Incorporating the Principles of Sustainable Tourism into the Strategic Marketing System

An Analysis of the Queensland Tourism Strategy

Bachelor Thesis, 2008

93 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents






2.5 Tourism in transition- emergence of the “new tourist”
2.6 Sustainable tourism development - dewy-eyed optimism?

3.2.2 The Marketing Audit - understanding the existing situation

4.1 Where else but Queensland
4.2.2 OPERATIONAL STRATEGIES Targeting the experience seeker The unique Queensland style experience Reaching the market Coordination, partnerships and community engagement





This research paper represents the completion of my studies in Tourism Management at the Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences. Already at an early age, I learned about the importance of sustainability in terms of community aid and development through my family, who is contributing actively to various sustainable community projects in Brazil. My interest in sustainable development has never weakened ever since. During my studies in Denmark I attended a variety of courses taught by Dr. Janne J. Liburd, chair of the BEST Education Network. She introduced me to the concept of sustainable tourism development and aroused my academic interest in the topic. I decided to write my Bachelor Thesis about sustainable tourism because it is my personal strong belief that both the consumers and the industry are obliged to responsible provision and consumption of tourism products; not only in terms of environmental protection and conservation of cultural heritage, but also in respect for the communities and local residents at the destinations.

In the present research, the importance of implementing the concept of sustainability into the marketing process of both public and private businesses is being assessed in theory and in practice through the evaluation of the Tourism Queensland marketing strategy. It was possible to point out the opportunities for destinations in terms of knowledge dissemination, networking and marketing towards stakeholders. Furthermore, it also enabled the identification of the barriers and obstacles, such as indicator development to monitor the outcomes of sustainable business practices, which remain to be overcome and are subject to future research and development in cooperation with the industry.

I would like to thank my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Manfred G. Lieb, who assisted me in the process of problem formulation and writing. Moreover, my special appreciation should be expressed to Anja Hergesell, who became a dear friend of mine in Denmark, and to my sister Anna-Katharina. Both supported and inspired me during the past three months and gave me valuable feedback on my Thesis.

Martina Reichart Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences February 2008

List of Abbreviations

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Table of Figures

Fig. 1: Inbound tourism by purpose of visit, 2006 (share)

Fig. 2: Inbound tourism by means of transport, 2006 (share)

Fig. 3: International Tourist Arrivals 1950-2020 (forecast)

Fig. 4: The five Ps of tourism's marketing mix

Fig. 5: Measurable / non-measurable costs and benefits

Fig. 6: Structure of tourism strategies and policies

Fig. 7: Where else but Queensland - International brand logo

1 Introduction

After the Second World War, tourism has rapidly evolved into one of the most important industries of global economy. The trend of growth is expected to continue, despite temporary regional slowdowns due to recessions or events such as 9/11, the SARS epidemic and the tsunami disaster in 2004. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 2008a), international tourist arrivals worldwide have grown at an annual rate of 6.5% since 1950, reaching 846 million in 2006. The same year, international tourism receipts totalled US$ 733 billion, i.e. US$ 2 billion a day. The forecast on international tourist arrivals is 1.6 billion worldwide by 2020. Tourism represents around 35% of the world's export of services and over 70% in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Thus, tourism is often considered a welcome source of economic development providing employment opportunities, producing means of earning foreign exchange, and stimulating the local economy (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006; Theobald, 2005).

There are various definitions of tourism. However, in this research paper the definition developed by the UNWTO will be used. According to the UNWTO, tourism can be defined as: “the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes” (UNWTO, 2008b). Tourism management, also known as visitor management, is the foundation to approach sustainable tourism and involves a comprehensive, systematic planning process which assesses and estimates the current and potential levels of tourism supply and demand activity within a region. Further, it establishes goals and objectives to target certain volumes and profiles of tourists that match the types of products available (Middleton and Hawkins, 1998).

The strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities in tourism are mainly economic. Current trends imply increasing competition levels that may result in: (1) increased competition between destinations worldwide, (2) increased competition between domestic markets, and (3) increased competition between firms within the various destinations (Dwyer, 2005). Destinations are a combination of various tourism products and offer an integrated experience to consumers. During this paper a destination is considered to be a “defined geographical region which is understood by its visitors as a unique entity, with a political and legislative framework for tourist marketing and planning” (Buhalis, 2000: 98). Yet, the tourism sector is more complex than economic activity alone, since the social, political, technical and ecological environments also have a strong influence on it and vice versa. “Conventional” mass tourism is associated with numerous negative effects, such as environmental destruction and loss of cultural heritage. For this reason, some of the terms that have surfaced over the last decade are “sustainable” tourism and “alternative” tourism. The increasing awareness of consumers about Corporate Social Responsibility and environmental issues has brought forward a new target group named the “morally conscious tourist” (Lansing and De Vries, 2007: 77). Destinations and especially international corporations alike advertise with these terms as a means to differentiate themselves, reaching out for this new, emerging customer segment (Lansing and De Vries, 2007). However, sustainability should not merely be a marketing ploy to reach new customers or to perform “greenwashing” in order to appear more environmentally friendly (Deen, 2002). In fact, it is a complex and difficult task to achieve the implementation of sustainable business practices and to develop sustainable tourism products (Middleton and Hawkins, 1998).

