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Climate change and a sustainable business future for tourism in the ACT Essay Example

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Сlimаtе Chаngе аnd а Sustаinаblе Business Futurе fоr Tourism in thе АСТ

Introduction

Over time, there has been increasing concerns worldwide over the environmental and socio-economic impact that businesses have in the environment that they operate in. Society has increasingly become aware of the role that businesses play particularly when it comes to instigating climate change (Reddy & Wilkes 2012; Straughan & Roberts 1999). Moreover, there have been concerns that some business operations and practices may have adverse effects in the long-term since they degrade the environment and compromise on the ability of future generations to find resources. As a result, businesses have been forced to adopt sustainable business practices that not only provide value to their customers in the long run but also safeguard the environment and improve the socio-economic outcomes of the local communities that they operate in (Reddy & Wilkes 2012). Through sustainable business practices or operations business are able to achieve sustainable development. According to the World Commission on Environment & Development (WCED) (1987) sustainable development entails, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED 1987, p. 43)

This paper will discuss climаtе chаngе аnd а sustаinаblе business futurе fоr tourism in thе Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Foremost, it will examine the current state of the tourism sector in ACT. It will then discuss some of the key strategic challenges of the sustainability of tourism in ACT with regard to climate change. The major stakeholders involved in the tourism sector in ACT will also be highlighted in relation to their roles and possible involvement. Subsequently, this paper will critically analyse and discuss possible strategic responses or preferred approach that can be used to address the identified strategic challenges in the tourism sector in ACT. Finally, an indicative timeline incorporating measures and roles to assist in the implementation of the preferred strategy will be highlighted.

Tourism Sector in ACT

The tourism industry in is one of the largest and thriving private business sectors in ACT. Currently it generates approximately $1.6 billion and provides over 16,000 employment opportunities. ACT is considered to be among the top tourist destinations in Australia. Each year, thousands of tourists from both the domestic and international market visit ACT in order to immerse themselves in the local culture and enjoy wildlife, natural sceneries, museums and other touristic sites. As a tourist destination, ACT offers a wide range of tourist products and services. Nevertheless, tourism in ACT is largely nature based. In essence, ACT is largely an ecotourism destination whose sustainability hinges on the environment. Some of the key touristic attractions in ACT include; sandy beaches, wildlife, aquatic life, snowy mountains and lakes among others. Many businesses operating within the tourism sector in ACT often tend to realign their operations or services with the available environmental features in order to provide enriching experiences to tourists. For example, some business offer surfing, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, fishing, snorkeling and camping among many other related services to tourists. (Buckley 2004).

Although a large percentage of domestic and international tourists are drawn to ACT as a tourist destination due to its natural sceneries, there are other factors that also come into play as far as the flow of tourists in ACT is concerned. As a capital territory, ACT presents a special case of urban tourism. ACT’s symbolic, cultural and administrative nature draws a unique variety of tourists and tourist activities. For example, the presence of many museums, monuments, galleries and national institutions attracts a significant number of tourist visits for educational or governance purposes. The various museums, monuments, galleries, national institutions and historic sites present not only promote positive images of regarding the national heritage in ACT but they also act as cultural symbol that attracts cultural tourists (Tourism Australia 2014).

Furthermore as a capital territory, ACT provides a viable base for business tourism. In ACT, business tourism is a particularly an attractive market that attracts a considerable number of business traveler. The administrative functions of ACT as a national capital has over the years provided many business persons and public servants who lobby governments opportunities to tour and experience the cultural and natural scenaries. Additional being a capital territory, ACT often acts as a lucrative destination for hosting conferences and conventions for national and multinational organisations and businesses. Business travelers who travel to ACT provide a significant revenue stream to hotels, airlines and leisure activity businesses (Ritchie & Pierce 2007).

According to a recent study carried out by Tourism Research Australia (TRA), the tourism industry in Australia has in the past 12 months witnessed significant improvements particularly when it comes to visitor expenditure, tourism employment, aviation seat capacity and accommodation supply. Despite of the various challenges in the global business environment and the high Australian dollar, the research by the TRA predicts that the industry will continue to experience growth due to increasing flow on tourists in Australia especially from emerging economies such as; China, Singapore, India and Malaysia. However, tourism experts are skeptical whether ACT tourism sector can effectively handle the increasing influx of tourist in the region. Consequently, there has been impending pressure from various stakeholders within the industry to expand the tourism infrastructure in order to meet the demands of the increasing tourist visits. Moreover, it is predicted that the number of operators in the industry will increase with time due to the increase in the flow of tourists (TRA 2014).

