Tourism, Ecosystem Functions, and Human-Environmental Relations

University dissertation from Stefan Gössling, Human Ecology Division, Finngatan 16, S-22362 Lund

Abstract: The thesis aims at deconstructing the sustainable tourism paradigm: can tourism be "a global strategy for sustainable development", as the tourist industry claims? And will developing countries in particular profit from tourism development?To most international organizations and institutions (from the World Wide Fund for Nature to The World Bank), tourism, if carefully managed, is a positive, sustainable development tool. However, the research presented in this thesis exposes this view as unrealistically optimistic for at least three reasons: first of all, global environmental change caused by tourism has never been investigated and integrated with the discourse on sustainable tourism development. Data is thus presented for emissions caused by air-traffic, showing that tourism is an important factor in global climate change. Second, evidence from fieldwork in Zanzibar, Tanzania suggests that human-environmental relations change as a result of tourism, encouraging unsustainable human behaviour and ultimately leading to a self-reinforcing cycle of tourism expansion. Third, results from fieldwork also suggest that development processes initiated by tourism seem to be complex beyond the understanding of tourism advocates: tourism is understood as beneficial because mainly short-term economic effects are considered in analyses. Overall, the results suggest that sustainable tourism may be a contradiction in terms.

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