It is exactly this challenge the following research paper will focus on by analyzing how to incorporate the principles of sustainability into the marketing system of tourism businesses or destinations. The aim of this paper can therefore be specified through the following research question:

How are the principles of sustainability to be integrated into the strategic marketing system to ensure the development of sustainable tourism products?

An exploratory as well as descriptive research design based on external and internal secondary data is used in order to obtain information that can answer the research question. The data used consists of books, reports, articles and various web pages. Since the publishing of the Brundtland Report Our Common Future by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987, many reports and books have been published on sustainable tourism. Especially the UNWTO and UNEP have published various reports and guidelines in cooperation with other institutions that are highly relevant in connection with this paper. The articles used in this paper originate from various academic journals. Yet, retrieving information from academic journals is sometimes difficult, since numerous articles are not free of charge, even when retrieved through the university's librarian access. As a result, articles that were not included due to unavailability may have altered the findings. Concerning web pages, the reliability of these sources has been carefully evaluated and only sources from known and reliable organizations such as the UNWTO, UN, and Tourism Queensland (TQ) have been used.

Due to a need to make this paper relatively short, it is restricted to mainly include the principles of marketing without going into detail with the various, mainly ethical, issues related to sustainable tourism as such. This research paper by no means tries to find the final solution to sustainable tourism development since it appears that even academics and experts cannot reach any consensus on this subject (see for instance Butler and his critics on alternative tourism in Macleod, 2005). The focus of the research conducted was set on the marketing perspective and the supply of tourism products rather than on anthropological aspects. The limitations of the findings are therefore expected to be one-sided results and it is admitted that it is for this reason not possible to highlight all aspects involved in developing sustainable tourism, especially concerning consumer behaviour and changing paradigms. Further, the focus was on destination management and leisure tourism disregarding business travel. Due to the character of secondary data the limitations of the data in terms of validity, reliability and comparability are acknowledged. Further, secondary sources such as the internal data retrieved from Tourism Queensland's homepage should also be evaluated critically. Given that TQ provides an official homepage recognized by the Australian and State government, the information provided about the tourism industry and the key markets may not be completely objective. Furthermore, due to limited time and financial resources, no primary research, such as qualitative interviews with key informants in Queensland's tourism, has been carried out. It can therefore be argued that personal interviews could have altered the findings.

The first aspect to be studied in this research paper is the development of tourism and the tourism industry with regards to the emergence of mass tourism, as well as the criticisms of tourism that have arisen throughout the past and started the ongoing discussion about sustainable tourism. Further, the principles of sustainability and sustainable tourism will be explained and considered critically. Secondly, the aspects that need to be integrated into the marketing concept will be identified on the basis of the strategic marketing system developed by Lewis and Chambers (1989). The findings will provide the basis for analyzing the marketing strategy of Tourism Queensland in the subsequent section. Finally, a conclusion will be drawn on the findings.

2 The Tourism Industry

The following section will provide the background for the actual analysis by outlining the characteristics of the tourism industry, necessary for a thorough understanding of contemporary developments and changes. First, the historical development and the current situation of global tourism will be presented as well as the structure of the industry. After a critical assessment of the impacts of tourism, the concept of sustainability and the principles of sustainable tourism development are explained. Finally, the changing values of consumers and the emergence of the “new tourist” are explored as well as the feasibility of sustainable tourism.

2.1 The development of tourism and global tourism today

Throughout the course of time, people have travelled for the purpose of trade, religious conviction, economic gain, war, migration, and other equally forceful motivations (Freyer, 2001; Theobald, 2005). The Grand Tour during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, at first restrained to nobles and diplomats for educational purpose but then becoming commonplace, coined the term “tourist” (Graburn and Jafari, 1991; Towner, 1995).

Tourism, as known today from the European perspective , is a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century. Historians suggest that the initiation of mass tourism originated in England as a result of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the middle class (Theobald, 2005). Thomas Cook, an English Methodist reformer, was the first to introduce the concept of the package tour in 1841 by taking the urban poor with steam trains to the countryside as well as to expositions and rallies (Freyer, 2001; Kirstges, 2003). He is often considered the father of modern mass tourism and set the starting point for the modern tourism industry by inaugurating travel agencies, introducing reserved seats, booking hotels, accommodations classification, travellers' cheques, timetables and comprehensive guidebooks, and even publishing a brochure in 1862 (Freyer, 2001; Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006; Kirstges, 2003). Hence, he evidently saw the commercial possibilities and the importance of marketing mass tourism. The flourishing of tourism after the Second World War, that has taken soldiers to distant places they also wanted to revisit (Holloway, 2004), is closely linked to the economic rebound in the western industrial nations: higher discretionary income, increased leisure time and enhanced means of communication and transportation (Freyer, 2001). International travel expanded rapidly after the introduction of commercial airplane services in the 1950s and charter flights in the 1970s. This development fostered the emergence of tour operators such as TUI and Neckermann, offering packaged tours at comparably low prices (Freyer, 2001; Kirstges, 2003; Theobald, 2005). Tourism gradually “spread socially from the upper classes, down through the middle ranks and eventually to the mass working classes” (Towner, 1995: 340) and became available to the broad public. Tourist resorts proliferated in the growth markets of the 1980s throughout the Mediterranean to cater for the demands of the first generation tourists with the intention to escape the uncertainties of the Northwest European climate for their annual holidays (Morgan, 2005). Emergent destinations with new resorts were constantly added to the tour operators' programmes, leading to “high density, low grade holiday townships, lacking not only visual attraction but also basic services” (Economist Intelligence Unit International Tourism Reports, 1989 cited in Morgan, 2005: 351) in previously untouched coastline places like the Turkish coast or the Algarve in Portugal. Today, this form of tourism is ill-reputed as mass tourism(Lansing and De Vries, 2007). According to the UNWTO (2007), the motivation for travel in 2006 was mainly leisure, recreation and holidays, whereas only a comparably small part of 16% accounted for business travel (figure 1). For this reason, the following research will focus on integrating sustainability into tourism offers directed at leisure and recreation and leaves the aspects of integrating it into business travel for further research.

