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Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination
In preparation for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
A report on the workshop held on the 13th of October 1998 by the UK
Government Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) & the
Department for International Development (DfID)
Chair: Richard Sandbrook, Director IIED
Rapporteur: Felix Dodds, UNED-UK Co-ordinator
Initial Paper by: Harold Goodwin, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology
"Sustainable tourism is tourism and associated infrastructures that,
both now and in the future: operate within natural capacities for the regeneration and
future productivity of natural resources: recognise the contribution that people and
communities, customs and lifestyles, make to the tourism experience; accept that these
people must have an equitable share in the economic benefits of tourism; are guided by the
wishes of local people and communities in the host areas."
WWF & Tourism Concern UK
2.How to Develop Partnerships
3.The Role of
Certification, Incentives and Regulation
4.Possible Stakeholder Action
5.Possible Government Action
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development will discuss
tourism at its 7th Session in 1999. It will also hold a two day dialogue session where
NGOs, trade unions, industry and local government will put forward their viewpoints on how
tourism might be made more sustainable. This exchange with governments will inform the
formal negotiating process.
Tourism is a very heterogeneous industry but can be seen as an important
driver to enable poverty elimination through the development of new employment
opportunities and the enhancement of local economies. The development of 'pro-poor'
economic development is seen as crucial to sustainable development.
The discussion at the seminar was initiated by the circulation of a paper
by Harold Goodwin of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology. The paper raised
eight questions about tourism in developing countries:
Can an adequate regulatory framework be established within which codes of
ethical and sustainable trading, labelling and rating systems can have credibility and
How can these objectives be achieved given the dominance of the tourist originating
Can Northern governments, international aid agencies and NGOs and Southern
governments work together to redress the balance?
How can developing country governments and donors identify projects and destinations where
local economic benefits are likely to be maximised through market access, local linkages,
taxation and employment?
How can best practice in local integrated tourism development be identified and then
How can local communities be empowered to participate in the management of destination
How can the international tourism industry, NGOs and governments assist in programmes to
enhance local participation in the industry?
What role can UK tour operators and NGOs play in developing these partnerships?
There was an initial introductory round of all participants (see list of
participants Annex 1). Subsequently it was agreed that these would be addressed under two
broad headings and that they would have a destination focus. The two areas were:
How can we develop partnerships for sustainable tourism?
What roles do certification, incentives and regulation have?
2. How to develop
It was agreed that the discussion should be a destination-focussed one and
recognised that up to 60% of tourism is domestic tourism within a country (except Africa).
If we are expecting partnerships to be developed between the host
communities in the destinations and the tourist industry, then we need to recognise the
imbalance of power that exists between the local community and a tourism developer. This
needs to be addressed if there is to be effective partnership.
2.0 Framework for Policy Development
The workshop clearly identified that there is a the lack of a policy framework in many
countries. The development of a clear policy framework on tourism needs enable the
multitude of issues to be addressed systematically. A policy framework would need to
recognize the appropriate role of government, local government, industry and other
stakeholder groups, in particular the role of local communities, local businesses, women,
trade unions, indigenous peoples, and youth. The development within national and
international frameworks should have target dates within the next 5-10 years to enable
effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
2.1 Education and consumer advice
It is widely recognized that there is a need to engage in a dialogue with the tourism
industry about the impacts that they are having on the destination areas in which they are
There is a lack of appreciation by many of the tourists regarding their impact on the
environment, social and cultural heritage of their holiday destination. This can be
reduced by the travel industry ensuring that more information is given to the consumers so
that they might make informed choices and act more sustainably when they are on holiday.
Developing within the travel industry the appropriate educational material should be done
in close cooperation with the respective communities.
2.2 Empowerment of stakeholders
Tourism can bring income and jobs to a destination but this can have both negative and
positive impacts. The empowerment of local stakeholders to enable them to take a
significant role in the planning, development, management and evaluation of tourism
developments is crucial to the creation of a more sustainable approach to tourism.
