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Written by Joachim Willms [Managing Director]   

Steps to sustainable tourism

Planning a sustainable future for tourism, heritage and the environment a tool to use when managing and developing regions, places and tourism products

Australian Government, DEH - Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004, ISBN 0 642 55013 1

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About the document

Welcome to Steps to Sustainable Tourism. This document is designed for tourism operators, heritage and environment managers, community groups and others with an interest in places, regions and associated tourism products. The approach outlined in the following pages, fosters a mutual understanding of issues and shows how to work together to achieve a range of sustainable benefits for tourism, communities, the environment and heritage.

Steps refers often to our environment and heritage so it may be useful to clarify what we mean by these terms. Environment refers to ecosystems, and also to cultural qualities and characteristics of places. Heritage embraces our natural, Indigenous and historic inheritance – what we think our descendants should, and would want to, inherit. Generally, these two terms are interchangeable.

Environment and heritage are valued differently by different people. Those working in tourism recognise them as assets of mainstream and niche tourism products and are in a position to do much to educate visitors about the values of our natural and cultural heritage places.

The underlying principle of this guide is the need to recognise and protect the values of our special natural and cultural places in order to enhance tourism product development and the management of places in the long term.

Achieving sustainable tourism requires motivation, determination and a systematic approach. Steps offers a tool or process to assist in this task which has been developed and tested in partnership with both tourism and heritage interests. The process, set out in 10 steps, integrates the needs of tourism, the environment and heritage when developing a tourist destination, a tourism product or managing a place.

Its core is proper planning. The 10 steps form an entire planning process that can be applied from start to finish, or can be used in part if more appropriate. It can be followed in large planning exercises such as a ‘big picture’ regional planning process or by small interest groups or individuals wanting to promote a single attraction. Following these steps thoroughly will assist you meet the needs of the visitor, the environment, business and the local community. There can be a sustainable future for them all.

The Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage developed the Steps approach based on established strategic planning principles, and specialist experience and advice from people working in environment, heritage and tourism planning. The approach advocated is designed to be flexible and can be adapted as it is applied to many and varied situations.

Steps has been designed as a practical tool and pilot projects will be actively sought to further refine this first edition. Feedback from these pilot projects will assist in developing the second edition, as it is important to learn from people on the ground who are working towards sustainable tourism.

An adapted version of this document, Stepping Stones to Tourism, is currently being developed for Indigenous communities.

Follow these steps thoroughly and you will be well on the way to meeting the needs of the visitor, the tourism businesses, the environment and the local community for the benefit of all, both now and in the future.

Download the document

The document is available as a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view it.

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