The aim of this essay is, to evaluate the extent to which the lifestyle tourism sub-niche wellness/spa tourism is adequate as a tool for sustainable tourism development. To reach this aim, an examination of literature surrounding the fields of sustainability and wellness tourism will be undertaken and defined. Arguments for and against the sustainability and trends of the chosen niche segment will be discussed; mainly focussing on the case study of Nusa Dua on Bali, Indonesia, supported by other industry examples, and a final conclusion will be given.
Before the degree of sustainability of the wellness tourism niche can be evaluated, the meaning of the terms sustainable development and sustainable tourism have to be clarified.
The concept of sustainable development ‘according to Bramwell and Lane (1993) was first articulated in 1973 and gained momentum through the 1980 World Conservation Strategy (IUCN, UNEP and WWF, 1980)’ (Weaver 2006:9). Weaver (2006:9) states that ‘it was the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development…which popularized the concept in the late 1980s, defining sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987, p. 43)’.
As Swarbrooke (1999:9) points out, the term sustainable tourism had been used since the end of the 1980s, even if ‘the terms ‘green issues’ and ‘green tourism’ were at that time used more commonly’. ‘The term ‘green tourism’ reflected the rise of interest in environmental issues’ during that time (Swarbrooke 1999:9). Weaver (2006:10) cited Eber (1992) in this context who stated that sustainable development ‘advocates the wise use and conservation of resources in order to maintain their long-term viability’, which can be interpreted as the necessity of maintaining the natural beauty and original state of a destination, in order to be able to offer tourism in these destinations in the long term. Weaver (2006:10) explains, that ‘sustainable tourism may be regarded…as the application of the sustainable development idea to the tourism sector’ and furthers ‘involves the minimization of negative impacts and the maximization of positive impacts’. The WTO gives the following definition:
Sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological process, biological diversity, and life support systems (1998:21).
These definitions of sustainable tourism show three dimensions of which sustainable tourism is composed. Mowforth and Munt (2003) identify them as: the environmental dimension, the economic dimension and the social/cultural dimension.
According to Swarbrooke (1999:49-50), the environmental dimension is composed of the natural environment, wildlife, the farmed environment, the built environment and natural resources. ‘In many cases, the core attraction of a destination’s product may be natural resources, such as: clean, pure mountain air, land, the mineral waters which have healing properties and are the focus of spa development’ and ‘the water in lakes and seas, if it is relatively warm and clean, and therefore suitable for bathing’.
The most important concept regarding the economic dimension of sustainable tourism is probably the multiplier effect, which says that ‘every pound…spent by the tourist circulates around the local economy in a series of waves’. ‘In terms of sustainable tourism, the aims are to maximize tourist spending and then to minimize the leakages of tourism income from the local community’ (Swarbrooke 1999:60). Mowforth and Munt (2003:103) add that ‘regardless of how much damage may be done culturally, socially and environmentally, it is perfectly acceptable if the economic profitability of the scheme is great enough to cover over the damage…’.
In terms of the social dimension of sustainable tourism, Swarbrooke lists factors that have an influence on the quality of socio-cultural impacts in a certain location:
the strength and coherence of the local society and culture, the nature of tourism in the resort, the level of economic and social development of the host population in relation to the tourists, the measures, if any, taken by the public sector in the destination to manage tourism in ways which minimize the socio-cultural costs of tourism (1999:71).
Jules (2005:6) states that the three dimensions of sustainable tourism that have just been defined must be integrated in every tourism development strategy: ‘any sustainable development strategy must incorporate the essential dimensions of fairness and equity, progressive human development and environmental sustainability.’
Before the evaluation of the wellness tourism niche with respect to these dimensions, the main characteristics of the niche will be illustrated in the following.
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- Lilly Marlene Kunkel (Autor), 2007, Analysis of the niche tourism segment wellness/spa tourism and evaluation of its degree of sustainability, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/140514