Sustainability, the new reality for future tourism
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Sustainability, the new reality for future tourism

Sustainable tourism – a buzz word used by marketers or the new reality for global tourism? The 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference marked an important turning point in the recognition for the need for sustainability at a global level. Governments now are beginning to consider how to reduce carbon emissions and plan for a future that may be quite different, and more sustainable, than today. The impacts will be felt throughout every economy, in every business and on personal budgets.

As the world adjusts to the reality of higher global temperatures, the need to adopt sustainable practices in all areas of daily life will become the new norm. Every firm will need to consider how to adapt its businesses practices to demonstrate sustainability. Renewable energy will eventually replace coal as the main form of energy production. At the individual level, people will become as conscious of their personal energy budget as many now count kilojoules.

The way we live, where we live and how we enjoy leisure will change. There will be far greater emphasis on low energy transport with the possibility of higher taxes on inefficient personal transport and household goods.

The tourism industry will also need to adjust its business models to focus on achieving sustainability. Until recently, sustainable tourism was equated with images of secluded lakes, cute animals or walks through forest. This will need to change. All forms of travel will need to generate less emissions. The tourism industry, in line with industry generally, will need to demonstrate how it is committed to sustainability. Failure to do so will be viewed negatively by consumers and result in loss of business and possibly incur financial penalties.

The challenge for the global tourism industry is how to reinvent itself as a sustainable industry. Globally, tourism arrivals have surpassed 1.1 billion per year. Tourism-based revenue represents around 10% of the world’s GDP. The sustainable management of tourism is now a becoming pressing issue for communities worldwide (see UNWTO). Recognizing both the challenges and opportunities presented by such growth, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has declared 2017 as the International year of Sustainable tourism for Development.


Pic: Central Queensland University

The UNWTO has identified five pillars of sustainable tourism: policy and governance; economic performance, investment and competitiveness; employment, decent work and human capital; poverty reduction and social inclusion; and sustainability of the natural and cultural environment. Implementing these policies and practices to achieve sustainable tourism outcomes poses a significant challenge for the global tourism industry.

A new generation of highly skilled post graduate educated managers will be required to plan, implement and lead the industry into a sustainable future. These people will be a key factor in the success of destinations, governments and businesses involved in the tourism industry. This new generation of managers can expect to be in high demand and attract large salary packages.

International tourism expert, Professor Bruce Prideaux of CQUniversity in Cairns, Australia argues that failure to think and act sustainably will have dire consequences for businesses and communities. “Destinations that fail to think sustainably are far less likely to grow than those that are effectively and sustainably managed. We realized that if the industry is going to grow and thrive, there is a need in governments and the tourism industry not just for business managers, but for business managers with a specific understanding of tourism and sustainability. ”

The need to develop a new generation of postgraduate trained tourism managers led Professor Prideaux to establish a Master of Sustainable Tourism Management:  “We offer a unique opportunity for graduates of any discipline to gain a business based masters program that focuses on sustainable tourism management.”

Professor Prideaux has assembled an expert team of lecturers to develop and teach the Masters program. Wide consultations were held with industry to ensure that the teaching program meets the skills needs of the tourism industry.  “Our Graduate Skills Industry Needs Analysis has shown a clear set of skills the industry is seeking in employees” said Professor Prideaux.


Pic: Central Queensland University

The program follows the principles of sustainability with specific emphasis on business economic sustainability and long term destination planning. “We also incorporated the UNWTO’s five pillars of sustainable tourism within the program as well as the skills sets that the tourism industry expects of graduates” said Professor Prideaux. Contemporary case studies, field trips and guest speakers from industry are also a feature of the program.

Marcus Brady, Business Development Manager at Sunlover Reef Cruises in Cairns commented that “the program has a number of options that I find exciting. It is particularly well suited to people who are looking to refresh their qualifications and who are keen to look for promotion.”

In tandem with the Masters program, Professor Prideaux has also assumed the directorship of the Centre for Tourism and Regional Opportunities.  “The Centre will enable the University to focus on high quality research into sustainable tourism practice”.

Tourism planning lecturer Allison Anderson says that the location is one of the key selling points of the Master of Sustainable Tourism Management Program. “Cairns has a multi-billion dollar tourism industry and lies between two World Heritage Areas, the Wet Tropics rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The 2.7 million visitors per year who visit the city give it an international vibe, with fabulous natural attractions, good part time work opportunities, great restaurants, and CQUniversity’s inner city campus is right in the middle of it all.”

The vibrant tourism industry in Cairns not only gives students plenty to study whilst they’re here, but it also gives them plenty to do. “Swimming at the Esplanade Lagoon, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, cuddling koalas, white water rafting, bungy jumping, and Skyrail are just some of the things you can do in your spare time when you’re here,” says Prof. Prideaux. “And you can call it studying at the same time!”


Pic: Central Queensland University

The four business subjects are flexible to the needs of students and range from human resource management to management accounting and services marketing.

The six core tourism subjects draw extensively on both theory and practice of sustainable tourism management. These are the central subjects of the program. The first four can also be taken as a stand-alone Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management. These are the six core subjects:

Introduction to Sustainable Tourism
This course is designed as the introduction to the Master of Sustainable Tourism Management program and provides the theoretical platform for later courses in the program. The course provides the foundation learning for the remainder of the tourism courses in the Master of Sustainable Tourism Management.

Managing Tourism in Natural and Protected Areas
The management of tourism operations in natural and protected areas is an important component of sustainable tourism management. This course is designed to give students a comprehensive understanding of the range of topics that are required to sustainably manage tourism activities taking place in natural and protected areas. Lecture topics include ecotourism, wildlife tourism and indigenous issues.

Tourism Impacts on Community, Culture and Heritage
This course is designed to give students a comprehensive and critical understanding of the range of socio-cultural impacts of sustainable tourism. Key topic areas include the areas of communities, including local, regional and Indigenous, as well as culture and heritage.

Tourism as a Strategy for Sustainable Development
In this course students will learn about the concept of tourism as a tool for sustainable development at a regional level. It discusses how tourism has become a key aspect of sustainable development strategies in the past thirty years in many parts of the globe and how this has influenced policy and practice.


Pic: Central Queensland University

Managing Sustainable Tourism Businesses
The economic viability of tourism is important to the long-term sustainability of the industry. In this course you will gain an understanding of the importance of incorporating economically sustainable principles and practice in tourism businesses.

Destination Planning and Management
In an increasingly competitive global tourism market, planners, destination management organisations and industry stakeholders are being challenged to provide services for tourists whilst maintaining a unique brand, character and competitive advantage for the destination. This course is designed as a capstone to the preceding courses in the Master of Sustainable Tourism Management program.

Four further electives from a vast number of postgraduate options, plus a professional project and research project complete the masters program.

Of these, two tourism electives are available:

Social Media and Innovative Methods in Tourism Marketing
This course exposes students to strategies on how social media can be used to enhance an organization’s overall marketing strategy. Students will develop a better understanding of key aspects of developing and maintaining a successful online presence.

Climate Change and Managing Tourism Risk
This course is designed to introduce students to the concept of risk, including climate change, in a tourism setting and discuss how it can be managed. Students will develop a better understanding of key aspects of risk and how businesses and destinations are able to identify and plan to manage risk.

Interested in leading the sustainable tourism boom? Study one of Australia’s first fully integrated tourism masters programs developed from scratch in consultation with industry at the coal face of sustainable tourism management, in the heart of a city resting between two of the most spectacular natural environments on the planet. For details on the Master of Sustainable Tourism Management program, please view the program information page. If you would like further information, email Professor Bruce Prideaux on