Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Incorporating Sustainability into Tourism Policy: A Strategic Agenda for Spain

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Incorporating Sustainability into Tourism Policy: A Strategic Agenda for Spain

Article excerpt


For many national economies, including the members of the G-20, tourism is seen as a key driver of post-crisis recovery and, in fact, is frequently integrated into general economic response policies (Goldin, 2010). However, nowadays, the most conventional tourism plans are dominated by the growing needs of the tourism industry and are generally designed with the aim of increasing visitor numbers, volume of business and job creation. In the same way, another type of tourism planning is often formulated only in terms of land use and physical planning, so it may have little regard for community, environment, culture or enterprise (Lane, 2012).

Most literature recognises that, while it is true that the concept of sustainability is generally accepted and incorporated a priori in planning processes, however, a real transformation towards a new tourism model focusing on sustainability as its core value has not occurred so far. And this is due, in large part, to policymakers and tourism destinations managers who do not really know what this paradigm implies, misinterpret it, or attach less importance to it than to other aspects of the tourism business.

It is necessary, therefore, to develop effective tools that enable the translation of the ideals and principles of sustainability into actions. If this does not occur, sustainable tourism is at risk of remaining theoretical, and becoming irrelevant as a viable policy option. Therefore, policymakers and tourism destination managers must incorporate sustainability as a key variable in planning and management decision-making processes.

In this paper, an analysis and intervention proposal has been put forward to, through the use of three methodological tools (value chain, Delphi and focus group), allow policymakers and tourism destination managers to make the best decisions, focusing their resources and efforts on those factors that contribute to a greater extent to the generation of the value perceived by the customer, in terms of sustainability, and, consequently, improving the efficiency of their intervention. The proposed methodology is applied in Spain, a world renowned tourism destination, which receives almost 58 million international arrivals and grosses more than one hundred billion euros a year from tourism, generating over 11% of the national GDP in 2012 and two million new jobs.

The main strength of this paper is its clear commitment to put theory into practice. Therefore the results obtained allow to distinguish between three types of contributions: theoretical developments, empirical contributions and practical implications.

Literature review

The sustainability paradigm has become in recent years a key element of the debate on tourism destination management. Sustainable tourism is presented as a way to carry out the tourism activity based on the ideology of sustainability. In connection with this idea, some authors (Hamel, 2005a, b; Folch, 2008, 2009, Hidalgo-Capitán, 2012) use the neologism "sustainabilism" to refer to a culture, a philosophy or a philosophical paradigm inspired by a conception of sustainability derived from the concept of sustainable development (Brundtland, 1987) and its interpretations grounded in the theory of its three pillars (economic, social and environmental) (Chambers, 1986, 1987; Munasingue, 1993; among others). The concept of "sustainabilism" can be defined as the ideology of sustainability, and it would be "that set of ideas and values, based on sustainability, about the regulation of the world economic system, (and of the national economic systems which are part of it), which aims to guide the behaviours (decisions and habits) of the system regulator agents" (Hidalgo-Capitán, 2012: 8). However, the problem in achieving sustainability does not lie in the acceptance of its definition, academically overcome and assumed, but in its actual application (Wheeler, 1993; Dodds and Butler, 2009, Waligo et al. …

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