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Sustainable Tourism in Cities

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Heritage cities and sites are both unique as well as public goods. This particular combination does not allow tourism destinations to leave their use for tourism purposes to plain improvisation. It can easily be shown that the absence of an adequate tourism policy either leads to either underutilisation or overutilisation of these cultural artistic resources. Both families of unsustainability are socially and economically inefficient. By understanding the issues that are relevant for heritage cities, an adequate management strategy can be designed. One of the principal ideas of such a strategy is that it is respectful of the carrying capacity of the city in question. Visitor management, based on a profound understanding of the visitors‘ profiles, allows urban destinations to develop themselves in a sustainable way.

Section 1: Analysis of the Issues that Tourism Cities have to Face

Tourism development in art cities generates both huge benefits and important costs. If the use of these assets is simply left to the forces of the market, these costs can become unbearable and in some cases the net result rather damages the local economy and society at large than sustain them. At the other end of the spectrum, cities can be found with tourism development potential but that are (yet) unaware of its existence and the use of the resources by visitors ought to be stimulated. In short, cities ought to find a sensible balance between utilization and conservation. This can only be guaranteed leaving the traditional attitude of improvisation and embrace an explicit policy that ensures tourism development in cities to be truly maximizing benefits and minimizing costs. This first section will analyze these issues that are common to many urban destinations in detail.

Section 2: Sustainable Tourism Development

As was illustrated in the previous section, tourism cities ought to find a sensible balance between utilization, on one hand, and conservation, on the other. This can only be obtained by leaving the traditional attitude of improvisation and by embracing an explicit policy that ensures tourism development in cities to be truly maximizing the benefits and by minimizing the costs related to tourism development. The second section aims at explaining how the concept of sustainable tourism development should become a powerful alternative paradigm to simply leaving tourism development to market forces.

Section 3: Ingredients of a Sustainable Tourism Development Policy

As was explained in section 2, if cities want to use the possibilities offered them by the ever-expanding tourism market without compromising their medium-long term attractiveness, an adequate and innovative tourism policy ought to be put in place. Through this policy, a city will be able to maximize benefits and minimize costs, maximizing the net impact tourism is going to be having on the urban society and economy. This third section provides a number of useful suggestions for public and private policymakers that may help to enforce a coherent development strategy that aims to render or keep tourism in the destination sustainable.

Section 4: The Role of Tourism Marketing in Tourism Policies for Sustainability

Tourism development potentials of smaller and often vulnerable cities should be using these potentials ‘wisely’. In urban destinations and in particular in art cities, tourism generates both huge benefits and important costs. If the use of these assets is simply left to the forces of the market, these costs can become unbearable and in some cases the net result rather damages the local economy and society at large than sustain them. What this implies for the tourism policy strategy was illustrated in section 3. An import ingredient of such a tourism policy is reserved for the marketing of the destination. This fourth and last section of this course module discusses the marketing policy and its contribution to sustainability in detail.

For more information about the module, contact the module developer Jan van de Borg (vdborg@unive.it), Ca' Foscari University, Italy.

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