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Fig. 1: Inbound tourism by purpose of visit, 2006 (share)

VFR: visiting friends and relatives

Source: World Tourism Organization (2007: 3)

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Fig. 2: Inbound tourism by means of transport, 2006 (share) Source: World Tourism Organization (2007: 3)

The means of transportation in 2006 were to almost equal shares air transport and transport over land (figure 2). Amongst others, the high carbon emissions, especially from air transport, have eventually resulted into some criticism expressed towards tourism.

Travel and tourism have grown significantly in both economic and social importance (Theobald, 2005) and the statistics show that international travel and tourism is growing continuously (figure 3).

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Fig. 3:International Tourist Arrivals 1950-2020 (forecast)

Source: World Tourism Organization (2001)

According to the UNWTO's Tourism 2020 Vision (UNWTO, 2001) long term forecast, international tourist arrivals are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by the year 2020 compared to 536 million in the base year 1995. The top three receiving regions will be Europe (717 million tourists), East Asia and the Pacific (397 million), and the Americas (282 million). However, record growth rates of over 5% per year are forecasted for East Asia and the Pacific, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, compared to the world average of 4.1%. Long-haul travel worldwide is expected to grow at 5.4% per year over the period 1995-2020 (UNWTO, 2001). These statistics indicate that tourism in the European Hemisphere is rather saturated, whereas markets that are less industrialized will experience further tourism growth, especially from overseas markets. For this reason, these destinations are advised to develop a well-structured plan on developing sustainable tourism in order to be able to provide the necessary and adequate infrastructure including hotels, roads, airports, water systems, utility systems, transportation, and other systems necessary to support tourism (Kotler et al., 1996).

2.2 Structure of the tourism industry

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC in Theobald, 2005: 17) the tourism industry is formed by “establishments providing services and goods to visitors”. Davidson (2005) and Leiper (2007) argue that it is not even a legitimate industry comparable to other industries such as energy or agriculture, but rather a collection of industries. However, it is not within the scope of this paper to discuss this issue, and the term “industry” will therefore be used as an umbrella expression for the various types of organizations occupied with the creation of tourist experiences. Generally speaking, the travel and tourism industry has become a vast and complex multilayered network set up of directly and indirectly involved organizations from both the public and private sector (Appendix A). Dependent on the tourist, a variety of actors may be occupied in delivering the tourist experience. These include amongst others transportation, accommodation, intermediaries, attractions, the food industry, and other service providers belonging to the private sector (Freyer, 2001; Kirstges, 2003; Sinclair et al., 2003). The international travel industry is supported by government policies and regulations carried out on the national, regional and local level, for instance through National Tourist Organizations (NTOs), infrastructure projects, and frequently direct subsidies (Honey, 1999). A wide array of commercial banks, international financial and aid institutions, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also contribute and invest into the tourism industry. Intergovernmental organizations such as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and United Nations programmes such as the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) as well as the United Nations Educational, and the Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are only a few of the big players amongst countless others (Freyer, 2001; Honey, 1999; McLaren, 2003). Due to the increasing horizontal (between the same type of enterprises) and vertical (between firms and their input suppliers or output purchasers) integration since the 1960s, transnational corporations dominate the tourism industry today (McLaren, 2003; Sinclair et al., 2003). The various interest groups with their different goals, motivations and expectations on the outcomes of their activities, allow the suspicion that it is rather difficult to reconcile them, especially when it comes to implementing sustainability as it will be shown later on during this paper.

2.3 The negative impacts of tourism

The tourism industry is widely accepted as a beneficial economic power, contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country. However, the impacts of tourism may not only be assessed in positive economical terms as they may be offset by adverse and often unmeasured environmental and social consequences (Archer et al., 2005; Honey, 1999; McLaren, 2003; Miller and Twining-Ward, 2005). The main impacts of tourism are economic, socio-cultural, and environmental (UNEP, 2008). Some of these negative impacts will be discussed from the host country or region's point of view without claiming to be exhaustive.

