Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities (UNWTO, 2004). Sustainable tourism attempts to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. It is responsible tourism that is both ecologically and culturally sensitive, and it involves the active participation of local in taking responsibility for the industry.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), sustainable tourism development guidelines and management practices are applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and the various niche tourism segments. Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established between these three dimensions, to guarantee its long-term sustainability.

Thus, sustainable tourism should:

1) Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.

2) Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.

3) Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.

Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.

These are the principles which have informed the formulation and implementation of the UNWTO/ST-EP projects implemented by Ricerca e Cooperazione in the southern part of Ghana’s Western Region, which is now known as Ghana West Coast. These interventions are based on the pro-poor tourism multi-stakeholder approach. In particular, they relate to the development and strengthening of business linkages for pro-poor tourism, by facilitating the establishment of a ‘business case’ to engage the Tourism Formal Private Sector (TFPS) to invest in locally produced goods and services. The project also involves the following:

  • Development and strengthening of the production and negotiation capacity of Community-Based Tourism Enterprises in the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises sector (CBTEs-SSMEs).
  • Development of a multi-stakeholder partnership for pro-poor tourism, bringing together and creating synergies between the TFPS, Government and the donor community, to scale up the adoption and implementation of the seven ST-EP mechanisms for pro-poor tourism.
  • Putting in place an adequate tourism market strategy to be able to increase the demand domestically and internationally.

Reference: UNWTO, 2004. Making Tourism More Sustainable: a Guide for Policy Makers, pp 11-12.







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