Posted by: Ali | October 22, 2009

Sustainable Tourism

So last night there was a forum on sustainable tourism that I was supposed to go to but was feeling a little bit sick so I had to miss out.  But I tried to get the volunteers to go, which sparked a big discussion on “what is sustainable tourism.”  It was fun to get my academic juices flowing again; as I recall, I did a paper on eco-tourism in fourth year, which is a similar concept.

What exactly is sustainable tourism then?  A little complicated to explain, and better described through examples, but the general idea is having tourism in a way that does not have the potential to adversely affect the locals.


  1. If you have too much tourists that generates a lot of pollution, causing the environment to be sad and people have to clean it up.  Also, more landfill sites are needed.
  2. If you have a lot of tourists, even if you manage to contain the waste generated, the locals might become dependent on the tourists for income.  If something bad happens, like swine flu or a natural disaster, and tourists stop coming, the community could be worse off than they were without tourists.
  3. Even if the tourists are wonderful and there is a thriving local population that works in sectors other than tourism, there is still the problem of an added population.  More human waste is generated, for example, and more people walking in an area means higher maintenance cost (for example, the Inca Trail).
  4. Foreigners might have needs or demands that are not part of local culture.  Things like the internet, cell phone reception, western-style flush toilets, particular foods, etc. all can be expensive and the locals are the ones that need to shoulder the burden of providing these amenities.

Anyways that should give you a general idea.  We talked about these topics yesterday, and today I was reading the news when I found a very pertinent article about Machu Picchu:

Literally thousands of used disposable plastic bottles are invading the areas surrounding Machu Picchu citadel, because local merchants, who live almost exclusively on tourism, refuse to obey the municipal decree that bans these containers.

The local population is approximately 5,000 people, whose economy highly depends on commerce and services for tourists.

Marcela Moreno, Head of Environmental and Natural Resources, told EFE that some 3,000 bottled water and other bottled beverages are sold everyday in Machu Picchu.

The city collected 10,000 kg of plastic disposable containers in 2007 and 20,000  kg in 2008, so this year local authorities decided to ban them “without calculating the economic impact it would have on the population,” said Moreno.

The amount of plastic collected for recycling is enormous, but authorities are more concerned about all the bottles that are not disposed into the recycling bins, which could make a quarter of the total amount, according to Moreno.


  1. So you are talking about DEVS stuff. Did the volunteers go?


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