Sea Grant: Welcome to … sustainable tourismThe University of Minnesota's Sea Grant program recently published “Toward Sustainable Tourism,” a 40-page review of how tourism industries in other countries participate in creating sustainable communities.
By: Sharon Moen , Budgeteer News
It’s tourist season around Lake Superior and businesses are rolling out the welcome mats. Those mats are turning a shade greener, however, thanks to a growing environmental ethic within the tourism industry and communities around Lake Superior. Supporting the momentum, the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program published “Toward Sustainable Tourism,” a 40-page review of how tourism industries in other countries participate in creating sustainable communities.
In “Toward Sustainable Tourism,” author Glenn Kreag, Sea Grant’s retired tourism and recreation extension educator, made many regionally relevant observations, including:
The definition: The definition of “resource sustainability” often needs sharpening. Sustainability requires that renewable resources regenerate as quickly as they are consumed. Typically sustainable practices include recycling nonrenewable resources so that the material does not end up in landfills or in the environment.
The commitment: The tourism sector within a community cannot create a culture of sustainability by itself. If a tourism industry is leading efforts to protect environmental or cultural resources, it should do so with broad community support involving residents and other businesses. Publicizing the efforts of groups, businesses and individuals that are adopting sustainable practices generates momentum for additional efforts.
The misconception: Some people wrongly think visitors and the tourist industry drive unsustainable development. The truth is, the environmental impacts from other industries and activities can be much greater than from tourism. Because tourism sites are often highly valued and visible, it is easy for people to believe that the tourism industry is responsible for degrading the environment without acknowledging their own contributions and those of local zoning laws and other industries.
The attitude: Most visitors act appropriately if they know what is expected. Educating guests about what is locally important and expectations for behavior can minimize tourism’s damage to natural resources. Explicit “Visitor Codes of Conduct” can be especially useful.
The future: Innovative technologies and community design can minimize the impacts of future development and tourist activities. From rooftops to walkways, constructed features can serve multiple purposes — including minimizing damage to environmentally or culturally important areas. Building plans might include catchments for rainwater, permeable parking lots and structures that blend into a natural background.
During your travels over the remainder of the summer, keep in mind that sufficient consumer demand can change menus, hotel practices and touring operations. The tourism industry will make even more progress toward natural resource sustainability if prodded by customers.
Kreag writes, “Given the number of people on the planet and their general expectations for drinkable water, breathable air and fertile soil, the need for adopting sustainable natural resource policies and practices is unquestionable.”
“Toward Sustainable Tourism” is available free as an interactive Web booklet at: www.seagrant.umn.
edu/publications/T16. Printed copies cost $12 and are available through the Minnesota Sea Grant Program (phone 726-6191 or e-mail email@example.com).
The publication explores the ingenuity and efforts applied to sustainable tourism in Chile, New Zealand and Australia. The results of fact-finding treks by the author are described along with insights into ways a sustainable tourism culture can be generated within a community and within a country.
The University of Minnesota Sea Grant program is one of 32 similar programs resulting from collaborations between the federal government, coastal states and Puerto Rico. Minnesota Sea Grant facilitates interaction among the public and scientists to enhance communities, the environment and economies along Lake Superior and Minnesota’s inland waters. More information is available at www.seagrant.umn.edu.