Accepting that tourism operations need to be profitable if they are going to be
sustainable, there is a strong case for intervention at local levels in tourism
destination areas to:
- enable local communities to have access to the tourism markets when they arrive;
- develop local industries to support tourism development;
retain more revenue locally - therefore minimising leakage and maximising linkages;
- control the negative social and cultural impacts of the tourist whilst strengthen
- ensure the maintenance of natural and cultural assets; · control the rate of growth of
a tourism development.
2.3 Role of Local Government
In the development of a policy framework the role and powers of local government should be
increased. In particular this should be to enable them to deal with land tenure issues,
planning and the development of appropriate infra structure for the tourism development.
This should take into consideration the views of the local community and should provide a
mechanism for capturing planning gain through infra-structural employment and economic
linkages. A planning process that addresses the carrying capacity is likely to be
sustainable. An appropriate model for this might well be the Local Agenda 21 process.
2.4 Capturing Best Practice
One of the key ways to progress is the collection and dissemination of best
practice. At the seminar some very good examples of different approaches that are
being taken around the world were put forward. The collection of these, and others, in a
rigorous way would be beneficial to everyone (see eg project being completed by Tourism
Concern, VSO and University of North London). What is required is best
practice that demonstrates under particular economic, ecological and social
situations, tourism can contribute positively to sustainable development. Also examples of
bad practice which have been stopped can show important lessons.
The development of agreed criteria for such best practice would be an
important advancement, as would the agreement of a clearing house to house such best
practice. There are some 'best practice' examples that the tourism industry has
initiated dealing with the use of natural resources. Though important as a first step this
needs to be built on to take into consideration the impacts on the local economy, cultural
and social norms of the destination.
Long term monitoring and evaluation of examples of best practice is needed.
Developing a policy dialogue on sustainable tourism informed by research was considered
very important. This research should assist and inform the industry broadly, to collect
valid data which will ensure that effective policies and approaches can be developed in
the future. It should recognise that it needs to be more than site specific.
The promotion of more mixed tourism developments with targets at the lower end of the
range of hotels would allow the growth of a more indigenous hotel ownership. This would
provide greater support for the local economy. It appears to be easier to hold SMEs more
locally accountable than larger enterprises. More transparency with regard to the actions
of larger multinational businesses is needed. There also needs to be the development of a
long term commitment by travel companies to a tourism destination.
The role of certification, incentives and regulation
There were widely differing views expressed at the seminar on what role
regulation should have in the tourism industry but it was thought that it might be a mix
of regulation and voluntary codes by the industry.
The key strengths of certification is that it is voluntary and market driven. Examples
such as the Forest Stewardship Council and the Marine Stewardship Council were raised.
Both had had differing problems in their setting up but they could offer key lessons for
the tourism industry should a Tourism Stewardship Council be set up. Among the lessons to
be learned were:
- identifying who the relevant stakeholders are;
- allowing enough time for consultation and development;
- resolve problems before a public launch;
- creating a wide enough constituency to ensure momentum.
The Green Globe initiative which started as an industry voluntary code is
now being independently certified, therefore addressing one of the criticisms that NGOs
raised about the initiative. The idea of bench-marking with ISO14001 was also thought to
have a useful role and should be considered by initiatives such as the Green Globe.
Any Tourism Stewardship Council would benefit from the involvement of all
relevant stakeholders in the initial creation of such a body. The establishment of a
Council including all stakeholders would enable tourists to make informed choices on their
holiday with the development of a TSC scheme.
3.2 Voluntary Codes
The UN Commission on Sustainable Development has, at its 6th Session in 1998, set up a
process with industry (ICC, WBCSD), trade unions (ICFTU) and NGOs (CSD NGO Steering
Committee) to look at the terms of reference by which voluntary codes could be reviewed.
In the tourism industry the Green Globe initiative and the International Hotels
Environmental Initiative are two examples of voluntary codes that should be reviewed by
the process. If they are to develop there needs to be clear evidence that these voluntary
codes are making a real difference on the ground and that they are sending the right
message to the tourist.
The ability of big and small operators to utilise their supply chain to support
sustainable tourism could be an important driver for change. This might require financial
support for SME's to enable them to both change their own operational practices and also
to understand the opportunities that they have in influencing the supply chain. The
involvement of the community could also be an important marketing point.
