2014 XMNR IR – Sustainable Tourism

To lessen the potential impact the hospitality and tourism sector can have on a given destination or location, sustainable tourism seeks to recognize and operate within the limitations of the social, economic, and environmental systems that encompass the tourism industry as a whole. In-line with the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability’s (CLiGS) mission to research and promote sustainable enterprise management strategies, in March 2013 a contingent of Executive Master of Natural Resources (XMNR) graduate students travelled to Yunnan Province, China to investigate sustainable tourism in the region and elsewhere.

The tourism team divided into subgroups to better analyze two major areas of sustainable tourism: Luxury Tourism and Heritage Tourism. Both teams visited the Linden Centre in Xizhou Village, and Banyan Tree Ringa near Shangri-La, to collect data and examine whether tourism could be an effective strategy for sustainable development.

The Luxury Tourism team primarily focused on the experiences of guests and the contributions of each resort to sustainable development, examining how each provided an authentic and exclusive experience through cultural immersion. The team also investigated how each resort contributed to responsible travel through social and environmental awareness and their impact on sustainability as a whole.

In doing so, the Luxury Tourism team explored the following questions:

  • Are the Linden Centre’s and the Banyan Tree’s forms of luxury different and do they promote sustainability values and/or behaviors?
  • How can the Linden Centre and the Banyan Tree provide leadership for sustainability by improving the quality of their visitor experiences, employee and community engagement, supply chain management, and public relations?
  • How can employees, neighbors, and visitors to these places have transformative experiences that inspire them to change their own lives and those of others?
  • Are the Linden Centre and the Banyan Tree businesses contributors, models, or trend leaders for a form of “luxury tourism” that might be applicable elsewhere in the world?

At the same time, the Heritage Tourism team was examining the dependence of local enterprises on the environmental and cultural contexts of a place and how they mitigate or address the risks associated with development. To gain a deeper understanding of this process, the team divided “heritage” into three dimensions:

  • Natural heritage (ecosystem services, biodiversity, recreation, and scenic sites)
  • Built heritage (historic structures, artifacts, spiritual sites, and infrastructure)
  • Cultural heritage (languages, lifestyles, beliefs and values, and traditions)

Both tourism teams – Luxury and Heritage – spent extensive time on the ground observing the impact of tourism, and conducting in-depth interviews with business and community leaders to better understand the region’s sustainable development goals.

To read the complete findings of both tourism groups, please see Luxury Tourism for Sustainable Development in Yunnan and Heritage Tourism in Yunnan.