Strategic Challenges

Considering the current state of tourism in ACT, there are various strategic challenges that compromise the sustainability of the tourism sector in ACT particularly in relations to climate change. Before examining some these strategic challenges to sustainability, it is foremost worth noting that climate change is a major issue in Australia. Research shows that Australia ranks among the top ten countries in the world with the highest green house gas emissions. In the tourism sector, climate change is a phenomenon ‎that considerably affects the ‎ industry and certain destinations for instance coastal destinations and ‎mountain regions among ‎others. Climate is generally an important asset in the tourism industry especially for tourist destinations that draw tourists through natural features (Duc Pham et al 2010; Jones et al 2010; Reddy & Wilkes 2012). Even so, the tourism sector is a major emitter of greenhouse gas ‎‎‎(GHG), especially through the transportation of tourists.‎ ‎Changes in climate induced through green house gas emissions can negatively impact on the flow of tourists. Hamilton et al. (2005) established that climate change causes shifts in international tourism flows towards higher latitudes and altitudes.

The prospect of expanding tourism infrastructure and the increase of active operators in the tourism sector in ACT in order to meet the demands of the increasing flow of tourists generates a number of strategic challenges that may compromise the sustainability of the tourism industry. Firstly, although the increase tourist flow in ACT will enable businesses to generate more revenue, it may also increase travel using road and air thus leading to more emission of green houses gases such as carbon dioxide. Secondly, in order to get space to expand tourism infrastructure in ACT, the rate of deforestation may increase. Generally, deforestation is a major contributor of global warning. It contributes to the release of carbon dioxide thus contributing to climate change. Additionally, the pressure by various tourism business operators to expand may result to the over-development along coastal strip hence inducing ecological issues in the beaches that impede on natural erosion processes of marine environments (Buckely 2004).

Moreover, the type of tourist products and services offered by business operators in the industry also acts as a major strategic challenge that affects the sustainability of the industry. Many businesses operating in the tourism sector in ACT operate by realigning their operations or services with the available environmental features in order to provide enriching experiences to tourists. For example, some business offer surfing, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, fishing, snorkeling and camping among many other related services to tourists. Over the years, a number of research studies have revealed that tourist activities such as; skiing, fishing, mountain climbing and hiking among others directly and indirectly aggravate climate change (Buckley 2004; Turton 2005). Some of these leisure activities have been found to enhance land degradation and soil tillage thus enhancing the emission of CO2 from the land system and degrading the capacity of land to absorb and store carbon (Buckley 2004).

It is evident that tourism operations and activities in ACT to a certain extent contribute to climate change. Consequently, overall, change in climate patterns can in turn threaten the sustainability of the industry. In the recent past, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified Australia to be among the countries at most risk from the adverse effect of climate change. The tourism industry particularly has been identified as being at a greater risk of witnessing negative socio-economic impacts brought about by climate change. Thus there is need for necessary measures to be implemented in order to ensure sustainable development in this industry (Duc Pham et al 2010; Reddy & Wilkes 2012).

Main Stakeholders

In the tourism industry in ACT, some of the key stakeholders that can play a significant role in enhancing sustainability include; the local government, tourism business operators, community groups, tourism organisations, cultural heritage and natural scenery agencies, the media and members of the local community. Firstly, the local government can play a significant role in improving regulations and developing plans for strategic and sustainable development in the industry. Secondly, tourism business operators can improve their existing tourism products or alternatively develop new products that promote sustainable development in the social, economic and environmental spheres. Thirdly, community groups can help the local government and tourism organisations or businesses to effectively assess the benefits and costs of tourism in the region. On the other hand, cultural heritage and natural scenery agencies can play a significant role in ensuring that natural sceneries or cultural heritage destinations visited by tourists are managed effectively, their operations are sustainable and promote sustainable development in social, economic and environmental spheres. Moreover, the media as a stakeholder within the tourism industry in ACT can play an invaluable role by creating awareness or educating other stakeholders and the general public regarding various sustainability issues, climate change, it impacts and causes and what stakeholders in the tourism industry can do in order to avert changes in climate patterns (Buckley 2004; DEH 2008).

Possible and Preferred Strategic Responses

The various strategic challenges to sustainability discussed in section above call for the implementation of market approaches and soft tools. Market approaches basically focus on manipulating markets by using a wide range tool to alter market conditions. For instance, some tools can be used to encourage or propel producers and consumers to modify their behaviour through pricing signals and financial arrangements. In the case of the tourism sector in ACT, some of the marketing approaches that can be used include; tax subsidies and grants and product and service charges. In relations to tax subsidies and grants, the local government can encourage businesses and other operators to implement sustainable business practices by offering tax subsidies and grants. For example, tourist companies which use fuel efficient or green cars can be receive tax subsidies in order to encourage other operators to also use vehicles that cause less emissions of green house gases. On the other hand, product and service charges can be imposed on tourist activities that have a negative impact on the environment. Conversely, the local government can minimise service charges on services and products that conserve or safeguard the environment (Buckley 2004; Jones et al 2010; Tribe 2011).