2.3.1 Economic impacts

When discussing the economic effects of tourism critically, the issues of tourism multipliers and economic leakages need to be considered. The introduction of a tourism industry, especially in so-called “underdeveloped” destinations, is supposed to benefit regional development by the enhancement of infrastructure, education, employment and further spin-off effects such as the consumption of local produce in hotels and gastronomy (Hall et al., 2003; Harrison, 1995; UNEP, 2008). However, economic leakages occur, when taxes, profits and wages that are paid outside the local area, as well as the purchase of imports, are subtracted from the amount of tourist expenditure (UNEP, 2008). The previous section indicated that the tourism industry is set up of various transnational organizations. The UNEP (2008) assumes that for this reason about 80% of travellers' expenditures gained from all-inclusive package tours go to airlines, hotels and other international companies who have their headquarters in the tourist's country of origin. Numerous studies show that large, international hotel chains create more jobs, pay higher wages and bring in more foreign exchange to a destination than smaller local hotels and guest houses (Harrison, 1995). However, international hotels generally import more, have fewer linkages with the local infrastructure, and provide fewer entrepreneurial opportunities for the local population since the higher paid and more respectable posts are often occupied by expatriates who possess the necessary expertise and experience. This trend can be identified especially in lesser developed countries (Harrison, 1995; UNEP, 2008). Mbaiwa (2005) and Freitag (1994) found out that “enclave tourism” has only minimal economic impact on rural development, mainly because of its weak linkages with the domestic, especially agricultural, economy. Enclave tourist resorts offering all-inclusive packages have been identified to integrate only poorly with the local industry due to minimized economic exchanges between tourists and hosts in order to increase resort profit margins. This also applies to cruise destinations since tourists are encouraged to spend their money on the cruise ship rather than at the destinations for excursions (UNEP, 2008). However, even in developed regions, local producers are often unable to cater for the industry's demand for the required quantity and quality of goods, especially organic food, on a reliable base (Arbeitskreis Tourismus & Entwicklung, 2002). Further, neophobic tendencies are often observed among “conventional” tourists, since the consumption of food and beverages directly engages bodily involvement with the unfamiliar destination. Therefore, tourists tend to hesitate the consumption of “strange” food whose ingredients and modes of preparation are unknown and seek protection within their “environmental bubble” (Cohen and Avieli, 2004). Foreign domination and ownership of tourism facilities has further led to the repatriation of tourism revenue, lower salaries for citizen workers, and a general failure to significantly contribute to poverty alleviation (Freitag, 1994; Mbaiwa, 2005). In Turkey, the approach of offering economic incentives for mass coastal tourism at the expense of rural areas has created inequalities between Turkish regions and social classes (Archer et al., 2005; Tosun, 2001). The rising wages and costs due to increased standards of living further affect destinations that originally benefited from low price structures (UNEP, 2008). Compared with their emerging competitors, they may no longer be considered “cheap” destinations and further lack capital for refurbishment and renewal of the accommodation stock as well as for additional infrastructure (Morgan, 2005; Münster and Krane, 2008). Especially developing countries that cannot build on other industries due to shortage of adequate resources, have embraced tourism as a means to boost the local economy. However, these countries are prone to dependency on the tourism industry which might put major stress on its performance. Tourism-dependent economies that are not well diversified are vulnerable to recessions, environmental catastrophes or political instability as the case of Kenya recently demonstrated (UNEP, 2008;, 2008). Further, the seasonal character of the tourism industry creates economic problems for destinations that are heavily dependent on it (UNEP, 2008). Tourism critics also claim that opportunity costs are often underestimated and scrutinize whether the tourism industry offers the optimum usage of the resources available (Archer et al., 2005). However, tools exist that assist in making the decision whether or not to engage in tourism, such as the preliminary questionnaire in the Sustainable Tourism Development: Guide for Local Planners, provided by the UNWTO (McIntyre et al., 1993) . It assesses the current situation of the community and businesses regarding dependency on and attractiveness for tourism. Further, the benefits and costs to engaging in tourism are listed accordingly next to each question, giving an overview of the various aspects that need to be considered. The assumption that building up a tourism industry in order to boost a country's economy is rather superstitious for the reasons mentioned. To minimize economic leakages it is essential to integrate the local economy and to encourage local investments rather than investments from abroad. However, this is a difficult task particularly in regions with high poverty and often only feasible with governmental support.

2.3.2 Socio-cultural impacts

The socio-cultural impacts result predominantly from the interaction of the tourist with the host. Tourism, by its nature, is located to a considerable extent in unique and fragile environments and societies, resulting in the intermingling of people with various social and cultural backgrounds (UNEP, 2008). Tourists are often strangers to a certain region, distinguishing themselves from the local population for instance by dress codes and patterns of behaviour. A strong marking of cultural distinctions between residents and tourists aiming at tourist satisfaction might exploit local culture and customs at the expense of local pride and dignity by transmitting the impression of “staring” at the indigenous, “underdeveloped” and “savage” people (Archer et al., 2005;, 2008). MacCannell (1973 in Cohen, 1988) argues that residents create contrived “tourist spaces” either in self-defence of their own “true” culture or for commercial interests, staging authenticity for tourist consumption in the “front region” while they adjourn into their own real “back region”. However, one of the problems of alternative tourism, which focuses on contact and communication between the tourists and the local population with a desire for individuality, is the encouragement of tourists to penetrate the “back region”, which might pose a perceived threat on the residents and their privacy (Honey, 1999; MacCannell, 1999; Macleod, 2005). In extreme cases, the arrival of too many tourists has even completely disrupted the way of life of the local people. Residents may move to areas where they can remain undisturbed or are even forced to do so for the sake of conservation and protection (Archer et al., 2005; Cohen, 1988; Honey, 1999). This is a critical issue especially when it comes to the creation of national parks, e.g. Pointe Sable on St. Lucia (Liburd, 2006) or various game reserves in the Republic of South Africa (Brennan and Allen, 2001). The increased demand of tourism for land also increases the cost of liveable space and less space is available for the residents to cater for their own needs (Archer et al., 2005; Kirstges, 2003; McLaren, 2003). Finally, the confrontation of tourists and hosts, particularly when there is a high difference in social standards, may create a sense of deprivation and frustration among the residents, affecting also their moral standards. Frequently, the results are crime, prostitution, gambling, and drug traffic (Archer et al., 2005; Harrison, 1995; Kirstges, 2003). These aspects need to be taken into consideration when intending to engage in tourism. However, especially for governments it is challenging to decide whether the demerits eventually coming along with the economic benefits outweigh those and how to react to these negative impacts. Further, it is a paradox to explain to the local population to turn down the option on a better life through tourism development in favour for their moral standards.

