This literature review will focus on the social and economic arguments that underpin the issues relevant to the planning and development of sustainable tourism. Firstly, the importance of research, planning and impact assessments will be discussed, followed by a debate on the economic aspects of sustainable tourism principles and the influence of government policies and EU initiatives. The next section will cover topics concerning the management and marketing of image, culture and identity as these are central to the promotion of a destination and have profound implications for the communities affected by tourism. The issues will be related to Cornwall and Andalucia in particular.
De Kadt’s early work (1979) [see references here] remains a seminal text, setting out the problems of mass tourism and introducing sustainable tourism ideas which have since been developed by other authors. He notes that many of the problems associated with tourism development arise from the fact that tourism providers are often removed from the destination so are not sensitive to local socio-economic and environmental problems (Butler, 1993; de Kadt, 1979; Smith and Eadington, 1994). The sustainable tourism argument demands that social and environmental benefits and costs should be included in re-development economic assessments. Economic estimates are required to secure funding from development bodies, tourist boards or the private sector, but economic analyses do not include a study of cultural and environmental impacts (Maiztegui-Onate & Areitio Bertolin, 1996). However, in 1985 the EU introduced a directive which has made Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) mandatory for all large-scale tourism-related projects in EU countries (Davidson, 1998).
It would in fact make good business sense to include cultural and environmental impacts in economic analyses because the tourism industry relies heavily on an overall attractive image. A common theme in tourism literature is that tourism sells landscapes and cultures as well as products and services, therefore a realistic evaluation of resources, both quantitative and qualitative, is essential to prevent the economic decline of tourist destinations. W.S. Watson, senior vice-president of Best Western Hotels, states that the pressures of competition mean that research and planning are critical to the success of tourism (1993). Profit margins are slim and the industry depends on volume and Fordist-style package deals to maximise profits (de Kadt, 1979; Eadington and Redman, 1991), but mass tourism puts pressure on the built and natural environment which in turn is a disincentive for tourists as overdevelopment ruins the tourist experience (Smith and Eadington, 1994). Sustainable tourism requires a fine balance to be drawn between development and conservation, but in order to do this research must first accurately determine demand and guide planning (Watson, 1993).
Wall (1997) points out that tourism is just one of a number of agents for change and that research should incorporate all elements to be accurate in its diagnoses. Tourism is not always the cause for change, but may be a response to it. For instance, many traditional occupations are dying out due to the development of modern methods of production. In rural and peripheral areas like Andalusia and Cornwall where agriculture and fishing is under threat, tourism is seen as an alternative source of income and a way of stimulating regional development and economic regeneration. In such areas Richards explains that ‘by attracting more consumers to a region, the consumption capacity, and therefore the production capacity of that region can be enhanced, providing more income and jobs, and therefore ensuring economic survival’ (1996: 312). Economists Eadington and Redman (1991), explain that this creates a multiplier effect which boosts the economic regeneration of the area and is crucial to development.
Unfortunately, market forces cannot equitably distribute benefits and costs (Butler, 1993; Eadington and Redman, 1991; Smith and Eadington, 1994), therefore planning and subsidy is required to ameliorate the effects of these inequalities. Government policies and EU development schemes attempt to redistribute some of the excesses of a market-led tourism industry to achieve a degree of balance. Davidson (1998) gives details of Structural Funds available from the EU, which support various initiatives and development programmes in rural, peripheral communities. These are designed to redistribute wealth from industrial and developed areas to remote and underdeveloped ones by improving the infrastructure and encouraging economic development. They are intended to generate the local economy and promote social cohesion in areas where traditional occupations like agriculture and fishing are in decline or which are sparsely populated and underdeveloped.