In addition to the use of marketing approaches, the use of soft tools can also play a significant role in promoting sustainable development within the tourism sector in ACT. Soft tools are basically voluntary means that attempt to modify or improve behaviour. Typically, many soft tools focus on modifying behaviour by creating awareness or educating various stakeholders and the general public. In the case of the tourism sector in ACT, some of the soft tools that can be used to encourage business operators, tourists and the local community to adopt strategies or practices that promote sustainable development include; consumer education and code of conducts for operators. When it comes to consumer education, the media can play an important role in publishing or broadcasting relevant information that create awareness on the various sustainability issues associated with some operations or activities in the tourism industry. On the other hand, the local government in conjunction with tourism organisations or agencies can develop suitable code of conduct to guide operators in the industry on how they can enhance sustainable development all the relevant spheres (Buckley, R. 2004; Jones et al 2010; Tribe 2011).

Indicative Timeline

Timeline

Measures

Market Approaches (MA)

Soft Skills (SS)

2014- Year 1

Tax subsidies on green vehicles

Awareness campaign on sustainability issues in the tourism industry brought about by climate change

MA: Local government in consultation with tourism and environmental organisations on tax subsidies for green vehicles

SS: The media publishing and broadcasting information on sustainability issues

2015- Year 2

Imposition ofproduct and service charges

Development of codes of ethics for business operators

MA: Local government in consultation with tourism and environmental organisations

SS: Community groups, Tourism and environmental organisations, business operators, local government

2016- Year 3

Sustainable development awards for business operators

Media campaign against deforestation and other factors that instigate climate change

MA: Local government in conjunction with tourism and environmental organisations

SS: The media in conjunction with tourism and environmental organisations

2017- Year 4

Tax subsidies on sustainable tourism operations and activities

Tourism product certification and award schemes

MA: Local government in conjunction with tourism and environmental organisations

SS: The media, the Local government in conjunction with tourism and environmental organisations

2017- Year 5

Grants to environmental conservation projects such as afforestation

Formation of treaties and agreements with business operators

MA: Local government in conjunction with tourism and environmental organisations

SS: Community groups, Tourism and environmental organisations, business operators, local government

Conclusion

Generally, this paper has examined the sustainability of the tourism business in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in relations to climate change. The findings of this paper show that, as a capital territory, ACT presents a special case of urban tourism. ACT’s symbolic, cultural and administrative nature draws a unique variety of tourists and tourist activities. Nevertheless, ACT is largely an ecotourism destination whose sustainability hinges on the environment. Moreover, it is established in this paper that there has been impending pressure from various stakeholders within the industry to expand the tourism infrastructure in order to meet the demands of the increasing tourist visits. This presents strategic challenges that could impede on the sustainability of the tourism industry in ACT. In order to address these challenges, this paper recommends the use of marking approaches and soft skills.

References

Buckley, R. 2004, Environmental Impacts of Ecotourism, CABI, Oxfordshire.

Department of the Environment and Heritage(DEH), 2008, Steps to Sustainable Tourism, viewed July 4 2014 <http://www.environment.gov.au/resource/steps-sustainable-tourism>

Duc Pham, T., Simmons, D.G & Spurr, R., 2010, “Climate Change Induced Economic Impacts on Tourism Destinations: The case of Australia”, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, vol. 18, Issue 3,pp. 449 – 473.

Jones, T., Wood, D.,. Hughes, M., Duc Pham, T., Pambudi, D., Spurr, R., Dwyer, L., Deery., M. & Fredline. L., 2010, Tourism Destination Modelling: Building a sustainable planning tool for Australian tourism destinations, Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, GoldCoast.

Hamilton, J., Maddison, D., & Tol, R. S. J., 2005, “Climate change and international tourism: A simulation study, “ Global Environmental Change vol 1, pp. 253–266

Pearce, D., Barbier, E.& Markandya, A., 2013, Sustainable Development: Economics and Environment in the Third World, Routledge, London.

Reddy, M.V & Wilkes, K, 2012, Tourism, Climate Change and Sustainability, Routledge,New York.

Ritchie, B. & Pierce, S., 2007, National Capital Tourism, Corporate Research Centre, Canberra.

Straughan, R. & Roberts, J.,1999, “Environmental segmentation alternatives: a look at green consumer behaviour in the new millennium”, Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol 16, no, 6, pp 558-565.

Tourism Australia, 2014, Australian Capital Territory, viewed July 4 2014 <http://www.australia.com/explore/states/act.aspx>

Tourism Research Australia (TRA) 2014, State of the Industry 2013, viewed July 4 2014 <http://tra.gov.au/documents/Economic-Industry/State_of_the_Industry_2013_FULL.pdf>

Tribe, J., 2011, The Economics of Recreation, Leisure and Tourism, Routledge, New York.

Turton, S.M. 2005, “Managing environmental impacts of recreation and tourism in rainforests at the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area,” Geographical Research,

vol 43, pp. 140-151.

World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), 1987, Our Common Future. Oxford University Press, New York.