2.3.3 Environmental impacts

The figures in section 2.1 indicated, that tourism and the rising interest for long-haul travel is directly linked with environmental impacts due to travels by airplane, busses and cars. Apart from the depletion of the ozone layer and the climate change to which the tourism industry also contributes by air and road travels, environmental impacts occur mainly when the carrying capacity is exhausted. Carrying capacity refers to “a point beyond which further levels of visitation or development would lead to an unacceptable deterioration in the physical environment and of the visitor's experience” (Archer et al., 2005: 80). The difficulty of defining carrying capacity, however, is to find a consensus among the various stakeholders and to decide on where the threshold lies. The effects of tourists on the host destination and the relationship between visitor and environmental resources in terms of carrying capacity depend not only on volume, but also on the characteristics of both visitors and hosts. The profile of tourists refers to their length of stay, activity, mode of transport, and travel arrangement. The destination is characterized by its natural features, level of development, as well as political and social structure, determining the degree of its resilience to tourism and tourism development (Archer et al., 2005). Especially nature tourism is closely linked to biodiversity and the attractions created by a rich and varied environment. Loss of biodiversity can occur due to excessive use, and when impacts on vegetation, wildlife, mountain, marine and coastal environments and water resources exceed the carrying capacity (UNEP, 2008).

In some cases, the environmental and social costs of (mass) tourism outweigh the economic benefits. However, as already mentioned, it is a challenging task to carry out a valid cost-benefit analysis due to the complexity of the industry. It can be assumed that the costs and benefits are mainly subjective, depending on the point of view and the differences in weighting the various issues. It is therefore difficult to find a proper equation addressed to the perception of whether or not to engage in tourism. The “responsible” consumption of tourism and concepts for sustainable tourism development along with the enhanced planning and management of tourism are often considered an answer to its negative impacts (Archer et al., 2005; Ashley and Haysom, 2005)and will be discussed subsequently.

2.4 The principles of sustainability and sustainable tourism development

The publication of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987 significantly influenced international debates about the environment and sustainable development (Middleton and Hawkins, 1998; Murphy and Price, 2005; Wearing and Neil, 2000). It established a universal definition of sustainable development that encompasses and applies to all resources: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987 cited in Tosun, 2001: 290). However, this definition is rather broad and leaves great opportunities for interpretation by all parties involved, especially when it comes to defining “the needs of the present” and determining future generation's needs. The questions about responsibility and authorization of judgement arise and are rather complex to answer. Yet, the definition suggests the necessity to aim at finding an equation of human activities and harmony with the respective natural, social and cultural environments (Middleton and Hawkins, 1998).

When it comes to sustainability in relation to tourism, much of the debate focuses on the philosophical underpinning of global tourism activities: the anthropocentric (human- centred) versus the eco- or bio-centric (nature-centred) view of tourism, splitting the tourism activity into two distinct forms of travel: mass tourism or alternative tourism (Page and Dowling, 2002). In literature, the term “sustainable tourism” is often used as an umbrella expression under which other terms such as ecotourism or alternative tourism fall, opposing the ill-reputed form of mass tourism (e.g. Page and Dowling, 2002; Lansing and De Vries, 2007; Wearing and Neil, 2000). However, sustainability is not about “good” or “bad” tourism, but goes beyond exclusion, penetrating the entire business and production process. Middleton and Hawkins (1998: 247) argue that sustainable tourism “meets the needs of present visitors, tourism businesses and host destinations while protecting and where possible enhancing opportunities for the future”. When delivering the sustainable tourism experience, resources should be managed in a way that social, economic and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems are maintained (Weaver, 2001). Since culture and the natural environment are often motivators for travelling to certain destinations, it can be argued that sustainable practice is necessary to sustain tourism as an end in itself. If the distinct cultural or natural features of a destination are destroyed, it will eventually loose its attractiveness and the tourism industry will therefore be prone to face decline. Thus, two separate dimensions of the sustainability argument apply to the tourism sector: improving sustainable practice at the place of interest for the tourist and implementing sustainability into business operations.

Concerning the first dimension, which focuses on improving sustainable practice at the destination, the conceptual definition provided by the UNWTO offers a good starting point. Whereas it is often perceived that sustainable tourism is an oppositional answer to mass tourism, the UNWTO (2008c) states that "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”. Therefore, the principles of sustainability refer not only to environmental aspects of tourism development, but also to economic and socio-cultural aspects and should be implemented in any business practice throughout the entire organization (Kirstges, 2003). It is widely agreed that the definition and meaning of sustainable development encompasses at a minimum the environmental, social, and economic dimensions, often referred to as the “triple bottom line” (Hacking and Guthrie, 2007). A balance needs to be established between these three features in order to meet the triple bottom line and guarantee tourism's long-term sustainability (Honey, 1999; Murphy and Price, 2005). According to the UNWTO (1996) sustainable tourism should therefore use environmental resources, constituting a key element in tourism development, in an optimal way. It should also maintain essential ecological processes and help to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity. The socio-cultural authenticity of host communities needs to be respected as well as their cultural heritage and traditional values. Sustainable tourism aims at contributing to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006). Further, socio-economic benefits shall be assured to all stakeholders through viable, long-term operations. This may include stable employment, income-earning opportunities as well as social services to host communities and a contribution to poverty mitigation. Therefore, sustainable tourism development “meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future” (UNWTO, 1996: 30). The local environment, community and cultures should be the permanent beneficiaries of sustainable tourism products. The figure in Appendix B illustrates, where the three goals (“social”, “economic”, “environment and resource”) start to coalesce around community-based economics, conservation with equity, and integration of the environment with the economy.