In contrast to this McLaren (1998) takes a strong critical theory perspective and describes development as a capitalist concept which is viewed from a Western mindset, and which ultimately increases local reliance on a global economy. McLaren challenges the economic arguments used to justify tourism and asserts that benefits are largely leaked outside the community, particularly when international corporate chains buy goods centrally. Infrastructure is developed by national and local governments, and private investors are offered tax breaks, cheap land and other incentives to develop tourist attractions, but McLaren suggests that this investment of public funds rarely results in a multiplier effect due to ‘corporate greed’ (1998: 39). Large companies are able to internalise the production and supply of ancillary goods and services, and can therefore monopolise access to the economic benefits of tourism development. To compound this tourism is an unstable industry; destinations are at the mercy of trends and fashions for their popularity, and are dependent upon fluctuating political and economic conditions worldwide. Davidson comments that the ‘European tourism industry operates within an environment over which it has little, if any, control’ (1998: 17). McLaren therefore concludes that ‘tourism is an unsustainable form of development since its instability can worsen a country’s economic situation’ (1998: 32), particularly where tourism is a ‘monocrop’.
Selwyn’s case study in Mallorca (1997),
illustrates the way that tourism promotion and development is controlled
by wealth and power in the form of local elites and transnational corporations.
It is evident that tourism often conflicts with local people
It is interesting to note Urry’s observation that ‘the more exclusively an area specialises in tourism the more depressed its general wages will be’ (1987: 23 quoted in Hall, 1994). Ireland in his work on ‘Tourism and social responsibility’ (1997) confirms that wages in Cornwall, one of the most popular tourism destinations in the UK, are amongst the lowest in the country. This is also true for at least one area of Andalucia; research by Jurdao (1990) in the village of Mijas describes how peasant landowners were encouraged to sell their land for tourism development only to eventually become unemployed when the area became ‘colonised’ by retirees from northern Europe. This resulted in another of the possible negative effects of tourism development; local people could no longer afford to live in the area (Jurdao 1990, cited in Nash, 1996: 30) and moved away. This has also been a problem in Cornwall; increased demand for land, food, and other essential services force prices up and local people are displaced, to be replaced by the inmigration of wealthy outsiders and retirees. One of the results of this kind of demographic change is a corresponding change to the image and identity of a region, as well as a dilution of cultural heritage, as noted in Selwyn’s case study of Mallorca (1997).
Image is crucial to the promotion of a tourist destination and must be carefully constructed and marketed in order to maximise its potential benefits. Tourism is a form of conspicuous consumption and tourists display their identity and social standing by the destination they choose to visit and the image it presents. MacKay makes the point that ‘image-makers actively select, organise, combine and edit what is produced and distributed’ (1993: 232). For example, negative aspects such as poverty and crime are omitted whilst positive aspects may be accentuated or exaggerated. In this way image can be distorted to attract tourists. Tourists either accept the deception or feel dissatisfied at the lack of authenticity, but for the locals the changes have much more serious implications. A false image gradually robs a culture of its authenticity; as the locals evolve into their new role they suffer a loss of identity, this can create a feeling of anomie and cause resentment from local people.
Where the image presented is inauthentic or derogatory it usually has an adverse effect on cultural identity (Smith, 1981; Selwyn, 1996). The social and economic impact of tourism, and therefore its effect on culture, is potentially enormous, particularly in areas of mass tourism, therefore sustainable tourism attempts to resolve this dilemma by advocating that the image presented should meet the needs of the local community and express their cultural heritage rather than respond to the vagaries of the ‘tourist gaze’ (Urry, 1990). In other words, sustainable tourism should help define cultures, not reinvent them.
