOMIC (industry) impact and value
    in order to maintain and sustain the RIGHT ENVIRONMENT locally.


  2. Dripto Mukhopadhyay

    Hi David, I an completely agreed with you points you have pointed out. In fact, the complexities involved in sustainable tourism themselves are the prime reasons that act as significant constraints in achieving sustainable tourism development. And, it becomes even more difficult since it encompasses the entire tourism industry and not any individual project per say.
    Its good to receive such valuable comments from you. Hope to keep in touch and hear further from you.


  3. Pingback: Weak Governance and Sustainability of Sustainable Tourism – Views On Tourism

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