Tourism and Sustainable Development

Culture can be a driver of sustainable development, as it is defined by the United Nations 2030 Agenda, especially if it is linked to tourism and its impact. The tourism sector has become over the years one of the main drivers of social and economic change in many different countries, both in cities, in rural and in remote areas. The tourist attractiveness is recognized to bring positive impacts such as income, employment, revenues and recognition to territories. Tourism acts in fact as a driver of attractivity, innovation and communities identity empowerment.

However, tourism pressure also could bring negative impacts on the area, especially with respect to the local inhabitants. While indeed tourism has generated new opportunities, its development may cause potential concerns on the local communities and the environment. Firstly, tourism pressure has created sustainability problems over natural resources and cities. Secondly, often there is an unequal participation in the benefits deriving from the economic growth driven by tourism. Tourism is a sector of investments of international company in accommodation facilities, it offers a fairly high proportion of low-skilled jobs, thus also not remunerated in an appropriate manner, it is not always accompanied by the enhancement of local productions, both in terms of food and beverage, but above all in terms of artisan production.

In general, it is recognized that tourism is a source of income, as it generates direct and indirect employment for local people (from transportation to constructions, to the accommodation business to sites maintenance). As for negative site impacts from tourism, some of them include damage to monuments and environmental degradation, traffic congestion and air pollution, littering and inappropriate parking, and degraded pathways. On another side, local communities also have many concerns about the integrity of some traditions and cultural practices, inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour, and displacement, as visitors increasingly dominate the landscape.

These are the constraints to bear in mind to make touristic sites effective drivers of local sustainable development.

Hassan Ouajbir

To sum up these are some actions to consider in managing areas who want to develop a community-based tourism:

  • Connect the sites with local cultural production (performing arts, handcraft, contemporary arts, etc.);
  • Connect tourism strategies with projects of local cultural production;
  • Improve the accessibility and usability for tourists (tools, services, accommodations, and facilities for the visit);
  • Increase a positive visitor experience (identification and management of activities that could increase the perceived quality of the visit and make an impact on the satisfaction of the tourists, for example thanks to the connection with the local cultural milieu);
  • Reduce impacts: prevent or minimize the impacts from tourism on the sites, by redirecting visitor flows, and thus relieve pressure on main destinations;
  • Create incentives for local operators, and change and improve existing systems, products and experiences to reduce site impacts and benefit local people.
  • Engage, through regular communication, consultation and collaboration, between and within the main stakeholders, which are government, industry, NGOs and local communities. It is important that all stakeholders interact with each other for integrated management to work.
  • Empower of local communities: greater participation in tourism operations by local communities should be fostered, so as to provide direct economic benefits and alleviate rural poverty, especially in less-known or remote destinations.

The community-based tourism could be considered a type of tourism in which to invest in the future, with positive impact for local community to generate economic benefits through offering local products, lifestyles, natural resources and cultures.

Santagata Foundation for the Economics of Culture

Fondazione Santagata operates in the framework of international cultural policies and guidelines. With reference to the 2030 United Nations Agenda and in synergy with other international bodies, it develops project models for the management of natural and cultural sites recognized by UNESCO Conventions and Programs (World Heritage List, Intangible Heritage, Man and Biosphere Network and other designations). It is in charge of research and advanced training projects related to policies, tools and plans for the management of cultural sites.

Cover photo Suliman Sallehi