Sustainability |

The Virtue of Being Sustainable in Tourism

SUSTAINABILITY | 1 April 2020
Sustainable tourism is important for both businesses and the environment.
Sustainable tourism is important for both businesses and the environment. Photos courtesy of unsplash.com/NOWJAKARTA

Tourism is, without doubt, the fastest growing form of leisure in the twenty-first century, and Indonesia is one of the world’s most exotic destinations. However, what happens when the movement has become ‘too fast’? Negative effects on the environment are inherent to the industry. Carbon emission, waste discharge and a fast expanding tourism directly contributes climate change and environmental vulnerability. So, can tourism ever be sustainable? The answer is YES! 

Although waste discharge, the increase of carbon emission and explosive numbers of tourists can seriously damage the natural and cultural heritage of destinations, tourism can, in fact, promote new development opportunities. There are plenty of opportunities available to policymakers to promote sustainable tourism which benefit both visitors and hosts.

Sustainable Tourism Value Chain 

Sustainable tourism must include full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

Tourism can play a relevant role in sustainable development for two main reasons – Not only does it clearly contribute beneficial to businesses, thus, giving it a boost to the dynamism and growth of the sector but also the substantial contribution that it makes up to the economies of many nations and local destinations. The relationship between the host areas (including both social and natural environment), tourists and the tourism industry have important implications for sustainable development.

Sustainable tourism opportunities can be attained only if there is a continuous process and constant monitoring of impacts, which propose the necessary preventive and/or counteractive strategies whenever necessary. It should also support a reasonable level of tourist satisfaction and guarantee a memorable experience to tourists, and this may involve raising their awareness and knowledge about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them. 

Take an example of tourism growth in Wae Rebo, East Nusa Tenggara. This is a great example of how tourism is growing rapidly over a decade and how the local community is actually tackling the issue. 

Tracing back in 2006 and 2007, Wae Rebo was completely off the beaten track, as it only caught interests of less than 150 visitors. Over a decade later, there has been a significant transformation on the number of tourist arrivals topping over 8,000 visitors according to the 2020 Wae Rebo Tourism Community Group’s report. There may be a massive growth in the number of visitor arrivals, but that is not the main case. 

Recognized as a mysteriously charming village in Flores, Wae Rebo offers unforgettable travel experiences combined with adventure trekking tours to Komodo Island, wildlife and sightseeing to the magnificent views across the islands and bays. Despite any difficulties and challenges of modernization, the village received an Award of Excellence in the 2012 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation – thanks to its local community efforts to restore and conserve structures and buildings of the unique mbaru niang houses, as well known as traditional residences of the Flores people. 

What happened in Wae Rebo Village is that the local people value the virtue of being sustainable in tourism, and given the fact that ‘fast tourism’ can damage the cultural and natural heritage of their environment some strategic initiatives are applied to achieve sustainable tourism in the province. 

Carrying capacity is of strategies for managing impacts of fast tourism. Maintaining visitor’s satisfaction to resource limitation and adverse impact upon the economy, society and culture of the area are key drives to enhance sustainable tourism development. After carrying capacity of the number of visitor arrivals must come Visitor Management System which will contribute to the visitor’s understanding and appreciation of the destination, tackle issues that may be affecting the quality of the visitor experience and the quality of life for local people, reduce damage to sensitive sites and localities and attract and disperse visitors within the destination to spread the economic benefits more widely. In the end, apply Alternative Forms of Tourism that highlights ‘new products’ by diversifying services and demands in tourism destinations which involves the core of slowness. 

The slow movement is an antidote to the increasingly faster global activities, and so it is for slow tourism – an antidote to fast tourism. Core values in slow tourism include two fundamental principles namely doing things in the right speed and real connection to the place. This will give more freedom and participation of tourists, respect for the local communities and their particular social and cultural characteristics and substantial acquaintance with the local society, culture and environment of the host destinations. 

As slow tourism has become a trending topic worldwide due to its potential opportunities in preserving mother Earth from negative impacts of fast tourism, yet an intense dialogue has developed over the difficulty of defining and accepting a concrete concept for slow tourism. On the flip side, Wae Rebo Village seems to be progressing in tackling issues. Nowadays, Wae Rebo is a fully managed destination based on the initiative of the local community, who take over pretty much everything like the planning, structuring and the utilization of financial results from the results of its management. 

In summary, tourism may be the fastest growing sector of the global economy in the world, and it has experienced continued growth and deepening serious concerns on the environmental issues. Can tourism ever be sustainable? Yes, it can! Slow tourism is a response to it. It is an antidote to the negative impacts of mass tourism. 

Babou and Callot (2009) argue that slow tourism refers to the slowdown of the rhythm of tourist travel and a rediscovery of ourselves. It involves not only the low carbon footprint, but also patience, peace of mind, enjoyment of deeper experiences, improvement of understanding and acquaintance with the culture of the host country. And, that is how it’s supposed to be – that is how you value nature in tourism, your freedom to travel and the true meaning of holidays, and most importantly how you can contribute back to the environment and society. 


This article is based on a seminar: Sustainable Hospitality Conference. Hosted by MVB Indonesia, this one-day event took place at Institut Français d'Indonésie on 11 March. Head up to www.nowjakarta.co.id/writers/asyariefah-r-a to read the entire story about strategic initiatives in response to sustainable tourism development.