The Social & Cultural Impacts of Tourism

Tourism can be both a force for the preservation of or, conversely, a threat to a community’s natural and cultural heritage. A 1999 report Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage published by the World Bank underscores the symbiotic nature of the relationship. The mutual dependence that exists between tourism and cultural heritage is becoming more evident. With the growing interest in culture and community, tourism is finally being recognized as an industry that can boost rural economies, create entrepreneurs and jobs and help preserve indigenous cultures. ‘Above all, tourism offers a better life not just for those who make money, but for those who pay money to enjoy it’.[1] For example, trekking tourism has led to the transformation of the traditional subsistence farming of the Sherpas of the Khumbu region into a cash economy that has generated income, jobs and a better standard of living.[2]

One of the main challenges, therefore, for all stakeholders involved in travel and tourism, including local authorities, NGOs and businesses, is to maintain an optimal balance to ensure sustainability. Otherwise, in destinations where the natural and cultural heritage deteriorates, the economy will be put at risk as tourists migrate to better-preserved destinations.

Research suggests that following the trends already mainstream in other economic sectors, social responsibility and corporate citizenship are expected to become in the future issues of strong concern requiring a response from the tourism industry as a whole, as well as at corporate level[3].The concept of ‘corporate citizenship’ is now being adopted by many of the key leaders in the private sector of travel and tourism and is emerging as a central issue for business companies[4].

The Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province aimed to integrate community tourism initiatives with mainstream tourism. A multi-stakeholder dialogue process was adopted including all private and public sector voices. The outcome was that local groups have the potential to add diversification to a primarily wildlife destination and the private sector has the key for effective marketing and business development skills.[5]

Reference

[1] Elliott, M.; 2001: “Lie in the Sun – and Change the World”, Time Magazine, May 21, 2001, p. 63.
[2] Tej Ver Singh.; “Keep the Sharks Out of the Mountains”, Our Planet, Vol. 10 No. 1 p. 22.
[3] Tepelus C., 2001: Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility in Tourism. International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics.
[4] BEST, 2000.; Doing Good and Doing Well: Making the Business Case for Corporate Citizenship. Research report 1282-00-RR. USA.
[5] http://www.parkssa.co.za/addo/ganp.html
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