ITM Master 1. Sem.
‘When the tourists flew in’ by Cecil Rajendra
Bones and Feathers (Hong Kong: Heinemann 1978)
The Finance Minister said
The Minister of Interior said
The Minister of Culture said
The man from the Hilton said
When the tourists flew in
Sustainable tourism - a critical view
Six approaches to Tourism Planning and Policies, their assumptions and main questions:
economic, industry-oriented approach:
(after Getz 1987/Hall 2000, UNWTO 2007)
Sustainable Tourism since Brundlandt Commission 1987
"The 20th century has seen remarkable advances in the development of science and technology and in social productivity. The abundant material wealth created by mankind is unprecedented and it has resulted in a rapid development of civilization.
However, aggravations caused by population expansion, excessive consumption of resources and global environmental problems such as pollution, reduced biodiversity and increased gap between north and south, have seriously hampered the development of economies and improvements in people's quality of life, and are even threatening human existence itself.
Given the pressures of these harsh realities, mankind has no choice but to re-examine its social and economic behavior and its path of development. Traditional ideas of considering economic growth solely in quantitative terms and the traditional development mode of "polluting first and treating later" are no longer appropriate when considering present and future requirements for development.
It is now necessary to find a path for development, wherein considerations of population, economy, society, natural resources, and the environment are coordinated as a whole, so that a path for non-threatening sustainable development can be found which will meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." (White Paper on China's Agenda 21)
Sustainability - Term and Meaning
In 1983 the United Nations started the World Commission for Environment and Development (WCED), which was given the task to deliver a study on the long-term perspectives of World development up to the year 2000 and beyond.
Under the leadership of the then Prime Minister of Norway, Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundlandt, the commission delivered in 1987 the paper "Our Common Future", better known as the "Brundlandt Report".
This report triggered the development which led to:
It also started the career of the term "Sustainability", whereby Sustainable Development was defined as "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (WCED 1987)
With popularity and over-usage however, the term developed many ambiguities, especially in international institutions as it had been “appropriated to support the full spectrum of development agendas”. (Doorne 2001)
This ambiguities can be divided into:
- different languages and their different cultural approaches to the idea of Sustainability
- Scope of usage of Sustainability and
- the Socio-political contest of the discourse on Sustainability in tourism
Different languages and their different cultural approaches to the idea of Sustainability
Different languages transport different ideas about "Sustainability":
For the English language the Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells us:
To sustain is an active process of keeping something alive, Sustainability here is a situation which is favorable for the action of sustaining, with no explicit reference to time.
An organisation in Colorado/USA therefore shortened the imperatives of Sustainable Development to the catchphrase “People, Planet, Profit”. (3P Colorado)
This misses however the fourth dimension connected to Sustainable Development: Institutions
In German the idea is very different and – unsurprisingly – based on the beloved German concept of a Perfect machine:
In French the temporal dimension is stressed: Long-time existence.
"Durabilité" therefore concentrates on the fact that something can exist for a long time and is not easy to destroy. Plastic for instance is very durable.
Other European languages, like Polish, Finnish and many others have no noun for Sustainability at all, they use something similar to "long-time development", but normally just take the English term for granted.
Chinese has a complex meaning on offer: Existence and Movement
"Ke Chi Xu" 可持续 combines "possibility", "existence" and "not stopping over a long period of time" to a multi-dimensional term.
Each term is based on the relevant worldview and outlook of different countries, most of the time without realising that in other languages the connotations might be quite different, leaving to endless misunderstandings in multicultural projects.
Scope of usage of Sustainability
Beside socio-semantical trap-doors, the scope of the concept of Sustainability also differs widely. Biocentric and anthropocentric approaches clash, and the famous sustainability triangle has been further developed.
From the triangle
Spangenberg and Bonniot developed a prism which includes institutions as well:
Socio-political contest of the discourse on Sustainability in tourism
For the tourism sector, the World Tourism Organisation first defined „Sustainable Tourism“ in 1988 – clearly in the footsteps of the Brundtland Report – as follows:
The WTO Committee on Sustainable Development of Tourism, at its meeting in Thailand, March 2004, agreed to revise the WTO definition of sustainable tourism. The purpose of this revision is to reflect better the sustainability issues in tourism, in light of the results of the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development. The new conceptual definition places emphasis on the balance between environmental, social and economic aspects of tourism, the need to implement sustainability principles in all segments of tourism, and it refers to global aims such as poverty alleviation.
“Conceptual Definition” of Sustainable Development of Tourism:
Looking at the differences between the Pre-Rio and the Post-Johannesburg definition one cannot fail to notice that parallel interests exists between the tourism industry, the guests and the hosts to uphold environmental quality – because this is what is sold, visited, and lived in.
No parallel interests exists however in social and cultural sustainability: The industry wants sellable product (and therefore standardization, commodification), guests want the fulfillment of their expectations. Both are not automatically interested in the well-being of hosts, resulting in the perceived need for “strong political leadership” and “corrective measures”.
Where these are absent, very often host hostility is developing over time, with unfulfilled promises of development letting local turn to short-term profitmaking that also endangers their own nature and economy.
Even more important
than the differences in language and scope is the fact that
“Sustainable development of tourism is” – Duim/Caalders conclude – “a contested concept that is socially constructed and reflexts the interests of those involved.”
US President's Council on
Muscoe Martin, Author of: "A Sustainable Community Profile"
Richard Butler, inventor of the "Tourism product cycle":
Sustainable tourism is "tourism which is in a form which can maintain its viability in an area for an indefinite period of time".
For the development of Sustainable Tourism it is necessary to pay atttention to all three sides of the triangle: economic prosperity, careful use of natural and human resources and civil society.
Sustainable development is first of all definition of goals, objectives and criteria for measurement, and the instrumentalization of these through governmental and non-governmental organizations. i.e. development of policies.
When speaking about Sustainability one has to be aware of linguistic and cultural differences of the concepts behind, the differences in scope and the fact that different definitions serve different interests
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS