Balance – the sustainable tourism challenge

Sustainable tourism definitions almost always combine two big, important ideas. The first idea comes from the Brundtland Report – Our Common Future – in which they say sustainable development  “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” . The second big idea is John Elkington’s ‘Triple Bottom Line” that requires consideration of not only the “profits” but “people” and “planet” as well. These big ideas provide a great foundation but they also present a real challenge for anyone attempting to develop sustainable tourism.

The challenge of sustainable tourism is striking the balance between people, planet and profits – to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future. This challenge is easy to grasp – conceptually – but it is hard to know where to start. Adding to the challenge – there is plenty of scope for well-intentioned folks to disagree on what should be done and there really is no single, black and white, “right” answer.

Fortunately, there is a growing body of great advice on what to do. Practical advice on environmental practices, cultural and social tourism and even market development information. But the challenge of sustainable tourism remains because the best answers incorporate another level of thinking…

The key to arriving at the best answer lies in finding the right balance. Too often we treat element separately – addressing environment separately from social and cultural issues or economics. Sustainable tourism is more programs for people, planet and profit – it is programs that integrate all of these things together – to come to the best possible outcome for today – and tomorrow. Sustainable tourism requires looking at them all together as a whole system.

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