These, in turn, merge in the central goal of sustainable tourism (Murphy and Price, 2005; Wearing and Neil, 2000; Weaver, 2001).

As already mentioned, the second dimension of the sustainability argument focuses on the way that businesses within the travel and tourism industry develop their strategies, make operational decisions, and perform actions. For tourism development to have sustainable outcomes, business operations need to be sustainable. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD, 1994: 4) states that sustainable development for business means “adopting business strategies and activities that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders today while protecting, sustaining, and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed in the future”. Thus, a sustainable business operates in both its operations and products. It has interdependent economic, environmental, and social objectives as well as the understanding of the dependence of long-term viability on the integration of all three objectives in decision-making. Instead of seeing social and environmental objectives as burdens or costs, the sustainable enterprise seeks opportunities for profit in achieving these goals (Kirstges, 2003). However, to achieve sustainable tourism development at a destination, it is necessary that all members of the industry cooperate since it is questionable whether one business alone can succeed in (and even will intend to) making tourism more sustainable overall. The successful implementation of sustainable practices and consensus building is therefore dependent upon strong political guidance and support for implementation as well as the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders (Middleton and Hawkins, 1998). Impacts have to be monitored constantly and the necessary preventive and corrective measures need to be introduced accordingly. Thus, achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process (Murphy and Price, 2005). The description of sustainable tourism by the UNWTO focuses not only on the tourism product itself, but also includes the consumer: sustainable tourism should provide meaningful experiences to the tourists and maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction (UNWTO, 1996). This is - or at least should be - the intention and focus of any traditional business, and thus already a good basis. Additionally, in the ideal case, sustainable tourism should raise consumers' awareness about sustainability issues and promote sustainable tourism practices amongst them (UNWTO, 2008c).

Some critics of the fundamentals of the concept of sustainable development claim that the oxymoronic nature of the terms “development” (emphasizing growth) and “sustainability” (with its steady-state implications) makes them mutually exclusive (Butler, 1990 in Macleod, 2005; Murphy and Price, 2005). Yet, according to Page and Dowling (2002), the underlying concept of sustainable tourism development is the equating of tourism development with ecological and social responsibility. Some of the preconditions for achieving a sustainable approach to tourism planning are cooperation, industry coordination, consumer awareness of sustainable and non-sustainable options, strategic planning, and commitment to sustainable objectives (Middleton and Hawkins, 1998). When discussing sustainable tourism development, consideration needs to be given to the diverse interests of the beneficiaries of sustainable development, and the various perspectives of sustainable development need to be identified. What may appear sustainable from one point of view is likely not to be so from another. Additionally, as long as the grassroots of a community are not sufficiently informed about the impacts of tourism, empowered, made aware of their rights and confident enough to claim those, benefits are likely to be primarily pre-empted by local elites (Page and Dowling, 2002). Further criticism is often expressed to the question of what deserves to be sustained - whether the environment and socio-cultural aspects truly gain their equal share of attention, or if - after all - the businesses pay only lip-services and merely aim at sustaining themselves, their profits, and tourism as such (Lansing and De Vries, 2007). Yet, it would go beyond the scope of this paper to elaborate on this issue and therefore leaves it for additional research. To legitimate the purpose of this paper, it will further be assumed that opportunity costs have been taken into consideration before developing and marketing sustainable tourism. In the following section, the “new tourist” will be identified and the response of the industry to the changing values and perceptions of this customer segment will be revealed.

