In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the effects of tourism and related developments upon the environment of ‘destination areas’. The increasing popularity of the concept of sustainable development has resulted in tourism being viewed as an activity which could easily be developed along those appropriate lines. It is argued, however, that such a viewpoint is often simplistic and naïve, because of a lack of understanding of the complex nature of tourism. While tourism is dependent upon the environment for much of its well-being, the prevailing lack of knowledge, responsibility, and long-term planning, has often resulted in development which is neither environmentally nor culturally sympathetic to the host area and community.
A broad definition of environment is necessary in this context, encompassing both the physical and human realms and also Nature's, as is an equally wide view of human leisure activities, which needs to include far more than tourism. It is necessary to take a critical view of some alternative approaches to mass-tourism, which have been suggested as appropriate for environmentally significant areas; for at least some of the problems resulting from tourism-related developments are more profound, and less easily solved, than has often been suggested. Solutions are inevitably a combination of compromise and positive planning and management, and successful examples are difficult to find. Improved understanding of the complex nature of tourism, and of its linkages to the environment, is crucial if a symbiotic relationship is to be attained and maintained.
It is necessary to appreciate that tourist destination areas evolve and change over time, both responding to, and being altered by, changes in tourism. They are not static environments, and need responsible and pro-active planning and management. Reliance upon local initiatives, uncoordinated planning, and self-regulation in a situation of ill-defined responsibility, will not result in a secure long-term future for either the tourist industry or the environment of the destination area. Coordination of policies, pro-active planning, acceptance of limitations on growth, education of all parties involved, and commitment to a long-term viewpoint, are prerequisites to the successful linking of tourism and sustainable development.