Sustainable tourism – paradoxes, inconsistencies and a way forward?
Introduction The idea of sustainable tourism has been around for almost as long as that of sustainable development, and like its parent concept, it has found widespread support, if little true or effective implementation. The reasons for this success (in terms of the widespread adoption of the principles) have been discussed elsewhere (Butler 1999; Weaver 2006) as have the continued failures to actually put most of these principles into practice (Wheeller 2007). Much of the confusion and disagreement over whether the concept has any real validity, either at large, or in the more specific context of tourism stems from the paradoxes and inconsistencies implicit in the definitions and understanding of the terms ‘tourism’ and ‘sustainable’, compounded by enthusiastic and well meaning optimism about the degree of acceptance of the concept and its application in the real world. This chapter discusses some of these issues by examining the paradoxes not only in the concept of sustainability, but also in tourism at large, and by highlighting some of the inconsistencies that exist in the literature and in the application of the principles. It concludes with some thoughts on the potential future of the idea and explores whether there is long term hope for a wider acceptance of the idea of sustainable tourism, and if so, how this might be achieved.