The impact of media focussing on the health and safety programme of tourism is already
having an impact. A similar approach for environment might also result in a positive
incentive for the industry to take action.
There was disagreement about the need for new regulation at any level. On the one hand it
was seen as necessary due to the differences in power of the relevant stakeholders. On the
other hand it was seen as an obstacle which might deter investment. Finally it was pointed
out that the development of voluntary codes often leads to regulation further down the
4. Possible Stakeholder
The role that different stakeholders will play in promoting and developing
sustainable tourism that supports poverty elimination will be crucial. Some areas for
stakeholder action have been identified:
- the creation of a Tourism Stewardship Council involving all stakeholders with an
independent certification process should be investigated;
- local government internationally should prepare guidance notes for the promotion of
sustainable tourism through the planning system;
- the tourism industry should develop educational material with the local stakeholders;
- the tourism industry should try to locally source food and resources they use to enable
the local economy to benefit;
- training of staff in the tourism industry so that they can integrate sustainable tourism
strategies within their work practices, recognising the need to improve the status of
women in the tourism industry;
5. Possible Government
- clarify departmental lines of responsibility for outgoing tourism;
- identify a Minister with responsibility for outgoing tourism;
- initiate the use of tourism for local economic development by involving other ministries
alongside the tourist ministry. Often tourism ministries and authorities have
responsibility for international marketing and promotion and regulation but do not have
the capacity to work at the destination level where new product development and effective
management of existing destinations require cross sectoral initiatives;
- finance by 2000, 10 pilot schemes to develop 'best practice';
- assist in the developments of local public/private partnerships in appropriate
developing country destinations;
- assist in the development of appropriate policy and legislative frameworks and technical
skills and methodologies to realise this shift in the management of the tourist
- assist in training, in the building of local and national capacity to manage tourism at
the local level in order to achieve sustainable tourism and contribute to poverty
- support public education programmes which encourage responsible consumption in tourism;
- build the political will to meet development targets through peoples experience of
- utilise their position within the World Bank/IMF to ensure that they are implementing
policies that support sustainable tourism.
- increase funding for local NGOs to enable them to engage in a proper dialogue on
6. Institutional Action
6.1 The UN Commission on Sustainable Development could:
- invite countries to integrate tourism into their sustainable development strategies for
the 2002 review;
- ask the review of voluntary initiatives to take on a review of the tourism voluntary
codes and report this to the CSD in 2002 as part of the review process;
- instruct DESA in co-operation with other relevant UN Agencies (including WTO, UNEP,
UNDP), Convention Secretariats as well as stakeholder groups to review and develop
indicators of sustainable tourism as part of their work on producing indicators on each of
the chapters of Agenda 21;
- ask the Conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention to report annually to
the CSD on the developments related to tourism and biodiversity;
- ask governments to sign and implement the Manila Declaration on the Social Impact of
6.2 The United Nations Environment Programme could:
- through their Industry Office work (and the Habitat/UNEP Sustainable Cities Programme)
with industry associations at all levels ( including WTTC, IHEI, ABTA, Association of
Independent Tour Operators), trade unions (ICFTU), local authorities (ICLEI) and NGOs (the
CSD NGO Steering Committee) to develop a framework for best practice. The
Office should then develop a database which is accessible by governments and stakeholders
- with UNCHS and relevant stakeholder groups develop guidance notes for the promotion of
tourism within the local agenda 21 process internationally.
6.3 The United Nations Regional Commissions could:
- be asked to prepare a report for the CSD in 2002 on the development of sustainable
tourism activities within their region;
- work with UNEP/WTO to develop regional agreements to address tourism sustainably.
6.4 United Nations Development Programme could:
- share the work it is doing on a guidelines for best practice;
- utilise the UNDP country offices to bring together UN Agencies, bi-lateral donors and
other stakeholders to work together on sustainable tourism - in particular utilising the
work of the gender development programme in advising this process.
6.5 European Union could:
- ensure that the work of the Commission takes account of the outcomes from CSD99;
- facilitate research grants research on sustainable tourism, methodologies, impacts and
best practice analysis.
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