2.5 Tourism in transition - emergence of the “new tourist”

The tourism industry is undergoing significant restructuring due to changing customer profiles and product maturity. So far, mass tourism and conventional tourism have formed the major component of organized tourism with alternative tourism playing only a minor role (Kirstges, 2003; McLaren, 2003). However, there appears to be a shift in interest and values of tourists. Whereas mass tourism appears to have been a phenomenon of the late twentieth century, it seems to become increasingly popular to seek remote, unspoilt and exotic destinations and cultures (McLaren, 2003; Towner, 1995). According to Middleton and Hawkins (1998: 244), mass tourism “involves the movement of a large number of people on nominally standardized packaged tour holidays to resorts that are mostly purpose-built or adapted for the purpose” and is often associated with high volumes of visitors and low prices. The “typical” mass tourists are often identified as persons with only limited time for their holidays, which use fast-moving means for transport, who snapshoot as many must-see sights as possible in the shortest time necessary, and who do not prepare themselves mentally for the trip (Kirstges, 2003). Additionally, these tourists try to import their own lifestyle into the host country (Pearce, 2005). The term “conventional” refers to the type of activities carried out by tourists (for instance the “4Ss” Sea, Sun, Sand, Sex) whereas the term “mass” refers to volumes of visitors (Tsaur, Lin and Lin, 2006). Alternative tourism in contrast is considered not to be part of the mainstream holiday provision and is often associated with higher prices and lower volume. Alternative tourism products claim to be more environmentally friendly and culturally less damaging than others and have often developed many characteristics related to special interests, such as ecotourism or cultural tourism (Derrett, 2001). Ecotourism has been identified as a form of sustainable tourism and is expected to contribute to both conservation and development (Tsaur, Lin and Lin, 2006, Weaver, 2001). However, this may be questioned, especially regarding the negative impacts due to establishing national parks and the relocation of local communities as already mentioned in section 2.3. Alternative tourism seeks to achieve mutual understanding, solidarity, and equality amongst the participating parties (Macleod, 2005). Often, alternative tourism is related to individual travelling. International research suggests that alternative tourism has experienced a growth in demand over the past years. The number of Free and Independent Travellers (FITs) has gradually increased along with a change of tourist's self-perception as “travellers”, rather than as “tourists” and a shift in taste and values away from consuming the traditional 4Ss towards experiencing “something different”; especially in terms of activities, nature, and culture (Pine and Gilmore, 1998; Tsaur, Lin and Lin, 2006). This trend towards “variety-seeking behaviour” has led to the maturation of alternative tourism segments, e.g. backpackers, and to the emergence of specialized tourist agencies promoting forms of alternative tourism, which encourage greater responsibility and sensitivity towards host community needs among travellers (Pearce, 2005). Meethan (1998 in Stamboulis and Skayannis, 2003) argues, that in the era of “post-tourism”, it is necessary for traditional tourist destinations, particularly those depending on domestic coastal resort tourism, to either restructure or face decline. As the taste and self-perception of tourists change, so does the profile of “the tourist”. While tourists who still prefer mass tourism are predominantly of lower income, those opting for alternative experiences belong to a great extent to higher income or spending brackets (Kirstges, 2003; Pearce, 2005). It is acknowledged that this view may be rather superstitious since personal taste and the financial resources available are not necessarily interrelated. However, there are studies on consumer behaviour that confirm the coherence of income and personal taste (see also Solomon et al., 2006). Kirstges (2003) agrees that there is a relation between education and recreational behaviour - higher education fosters a broader range of leisure activities. Together with the increase in leisure time and growing prosperity, these changes in social values and corresponding attitudes of consumption lay the groundwork for new preferences regarding the overall tourism product: quality and value for money. Krippendorf (1989 in Kastenholz, 2004: 389) infers from this that the “new tourist” would be “more intelligent, open-minded, tolerant, communicative, modest, adaptive and willing to pay a socially acceptable price for a sustainable tourism product”. Whether this is true from the anthropological viewpoint, may again be doubted. However, the UNEP (Fotiou, 2008) has identified the market segment of the “LOHAS” (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) that focuses on social status and the consumption of symbols, even if this is more costly. The LOHAS claim to be the “new greenies” but compared to the “old greenies” they are technology-friendly and seek pleasure. Further, they aim at a sustainable and conscious life and are critical towards companies about Corporate Social Responsibility (Karma Konsum, 2008). Yet, even though many surveys on the willingness to pay for more sustainable tourism products indicate growing sensibility to these issues; product selection and purchase are frequently not yet related to sustainability factors. Various studies indicate a “green gap” between tourists' idealistic expectations and their actions reflecting their wants and daily conspicuous consumption patterns (Fotiou, 2008; Miller et al., 2007; Solomon et al., 2006). The UNEP, in cooperation with the region of Tuscany, suggests that this might result in frustration among businesses that have already adopted sustainable practices but have up to date not received any real reward for their responsibility towards the host environment and communities (Morgan, 2005; UNEP and RT, 2005).

2.6 Sustainable tourism development - dewy-eyed optimism?

There has been considerable interest in the concept of sustainable tourism development from both academics and governments, and various articles, books, reports and guidelines on sustainable tourism have been published throughout the past decades. However, most publications focus on policy issues, procedures, and implications with rather moderate reference to the direct involvement and needs of the tourism industry and its principal clients, the tourists (Murphy and Price, 2005). The progress in implementing sustainable tourism development has been somewhat disappointing - especially in already established destinations within Europe. Frequently, the focus of attention is responsibility towards the environment and only little attention is spent on responsibility towards the local populations (Arbeitskreis Tourismus & Entwicklung, 2002). Certainly, one reason for focusing on environmental matters is the amount of media attention addressed to it and that sustaining the environment is easier to implement. Further, costs for disposal and water have increased over the years. For this reason, decreasing waste and water usage indeed saves money (Font, 2008; Hansen, 2008). Still, to achieve sustainable tourism that meets the triple bottom line, it is not sufficient to focus on the environment and the economy. On the other hand, addressing socio-cultural aspects instantly raises difficult and unpleasing questions of mainly ethical nature. One question is concerned with what deserves to be sustained, what needs to be conserved, and whether conservation and sustaining certain environmental or cultural assets is really a valuable benefit for the community or rather slowing it down on its own path to development (Archer et al, 2005). Who decides, who pays, and most important - “Who owns Paradise?” (Honey, 1999: v). The difficulty of identifying those in charge and authorized to judge about the various issues involved has already been pointed out in the previous section, as well as the reluctance to take over leadership and to set good examples.

