Cameron Balch is from Arkansas, USA and is due to complete his Master in Tourism, Hotel and Event Management from the University of Queensland in November 2020. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Baylor University in Texas, USA in 2010. His professional experience includes first working as a Life Scientist at the US Environmental Protection Agency from 2011-2015 in hazardous waste remediation and sustainability promotion schemes. He then worked with the US Peace Corps in Philippines from 2015-2017 focused on coastal resource management and marine protected areas. His work in Guimaras, Philippines lead to him to research the connection between tourism and conservation here in Australia at UQ.
Why so Many Tools for Measuring Eco/Sustainable Tourism? Overlap, Anomalies and Opportunities
Ecotourism and sustainable tourism are often used interchangeably. Over time they have grown to encompass a holistic approach to the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of tourism. To this end, many tools have been created and implemented to measure how “sustainable” a tourism operation or destination may be. As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” and dozens of eco/sustainable tourism measurement tools show that the industry has taken this to heart. But are so many different tools needed? Instead of expending energy to build new tools to suit evermore specific settings, what if we turned the problem around to analyse the tools that already exist? This research seeks to do exactly that by comparing 17 of the most influential eco/sustainable tourism indicator sets, including Ecotourism Australia’s ECO certification criteria. The selected indicator sets total 1,872 individual indicators. To facilitate comparison, each indicator is categorised according to two frameworks: dimensions of sustainability (e.g. environmental, social, economic) and the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response causal framework. The research determines whether these indicator sets are truly distinct, and if not, highlights overlapping aspects and potential redundancy. In brief, can existing measurement tools be consolidated to facilitate easier measurement and more consistent application? As a result, sustainability could be more broadly applied and managed throughout the tourism industry, allowing better understanding for visitors seeking eco/sustainable experiences. Specifically, within the ecotourism sector, it would also facilitate measurements for both operators and destinations.