Sustaining Brazilian tourism

Sustainability is the environmental buzzword of the day, but it need not apply only to conservation and preservation in that context: with a concept of sustainable tourism, many tourist destinations fail to thrive and often perish, according to a research paper published in the International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development.

The study’s authors Ana Lucia Magalhaes of the State of Sao Paulo Technological College in Brazil and colleagues point out that, “Tourism brings significant impacts, physical, economic and cultural, with important positive and negative aspects.” They have investigated the subject with a case study on the Brazilian tourist destination of Cunha. The town represents a unique part of Brazilian history, located between the gold mines and the Rio de Janeiro harbor, it was home to bands of gold thieves in the early 18th century. From their study of modern-day Cunha, they have elicited a five-point plan, a set of guidelines for sustainable tourism that is applicable to this developing world tourist destination and could be equally applicable to many others around the world.

The team points out that government is the sole agent that might not only provide education and examples, but also direct actions through legislation and rules for sustainable tourism.

Their five-point plan is concise and could readily be implemented:

  1. Creation of a municipal tourism council: A decision-making group, it will involve representatives of at least two levels of government, touristic trade, residents and repeat visitors – decisions will be taken based on a plurality of opinions.
  2. Design and implementation of an educational campaign, with community leaders and teachers as priority targets. Focus on presenting sustainability, all its dimensions and importance. Emphasis on prevention of economic stagnation.
  3. Oversight of municipal and state government by the local press (especially the radio stations), officials should develop an explicit strategy to foster sustainability. The press should be used to promote understanding of sustainability as the only way out of long-term economic sluggishness.
  4. Incentives to local culture: The process starts with a survey of local cultural signs by a team of specialists.
  5. Sensitization of business leaders to the positive effects of understanding and adopting a sustainable mentality.

“These proposals are relatively simple, quite feasible and will make the city develop, since the potential is there. This is true of most tourist destinations in Brazil and in other emerging countries,” the team concludes.

Magalhaes, A.L., Andreoni, B., dos Santos, E.J. and Cristina, Y. (2014) ‘The economy of sustainable tourism’, Int. J. Environment and Sustainable Development, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.395–407.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.