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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
6.Institutional Action

1. Introduction

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 achieve change?
How can these objectives be achieved given the dominance of the tourist originating countries?
Can Northern governments, international aid agencies and NGO’s 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 shared?
How can local communities be empowered to participate in the management of destination areas?
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:

  1. How can we develop partnerships for sustainable tourism?

  2. What roles do certification, incentives and regulation have?

2. How to develop partnerships

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 operating.
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 positive effects;
- 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.

2.5 Research
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.

2.6 SME's
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.

3. 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.

3.1 Certification
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.

3.3 Incentives
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.

3.4 Regulation
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 road.

4. Possible Stakeholder Action

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 Action

Governments could:
- 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 development process;
- 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 eradication;
- support public education programmes which encourage responsible consumption in tourism;
- build the political will to meet development targets through people’s experience of tourism;
- 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 tourism;

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 Tourism;

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 alike;
- 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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