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Concept and Components of Sustainable Tourism (st)

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Four components of Sustainable Tourism
  3. Ecotourism
    Cultural Tourism
    Responsible Tourism
  4. Conclusion


It is safe to say that tourism brings in benefits but also has it downside at the same time. In the twenty-first century, consumers of tourism are demanding greater quality, variety and more flexibility in their travels. With increasing rapid advancements globally, sustainability becomes a growing concern for all. With sustainable tourism, the importance of environmental, social and economic impacts have entered the decision-making process and will change the way tourism grow throughout the world and in general, protect resources for future generations.

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This essay will introduce and explain about the components related to Sustainable Tourism (ST): Ecotourism, Geotourism, Responsible Tourism and Cultural Tourism (Edgell, 2016), as well as assessing existing literatures. Literature Review on Sustainable TourismSustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunities to fulfil their aspirations for a better life, yet it is not a fixed state of harmony but rather a process of change that are made consistent with future as well as present needs (Brundtland, 1987). Built upon the principles of sustainable development, the consideration of three impacts were taken in. Economic, Social and Environmental impacts. These are also known as, The Triple Bottom Line (TBL). The TBL is a concept that expands the notion of organisational performance evaluation to include not only the traditional financial bottom line to one which also includes environmental quality and social justice (Elkington, 1999). The elements of the TBL can be combined in pairs resulting in some of the popular terms used to describe sustainable projects (Marshall and Toffel, 2005).

Four components of Sustainable Tourism


Ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel, appreciation of natural habitats, environmental sustainability, cultural appreciation, and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities (Edgell, 2016). According to Picard (2015), he mentioned how ecotourism dealt with the TBL and how it helped sustainable development but at the same time it does not mean it is a sustainable tourism. As he argued that sustainable development is conditioned by strategic planning, if strategic planning is ineffective, ecotourism products have little chance to contribute to sustainable development. He gave some example on how some ecotourism products were marketed in a way that it did not benefit or involve the local communities socially and even preserving the environment, their resource were provided by pursuing in a short term and profitable way regardless of the environment. Alternatively, many hotels have implemented ecotourism and contributed to having sustainable development. Furthermore, they hire the locals and engaged with community programmes and went through trainings to learn more about how they can change and shape up their hospitality and accommodations. An example was whale or dolphin watching. Although it benefits the tourists and the local economy, it brings harm to the environment and the marine life which causes the dolphins or whales to migrate and even caused their deaths.

Cultural Tourism

Cultural Tourism is a form of travelling to a destination and have an authentic experience of the history, heritage, and culture (Edgell, 2016). Culture and heritage are often linked together as it forms a sense of national identity in places, and it serves and contributes to the economy and social identification. Cultural tourism development currently presents some very definite unbalances. On one side, it depends on localised and hardly reproducible resources. On the other, it is governed by an industry that is increasingly both global in nature and disconnected from the sources of cultural capital (Valcic & Domsic, 2012). An example will be by Sangchumnong & Kozak (2018), they talked about how sustainable cultural heritage tourism is the key element in the development of Ban Wangka Village in Thailand, and how TBL is a key strategy that was implemented in order to develop the destination and to prevent unsustainable practices. They also mentioned they found that the social and ethical dimension of the destination has been overshadowed by the economic dimension, which may lead to a lack of sustainability. The arrival of large numbers of incoming tourists, in combination with the local people’s lack of tourism management skills, has caused the community to experience several challenging situations. The degradation of the Mon cultural heritage and changes in Mon cultural heritage resources can be seen in many areas of life, such as their clothing, beliefs and faith, customs and manners, food preparation wisdom, and language and naming. Unequal income distribution is another factor that was found, as some of the local people do not appreciate the tourism industry because they do not receive any income from it, while their shares of resources have been overused and are in decline.

Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is a tourism that promotes responsibility to the environment through its sustainable use, responsibility to involve local communities in the tourism industry, responsibility for the safety and security of visitors and responsible government, employees, employers, unions and local communities (Edgell, 2016). Mindful minimizing, conscious advocating, educational empathy, and instrumental opportunism, are four constructions of responsible tourism involved in positioning of relative involvement in responsible tourism as a type of tourism activity and tourist’s expressed goals (Caruana, Glozer, Crane & McCabe, 2014). An example would be by Frey & George (2010), they mentioned about the current attitudes and perceptions of tourism business owners in Cape Town, South Africa towards responsible tourism management (RTM) practices. Despite having positive attitudes towards RTM, businesses are not investing time and money into changing management practices, and resource constraints negatively impact the relationship between what businesses would like to do and what actually gets done. While responsible tourism is not yet universally accepted, it continues to gain adherents as more information becomes available.


According to Edgell (2016), geotourism is a tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place, its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents. The National Geographic Society has developed a “National Geographic Geotourism Charter,” based on 13 principles that can be utilized by destinations and countries: Integrity of place, International codes, Market selectivity, Market diversity, Tourist satisfaction, Community involvement, Community benefit, Protection and Enhancement of destination appeal, Land use, Conservation of resources, Planning, Interactive interpretation, and Evaluation. One very good example will be Batur, Bali, Indonesia. According to Emwati, Sitawati & Muliati (2018). Batur has geotourism as a main tourist attraction theme and it contributes positively to the locals economically and socially, and to the preservation of the natural environment. It also fosters economic development in the area and creates job opportunity. It also promotes appreciations of the locals toward cultural and natural heritage which lead to the conservation of the resources. It promotes social interactions, tourists who climb Mount Batur mainly come from Europe, America, India, Australia, thus it provides opportunities for locals to meet and interact with people from all over the world which in turn broadens their horizon and perspective. However, tourism in Batur also potentially creates problems. An example will be the over-limit of the environment and the community carrying capacity which in turn will affect the tourist experiences and social issues. Therefore, it is vital to maintain and develop social cohesiveness.


Sustainable tourism development is a broad concept that has been widely accepted. When applying this concept to research with the aim to develop an area, its adaptation must be achieved prior to implementation, but sustainable tourism is not a concise theory, the development of any tourist attraction requires a profound understanding of the proposed area. While qualitative methodology is the best method to apply, it is found that this methodology still had some limitations to it too. All and all, there is no right or wrong answer to it. It all leads or voice down to what the local communities sees, wants and hope for, and how the local government work towards to compromise and settle with the communities and people, to work together and benefit the country by having a sustainable tourism development.

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Although bringing in and boosting tourism might or will largely benefit, there are still many factors to think and look into that will affect and cause them afterwards. Whether it is Mass Tourism or Small-scale Tourism, there are still no right or wrong or correct ones as everything have pros and cons in it. Therefore, currently the best solution to sustainable tourism development will be by bringing in the four components to deal with the TBL. After all, balancing and sustaining the tourism itself will not be an easy task as it seem, it requires lots of planning and efforts to be achievable, and by achieving it might be one thing, but sustaining it will be another. Furthermore, it is still critical that sustaining tourism continues to develop for greater benefits and for the future generations.

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