Four Dimensions of Sustainability

Implementing sustainable tourism development in the ski area industry is arguably tougher than in other geographical areas. This is for many reasons, which I hope to discuss here with some of my own ideas and solutions to the many issues. Throughout the future posts, I hope to shed light on various issues is tourism growth. In order to do this correctly, first I have to give a little background information. There are four dimensions which must applied in order to create an experience that is replicable without hindering any aspects of the tourism experience.

These four dimensions include environmental, cultural, economical, and institutional aspects. Focusing on anything less than all four aspects will create a product that is not replicable and unsustainable in the long term.

A graphic depicting the connections between the four aspects of sustainable tourism development

The environmental aspect is important because it is the backdrop and focus of much tourism activates. This can be a built environment such as a downtown center like old town here locally, or a natural environment such as a mountain for a ski resort. There are different aspects of a built and natural environment, such as water sources, biological life, forests, beaches, parks, etc. The environmental dimension is very important to the overall experience because a majority of the perception of the destination and experience stems from this attribute. Degradation of any environment will create a lesser image, than if protective measures were in place. If the environment is degraded too significantly, the economic viability will be severely diminished or disappear altogether as tourists will no longer decide to visit.

The cultural aspect is an important aspect for one main reason. If the local population does not make the tourists feel welcome, the destination will not be a viable tourism destination. Part of the overall experience is how you as the visitor is treated. Negative memories and experiences will be a significant factor when deciding on where to visit in the future. However, another key aspect of the culture is how strong it is. Take Fort Collins for example. Here, there is a significant brewery, outdoor, and friendly culture. Without these aspects, I don’t believe Fort Collins would be such a popular destination. The city has differentiated itself from other cities through its strong culture.

The third dimension is the economic aspect. Economics are very important because it deals with the financial aspects of a tourism entity. If a tourism entity does not have a reasonable financial return, there is obviously little reason to continue. Simply put, if the monetary benefits are not reaped, why would one continue to manage, promote, and provide an experience at the cost of the provider?

Lastly is the institutional aspect. This aspect can be harder to define as it is not tangible. This aspect deals with anything associated with forms of laws, regulations and practices. These can be governmental (national, state, local), corporate, or general attitudes by community members. The institutional aspect has the ability to improve, or impede tourism activates.


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