Universal definition of sustainable tourism


This essay is discussing about whether is it unreasonable to expect for a universal definition of sustainable tourism.

Globalization and technological developments are growing prosperity ever since the 1990s have helped to create greater demand for leisure travel. With the increasing demand of international tourist arriving, there will be more challenges to face, such as the solution to positively sustain tourism development, socially responsible ways for the present as well as the future.

Tourism is an industry, but it is also a form and agent of development and change and must be recognized. To able to make a wonderful tourism experience, tourism industry must do research and find new ways to sustain tourism and allow government to pass on legislation to manage the long term impacts of tourism development.

No universal accepted definition or majority of options has yet reached and debates are still ongoing.

Sustainable Tourism

Definition of sustainable tourism: it is an industry committed to making a low impact on the environment and the local culture while generating income and employment for the local people. Tourism often relies on high quality and stimulating destination environments in terms of natural, built, and cultural attributes to be at the forefront of the debate concerning the meaning and implications of sustainable tourism. Tourism is the security to the environmental, economic and social agenda of the government. Tourism has played a role in conservation as justification for the preservation and upgrading of natural and cultural heritage. (Hunter, 1996)

Ethical and controlled tourism development can play a big part in the local communities and environments to reduce damaging impacts on the business performance. Ethical tourism is making an effort to redress the balance by doing everything promising to ensure that when tourists go on holiday, the impact on the local environment, culture and people is almost positive. Hence, everyone in the world should create an eco-environment so as to make tourism sustainable and succeed to a higher level of tourism development.


Definition of sustainable development: use of pattern of resources that requires to meet the needs of humans but in the mean while preserving the environment so as to meet all needs to the present future.

The definition encompasses 2 basic dimensions: development to meet intra- and inter-generation human needs, and the resources limitation that constrain efforts to meet these needs (Hunter, 1995).

Tourism for Sustainable development

Tourism development allows business opportunities for small and medium size organization. Infrastructure development needs financial help which can be easily supported in areas away from main commercial centers.

For the definition of sustainable tourism, it includes tourism that is positive in culture and environment. By being socially responsible may helps to bring in positive social and economic benefits to the bigger percentage of the society.

In order to protect natural heritage and preserve endangered species of wildlife, tourism activities are to be programmed and designed by tourism infrastructure Stakeholders in tourism development should limit the constraints on their activities done on sensitive areas.


Receiving threats to the environment from tourism has been to promote ecotourism as a form as sustainable tourism. Ecotourism is to encourage conservation and to also provide benefits to the local populations. Ecotourism is increasingly seen as a profitable niche within the wider market, bringing economic benefits to small countries, without the need to provide costly infrastructure for huge number of tourist.

Ecotourism can create opportunity for spreading the economic benefits of tourism to national parks and remote areas. That can be done when government policy aim is to welcome more tourism in these areas and the local people can participate in the process. With the participation of the local people, it can provide benefits that might offset pressures from others, less sustainable uses of natural and cultural resources.

The ecological aspects of environments that become tourist destinations should be seen as ecosystem that is life-creating natural networks. There are 5 categories of ecosystem, of which 4 are natural resources. The main issue of all categories is whether they can absorb negative impacts and remain sustainable.


There is a need for constant monitoring and gain knowledge about the basic condition of the market so as to succeed with each activity and the trends changes rapidly within the tourism industry. The key to make the correct future decisions, the ability to forecast is needed and stimulates development processes.

There are several factors to either stimulate or deter the development of tourism, each with strength and effects.

Social & Cultural Factors

For the social factor, there will be shortened time of working, more free time and longer vacations. As for cultural factors, conflicts between identity and modernisation, especially in developing countries and radical demands and increasing of importance of ethnic movements

Economical Factors

For some countries, there will be continuation of moderate economical increase in the world scale. Therefore, some countries may face bigger financial crisis as capital concentration is within the world's economy. There may have globalisation of economical activities.

Ecological Factors

For some countries, they may have smaller environmental resources and therefore they need a greater ecological awareness in society and government's concern with environment. In order for development of the ecological movement, government need international collaboration in field of natural and cultural environmental protection.

Four Paradigm of Tourism

Advocacy Sustainable Mass Tourism

Tourism was widely perceived as something capable of generating significant economic growth across wide range of different destination legally responsible to all forms of economic activity. It may stimulates highly intrusiveness contact between locals and tourist.

Cautionary Unsustainable Mass Tourism

It has a broader logical argumentation involving political left side of challenge to the economic side of the right wing.

Adaptancy Deliberate Alternative Tourism

The term was brought in a specific sense that there are integrated alternatives to the mass tourism that defamed by the cautionary platform.

Knowledge-Based Sustainable Mass Tourism, Circumstantial Alternative Tourism

There are methods to obtain knowledge about tourism sector, judgement regarding the nature of mass and alternative tourism.