Apart from these “hands-on topics” regarding the implementation of sustainable practice, criticism is frequently expressed towards the feasibility of developing sustainable tourism. Kirstges (2003) argues that the tourism infrastructure is not even capable to keep up with the demand of responsible tourism products. There appears to be a shortage of accommodation offering the aspired quality standards resulting from the changing leisure behaviour. Apparently, especially “conventional” tour operators have missed the opportunities to innovation and left this field to the various specialized niche tour operators (Pfeifer, 2008). This impression was also expressed by Naut Kusters (2008) at the Responsible Tourism Marketing Conference held in Stuttgart in January 2008: “the market is ready but the industry is not”. According to him, tour operators have only recently actively been asking for B2B networks and certifications of sustainable business practice to cater for the demand of their customers. In addition, the shift in demand for responsible products does not apply to the entire population since the price sensitive tourists have also increased (Kirstges, 2003). The “standardization” of packaged tours has led to price transparency, making it easier for customers to compare and choose among products and to count on dirt-cheap last-minute offers. It is not unusual that hybrid consumer behaviour (buying the groceries at the discounter and dining in a three-star gourmet restaurant) often leads to one holiday catering for the demand of cultural diversification and additional low-budget “get-away-trips” (Kirstges, 2003; Margreiter, 2001). As already mentioned, the “green gap” further prevents consumers from actually sacrificing money for responsible products but also from stepping back on their expectations about vacation and to go on more environmentally friendly holidays; especially since this consequently includes not travelling by plane or car (Miller et al., 2007). After all, nobody can be forced to change his or her preferences and demand. Kirstges (2003) also criticizes the paradox of alternative tourism. Even if every tourist was willing to pay more for responsible products, would avoid hotels damaging the environment, and use alternative means of transport such as trains (assuming the infrastructure including accommodation was able to cater for this demand) - the devastating result would be that environmentally still intact places would experience a sense of overcrowding while already “spoilt” destinations are left deserted. Hence, the question is whether those, who travel to already established “mass” destinations, are really worse than for instance backpackers who exploit the hospitality of indigenous people and destroy the nature by wild camping (Honey, 1999; Kirstges, 2003).

Implementing sustainable tourism usually comes along with increasing costs, offering value for money, and aims at not selling away too cheap (Davos Tourismus, 2003; Kirstges, 2003). The downturn of this is the risk of developing “elite-tourism” as it may already be observed in Davos (Switzerland) - a form of tourism affordable only to the upper, privileged market and excluding those belonging to weaker social classes. Since vacation appears to be a merit good that should be made available to every person within a society (Bochert, 2007), this would be a very doubtable outcome. Moreover, the ability to afford high-quality goods does not necessarily suggest polished manners. Especially intercultural differences may lead to different perceptions and dislikes among tourists and hosts, as it may be indicated by various surveys on “best” (e.g. Japanese, Americans, Swiss) and “worst” (e.g. French, Indian, Chinese) tourists (, 2007;, 2007;, 2007). Therefore, tourists may to some extent be tolerated since they generate economic gains, but whether they are always appreciated is a different question.

This section has shown that global tourism will continue to grow and highlighted the potentials of the tourism industry as an important contributor to economic development, especially if other resources are short. However, opportunity costs need to be taken into consideration as well as the risk of dependence when deciding on whether or not to engage in tourism. The tourism industry is made up of a complex set of various directly and indirectly involved businesses as well as governmental and non-governmental institutions which makes it difficult to reconcile the different voices of the industry. Both rising awareness of the various negative impacts of tourism and the emergence of the “new tourist” are calling for a sustainable approach for developing tourism. However, this is not an easy task, since the definition of the WCED on sustainable development is rather broad and leaves great room for interpretations. Further, due to the distinct stakeholders involved it is challenging to find a consensus and to define a common “roadmap” especially in terms of destination management. Sustainable tourism development aims at finding an equation of regional development with ecological and social responsibility. This can only be achieved for destinations by strategic planning, support and cooperation of the industry, consumer awareness of sustainable and non-sustainable options, and commitment to sustainable objectives. Yet, the different intentions and interests of the parties involved are an obstacle, which needs to be overcome first. The perceived lack of progress demonstrates that changing fundamental societal and economic beliefs and expectations are not easy and that there are no “magic steps” to sustainable development. Hence, the opportunities of marketing towards sustainable tourism development will be discussed in section three.

3 Marketing Sustainable Tourism

To assure a common basis for the discussion on marketing sustainable tourism, the special characteristics of the tourism product need to be discussed, marketing needs to be defined, and the strategic marketing system developed by Lewis and Chambers (1989) is to be explained briefly. Further, options of incorporating the principles of sustainability will be pointed out. It has to be clearly stated that these options are merely possibilities, by no means exhaustive and may not be applicable to all destinations and business due to their respective distinct characteristics.


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Incorporating the Principles of Sustainable Tourism into the Strategic Marketing System
An Analysis of the Queensland Tourism Strategy
Heilbronn University
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Sustainability, Tourism, Tourism Management, Tourism Strategy, Strategic Marketing, Marketing, Australia, Sustainable Tourism, destination management, Corporate Social Responsibility, Nachhaltigkeit, Tourismus
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Martina Dirschl (Author), 2008, Incorporating the Principles of Sustainable Tourism into the Strategic Marketing System, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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