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Sustainable tourism and the touristic ecological footprint

by Colin Hunter
Environment, Development and Sustainability ()
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There is growing interest in ecological footprint analysis in aiding our understanding of societal demands upon the biosphere. Increasingly, attention is being focused on potential new applications of the technique. Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and can play a major part in encouraging more consumerist lifestyles. It is now widely accepted that tourism development may have profound impacts on local environments, and that, consequently, the sustainable development of tourism at destination areas is an important issue. However, sustainable tourism studies rarely look beyond the destination area, and there has been no substantive recognition of the wider ecological footprint of tourism activities. This paper attempts to connect, conceptually, the realms of sustainable tourism and ecological footprint thinking. In so doing, various conceptualisations of the ‘touristic ecological footprint’ (TEF) are suggested, along with some potential applications. It is argued that primary research should focus on calculating the touristic ecological footprint associated with individual tourism products, throughout the product’s life-cycle. As well as bringing another dimension to our understanding of tourism’s actual ecological demand, it is also argued that the concept of the touristic ecological footprint may be used to clarify theoretical aspects of the sustainable tourism debate, helping to rejuvenate this debate in the process

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