The issue of knowledge-based platform merge with the appearance in literature of sustaible tourim. Sustainable tourism has not been without debate. But to various, the two concepts are synonymous, with the proviso that Sustainable tourism refers specifically to tourism that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (Hawkes & Williams, 1993). However, added the caveat that ST can only achieve this objective by also satisfying the demands of the tourism industry and tourists (Hunter, 1995), a view that is broadly consistent with the contemporary conceptualisation of tourism as a system of mutually interdependent components(Hall 1995).


Ethics in tourism have used justice in emphasising the importance in fairness in the industry. There are several ethical theories and how they are applying in a tourism context. It stands as a tangible representation of the need for more comprehensive look at how ethics can aid in addressing the innumerable conflicts that exist in tourism. (Butler, 1990)

The promotion and understanding of ethical values comes with the attitudes of tolerance and respect for the diversity of religious, philosophical and moral beliefs. Tourists must aware their responsibility to behave themselves, before or after departure, with the characteristics of the countries they are preparing to visit. In such a way, they can minimise the risk they are going to bear outside their usual environment.

Tourism must be ethical in order to sustainable as resources and also to enhance its values for both the tourist and the local communities. The main characteristic of ethical tourism include the optimal use of environmental resources, respect towards the socio-cultural authenticity of host community and the provision of socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders involved.

Implementing the principle of Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

First, tourism development must seek the co-operation of the public and private stakeholders to monitor the effective application.

Secondly, they should recognise the role of international institutes which competence in the tourism industry's promotion and development, the protection of human rights and the environment due to respect of the each international law.


There is a need for sustainable tourism strategies in all form of tourism. Countries face different challenges and constraints, every possible action can be taken to improve tourism to a more sustainable manner, such as the following:

Local participation for distribution of cost and benefits to tourism that preserve culture and environmental management

Encouraging participation in sustainable tourism development for the local people. By organizing tourism-related activities which generate new income may create pressure on the social factor between practices for traditional and modern business management. People in local communities may need government incentives.

Developing countries may face various problems that create barriers from having adequate regulations and law which are implementing for the protection of the environment and cultural heritage. The sustainable tourism development goal is related to the decision-making on the use of resources and land for tourism purpose.

To minimise the negative tourism impacts in natural environment, reasonable measures are required. Tourism has potential to allow significant contribution to social development therefore, related cost must be shared in a fair manner. The need for extra effort will bring in positive benefits to the wide percentage of society.

Efforts need to be put in to foster community-based tourism, which will welcome new economic and social roles for the members in the community. Technical assistance should be provided to the local people in articulation how to achieve equitable distribution of cost and benefits. On the other hand, environmental protection role, the local people may need advice in understanding impacts and protecting the environment and stop damaging natural resources.

There are major priorities for the entire tourism industry such as protection of natural environment planning and local cultures. To ensure tourism development, policies and planning must be adopted. Socio-cultural and economic, environmental aspects have to be included in the process.

Tourism infrastructure development

Tourism infrastructure related issues have two main aspects. Firstly, it is the physical access from countries with the need to travel by air or cruise ship. If the location of the countries are far away from the major tourist markets, Cost-effectiveness of international travel and frequency will be affected. Secondly is the developing tourism infrastructure's cost and scale. It faces difficulties in welcoming higher percentage of investment. Moreover, direct attention required from environment impact is crucial to the building and maintaining tourism infrastructure.

In order to do so, Government should address issues such as conducting a business environment, setting up regulations and rules, developing an adequate framework and providing investment incentives to attract private sector participation. By doing so, this will help to minimize the negative impacts on the natural environment. Having major tourism infrastructure development projects can also do a part in improving environmental impacts.


The key problem is the creation of tangible, working local partnership. Tourism businesses need to recognise and support the social conditions and the cultural and environmental wealth that make a community an attractive tourist destination.

Although there were developments of various model, there is still no accepted universal definition for sustainable tourism. For example, ethical tourism and other kinds of tourism consist of supported arguments as there are alternative for existing methods and directions of tourism.

Lastly, it is unreasonable to expect for a universal definition for sustainable tourism.


  • Forsyth, T. 1995. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. Business Attitudes to Sustainable Tourism 3: 210- 216.
  • Hardy, A., Robert, J.S Beeton., and Pearson, L. 2002. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. Sustainable Tourism: An Overview f the Concept and its Position in Relation to Conceptualisations of Tourism 10: 479-484.
  • Hunter, C. 1997. Sustainable Tourism. Sustainable Tourism As An Adaptive Paradigm 24: 855-857.
  • Macbeth, J. 2005. An Ethic Platform. Towards an Ethics Platforms for Tourism 32: 964-967
  • Weaver, D. 2006. Sustainable Tourism: Theory & Practice. Oxford: Elsevier.

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