The development of culture based tourism during the 1990s reflects a growing interest in culture as better education has created a greater appreciation of heritage sites and historical attractions. Adams comments that ‘travel agencies, as distributors of travel literature and information have been labelled as “brokers” in ethnicity, culture and meaning’ (1984, quoted in Mackay, 1993: 232). Culture and local differentiation is a valuable resource in tourism development and marketing. Destinations strive to establish a distinct cultural identity in the minds of tourists particularly in the case of overseas visitors who often find it difficult to ‘interpret or appreciate the complexities of regional or local cultural differences’ (Richards, 1996: 326). However, the commodification of culture for tourism is a dangerous business because the promotion of culture as a visual image is a powerful builder of identity for both locals and tourists (Ireland, 1998). The danger is that this growing awareness and promotion of cultural difference could develop into a divisive mechanism; the construction and control of image portrayal could be used as a political weapon to manipulate social cohesion or division. Hence the commoditization of culture could become a form of social engineering. Fsadni and Selwyn note that ‘the only beneficiaries of ...tourist destinations being in competition, rather than co-operation, with each other are developers and tour operators, who often come from outside the region altogether’ (1997: 17).
Ashworth and Tunbridge point out that culture is a major motivation for tourism; they note that ‘historic attractions are ranked among the top three types of destination in most Western European countries’ (1990: 59), and that tourism provides the ‘economic rationale’ and financial investment for conservation of the historic city (1990: 262). Richards (1996), catalogues the recent swing towards developing cultural tourism, and gives a basic idea of the political structures and hierarchies responsible for encouraging this in the UK and Spain. A more detailed look at tourism in Cornwall itself can be gained from the work of Ireland. He addresses sustainability and the issues of culture and identity in ‘Tourism and social responsibility’ (1997) and in ‘Cornishness, conflict and tourism development’ (1999). In-depth information on the tourism trends and political influences in Spain can be found in Barke et al. (1996) including several case studies located in Andalucia covering a range of tourism problems.
The advantages of cultural tourism is that it helps spread tourism in space and time. It draws the load away from the overcrowded resorts to inland attractions, and alleviates the problems associated with seasonality as it encourages frequent out of season short breaks to places and events of special interest (Maiztegui-Onate and Areitio Bertolin, 1996; Hunter-Jones et al, 1997). Nonetheless, Krippendorf presents an argument against cultural tourism. He asserts that we must ‘accept the mass character of tourism’ (1991: 111) and warns against decentralising tourism as it will merely extend the problems of tourism to other areas. Instead he advocates the development of tourist enclaves which restrict contact with local people and limits the problems associated with tourism to a particular area. This is a paternalistic attitude and would most likely be very divisive.
To sum up then, many of the problems associated with tourism development arise from the fact that tourism providers are not sensitive to local pressures and needs (Butler, 1993; de Kadt, 1979; Smith & Eadington, 1994). The economic benefits of tourism depends upon an overall attractive image which means that all tourism resources must therefore have an economic value. Nevertheless, economic analyses do not usually measure cultural and environmental impacts (Maiztegui-Onate & Areitio Bertolin, 1996). Although tourism is an accepted way of stimulating regional development and economic regeneration (Richards, 1996; Eadington and Redman, 1991), it is an unstable industry (Davidson, 1998) and the benefits are often leaked outside the community. It does not always bring greater prosperity because employment in the tourism industry is usually unskilled, low-paid, part-time and seasonal (Krippendorf, 1987). In addition to this local taxes are raised in order to develop the infrastructure necessary to attract tourists and the tourism industry, whilst the rising costs of providing essential resources and services such as water and waste management are passed on to local residents and businesses. This, compounded by the fact that tourism pushes up prices of accommodation and food, can cause poverty and the eventual displacement of local people. Therefore tourism can be devastating to local economies, and detrimental to a region which is economically dependent upon it.
Sustainable tourism has been promoted
as a way of mitigating the disadvantages of tourism, whilst maximising
the benefits in a way that is acceptable for the greatest number of people.
It encourages the development of cultural and rural tourism to sustain
local cultures, traditional lifestyles and industries, it seeks to utilise
resources and the environment in a sustainable way, and it aims to generate
the local economy by providing opportunities for employment and economic
development. Sustainable tourism demands an awareness of the needs of local
people, and respect and appreciation for culture and the environment.
It is a bottom-up, community led approach to tourism development which
aims to achieve a balance between development and conservation, yet at
the same time maintain a product which is economically sustainable.