Working Towards Sustainable Tourism in Coastal Zones

The growth of tourism in coastal areas which has peaked in recent decades, exerts pressures on environmental and cultural resources of the coastal areas, and affects negatively social, economic and cultural patterns of tourist destinations.

Despite the still prevailing growth trends, those who manage and invest in tourism are increasingly aware that its sustainability in coastal areas is strongly dependent upon the quality of this particularly fragile environment. In addition, today’s tourists seek a variety of experiences in a well-preserved and distinctive natural environment and at the same time people living in traditional tourist destinations are increasingly aware of, and concerned for, their natural, historic and cultural heritage. Therefore, there is a need to minimise tourism-induced problems and secure both sustainability of tourism industry and coastal resources used by other sectors.

In this respect increased attention must be given to proper planning and better integration of tourism in coastal development. Within the last 10 years various efforts have been made to integrate sustainability in coastal zone development. A set of principles and methodology for the sustainable management of coastal zones was developed and assembled within an integrated coastal zone management approach — ICZM. UNEP, the European Union, and other international organizations (FAO, OECD, and the coastal union- EUCC) fully support the principles of ICZM because the methodological framework is perceived as the most appropriate for the development and the management of coastal zones.


Although there are no reliable data on coastal tourism alone it is generally considered to be one of the fastest growing forms of tourism in the past decades. UNWTO statistics show that 12 of the 15 world’s top destination countries in 2000 were countries with coastlines. As an illustration, Bridges (1997) reports that three US coastal states (Florida, California, and New York) hosted 74% of a total of 20.6 million overseas visitors to the USA in 1995, generating 85% of tourist related revenues. According to the same author, beach tourism in USA generates 640 billion US$ a year, which equals 85% of tourist related revenues (Bridges, 2002).


In order to minimise tourism-induced problems and secure both sustainability of tourism industry and coastal resources used by other sectors, increased attention must be given to proper planning and better integration of tourism in coastal development. Negative impacts and conflicts are due mainly to ignorance of coastal environment and inadequate planning. This means that better understanding of the physical environment of coastal zones, identification of existing and potential uses, assessment of their mutual compatibility and their individual compatibility with the environment, and finally, development of integrated strategies and plans, offer a good solution for a more socially and environmentally sound development.

In planning tourism development, it is of utmost importance to focus on proper dimensioning of tourism growth with regard to the capacity of local systems. To this end, proper tools must be offered to decision-makers that need to have a clear idea of possible tourism pressures and ways to respond to these pressures. One of the greatest challenges faced by coastal managers is giving tourism development a proper place within the integrated coastal management in order to increase its long-term sustainability.

From beach resort towns to marine national parks, marinas and ecotourism beach lodges, Lorton Consulting has been actively involved in planning for responsible tourism in coastal zones. Contact us for professional planning support.

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