Rosaria Rita Canale and Rita De Siano discuss the importance of research into Sustainable Tourism and how it can be impactful on policy and future practices. Throughout the blog, they takes us through the importance of sustainable tourism research in achieving SDG 8, their own sustainable tourism research, and how individuals and companies can have a role in shaping and facilitating sustainable tourism in the future.
The tourism-growth nexus, when observed from a pure national accounts’ perspective, is considered unequivocally positive. The increase in aggregate demand is supposed to induce an increase of production both for the tourist and interconnected sectors. Furthermore, when looking at the external balance, the inflow of currency deriving from international arrivals is said to generate additional resources to be invested in domestic physical capital with positive direct and indirect effects on employment. However, in order to reconcile the expansion of tourism and the supposed increase of employment with sustainable growth several and controversial aspects need to be reconciled. The most important are those connected to the well-being needs of the local population, such as the quality of jobs created, the distribution of income, the social cohesion, the cultural identity, the mobility and especially environmental protection. Low quality of jobs and unequal distribution of income generated by unbalanced expansion of tourism exacerbates social conflict and calls into question the very premises for production. On contrary, a responsible and effective tourism management uses local resources with the objective of guaranteeing greater social cohesion and openness to alternative scenarios of societal development. It promotes the attitude of a territory to build up its own identity also through contamination between cultures. Furthermore, the tourist sector can contribute to the economic expansion if the environmental and cultural heritage assets are at least preserved through time. This implies that the objective of maximizing economic results should be accompanied by active local policy interventions preventing progressive degradation of resources.
In search for a comprehensive perspective our research aims at investigating the long-run co-movement between tourists' arrivals and GDP per capita growth, with the idea of combining studies related to tourism evolution and economic growth with those focusing on the connection between tourism expansion and environmental degradation to assess to what extent it may have positive effects on growth and employment. At the centre stage of our research, there is a novel index – called Tourist territorial pressure (TTP) – obtained dividing the number of thousand arrivals in each territory by the population per square kilometre. It allows including social, economic, and physical aspects of an increasing inflow of tourists and provides a more effective measure of the territorial congestion, through the combined consideration of both the dimension of the territory and the number of people living there. The advantage of this novel indicator is its capacity to detect the natural vocation of the territories, distinguishing between those relying on environmental “gifts”, and therefore characterized by a lower population density and those endowed with more cultural and archaeological resources provided by the intense past and present population settlements. This distinction also defines the attitude of residents to welcoming tourists and deriving income from directly and indirectly connected activities. It captures the complex phenomenon of interaction between tourism flows, the territory, and its contribution to per capita growth. Using this index, we found that the objective of the expansion of the tourism sector aimed at a sustainable growth should be pursued reconciling the ability to produce income, increase employment and to ensure a good quality of life as the incorrect and excessive exploitation of environment and territory can compromise the enhancement of economic results. This perspective can be applied both to advanced economies and developing countries as it refers to local population and the dimension of the territory to evaluate the sustainability of economic results.
This careful management of tourism increase should involve all the stakeholders through a committed participation to better manage or avoid congestion by a careful planning of arrivals with the aim of preserving and even strengthening local communities, while satisfying and ensuring a great experience for tourists and sustainability for the destination. Furthermore, to account not only for the benefits but also for the downsides of an increasing tourism inflow to the point unsustainability – meant as a comprehensive concept including low-quality jobs, unequal distribution, environmental degradation etc. - policy makers should take into account that there is a limit above which the territory cannot afford the excessive inflow of arrivals. Therefore, to enjoy the benefits of increasing tourism demand, it is necessary to account for both the physical limit imposed by the territory and the social, environmental and economic interactions between tourists and the local population.
Under this respect academics and universities cover a very central role as they have a two-fold task:
Browse the Working Towards Sustainable Tourism campaign for more content on this key area of SDG 8.
Rosaria Rita Canale is a professor in Economic Policy and coordinator of the Phd programme in Economics Management and Accounting for the Department of Business and Economics at the University of Naples "Parthenope".
Rita De Siano is Associate Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Naples "Parthenope".