Sustainability Challenges in Tourism Explained: #2 Lack of Long-Term, Holistic View

Published 15/08/2017
Lack of long-term, holistic view a key sustainability challenge in tourism

Lack of long-term, holistic view a key sustainability challenge in tourism

Lack of a long-term, holistic view is the focus of this second post of our special series on the key challenges preventing tourism businesses and destinations from becoming more sustainable, faster.

In our interviews with tourism and sustainability professionals we often include a question about which they consider the main challenges regarding tourism sustainability. Among the many (and very diverse) answers so far, we’ve identified 10 themes and areas of concern. Lack of a long-term, holistic view is one of them.

Below a few extracts and answers from our interviews, to offer you a snapshot of expert views on the topic. In some cases we have added the questions for better understanding (we usually adapt questions to the specific context of the person we interview). In any case, we strongly recommend you to read the full versions of the interviews. Sustainability challenges in tourism are very location-specific, and as such best understood in context.

Sustainable tourism challenge #2: lack of long-term, holistic view

Brian Mullis, USA:


“At the highest levels, both destinations and corporations need to take more of a long-term, holistic view and invest in solutions and innovative technologies today in their day-to-day operational actions that provide a greater return for future generations.”

John Elkington, UK:


In your view, which aspect/issue is the most crucial for the next years regarding advancement towards a more sustainable tourism?

“A central challenge will be to stretch our time horizons. That’s what the inter-generational dimension of the sustainability agenda is all about. That can be done in many ways, from the use of scenarios through to engaging very different types of stakeholders.”

Tensie Whelan, USA:


“The main challenge is that change is tough, especially when you have to change many moving parts. For tourism, for example, you need to change the traveler, the transport sector, the hotels, the government regulations, and so on,  And you need to do it an holistic way. For example, you don’t want to focus on energy use, say, and not employee working conditions. Or vice versa.”

Beatriz Barreal, Mexico:


[A key challenge is] “to bring together all stakeholders, despite the selfishness and shortsightedness of some key players in the history of this destination, and to have all agree on the right priorities for a vital, sustainable destination.”


The frequent absence of a long-term vision and holistic approach to tourism management is both cause and result of inadequate metrics for tourism success, as discussed in our previous post.

Our takeaway from the expert views expressed here is that the complexity of the tourism ecosystem, the many stakeholders involved, and the mostly short-term approach to managing the tourism “product” (seasonality) are issues which will require strong and charismatic leaders on a regional and destination level, who know how to engage both local and regional government officials, destination marketers and tourism businesses.

Unfortunately, a frequent scenario right now is that destination marketers do their thing (trying to attract more and more visitors to their city or region), whereas city and regional planners and managers have to find ways to integrate tourism flows and needs into the broader picture.

Politicians on the other hand often only get involved when problems have become to big to ignore, such as in the case of growing “tourismophobia” due to overcrowding in cities like Barcelona or Venice.

Articles on sustainable tourism challenges published so far:

Please note that the information and views set out in this article are those of the authors (interviewees) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the organizations they work for.

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