Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why is tourism not managed as carefully as other industries

In our course on environmental management, we are looking first at the types of responsibilities the various stakeholders have for the management of tourism around the world. We discussed the role of government in detail, and how government has frequently not sought to scrutinize the impacts of tourism as carefully as other industries.

My students sent in many questions as part of their assignment this week related to this. Why have governments not carefully scrutinized tourism?

My answer is the fact that tourism has no smokestacks. It appears to be a benign industry, and it is easy to show it has economic benefits. While Environmental Impact Statements (EIAs) have certainly been applied to large tourism complexes around the world, the overall effort to prevent sprawl and the impacts of population and growth of services and housing around tourism complexes has eluded government after government. The lens with which tourism is scrutinized is not wide enough.

Even if large scale resorts undertake environmental management systems, that seek to reduce impacts, what happens in the periphery of these complexes is frequently not considered. From their experiences in Cancun, Mexico; the Pacific coast of Costa Rica; and coastal beach resorts in the Dominican Republic, our students are now asking why the process of managing growth and development around tourism is not more carefully reviewed.

In our discussions, we are looking at the tools governments can apply to manage growth. These are not easy tools to implement. And we are discussing how and why they have not been implemented. Mostly, it requires stakeholder consensus that in fact regional planning is required - as a primary tool for making tourism sustainable.

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