Barriers to sustainable Tourism Development in Peripheral Regions


The peripheral regions are those areas that experience marginalization in terms of resource distribution and development of infrastructure in general. Usually they are faced with major economic recessions, characterized by high inflation rates and widespread unemployment, lack of political influence and are faced with a lot of social difficulties such as poverty and ethnic conflicts. To these regions, the tourism industry is perceived as a liberator to the economy, since it provides both skilled and unskilled with employment opportunities. It also earns the country foreign exchange as well as improving the infrastructure. Besides all these benefits, tourism also encourages environmental conservation, since it is the natural resources that mostly attract tourists. It is however faced by a number of set-backs, which deter its growth and development. There are different strategies, which are applied to cope with these setbacks, and ensure a region is enjoying most of the benefits that accrue from the tourism sector. This brings up the need of effective planning in the tourism industry especially in the peripheral regions, which are fully dependent on this sector for their economy to grow.

            The necessity for tourism planning is to ensure a sustainable development in the industry. Sustainable development refers to the fulfillment of the current human needs while considering the needs of the future generation. “The world tourism organization lobbied for the publishing of Agenda 21 in 1995. This publication was aimed at establishing the processes and structures of incorporating sustainable development goals in the process of making decisions in the organizations providing the tourism services” (Graci, 2007). This included the need for the governments to support such organizations, especially through funding and the conservation of natural resources, by taking strict measures against environmental pollution.

            Sustainable development in tourism is aimed at fulfilling three main objectives. These are “the economic, environmental, and social objectives. The economic objective can be attained mainly by ensuring efficiency in the use of the available resources. The environmental objective involves the conservation of the natural resources and can only be attained by maintaining the ecological balance. The social objective focuses on the improvement of the quality of living standards and can be achieved by ensuring equal distribution of wealth” (Graci, 2007). The successful achievement of these objectives calls for cooperation of both the private and the public sector.

Literature Review:

For proper understanding of the barriers to sustainable tourism development in peripheral regions, some literature on the same has to be reviewed. Blackman Anna et al (2004) in the Accommodating green: Examining barriers to sustainable development journal gave the major characteristics of tourism in peripheral areas as follows. First, it has been adopted as a substitute for the declining extraction and agriculture industries. Secondly, these countries have an inadequate domestic market for the industry. The third characteristic is that most tourist attractions are located in marginalized areas, with poor road networks. Insufficient technology comes in as the fourth characteristic, whereby the inhabitants of these regions prefer the traditional ways of doing things, rather than embracing technology. This is an impediment to the visitors from the western world who are used to automated systems (p 39). The communities are also either totally illiterate or semi-illiterate, which makes it hard for them to understand the importance of improving on their technological knowledge.

            According to Kirkland and Thompson’s Challenges in designing, implementing and operating an environmental management system: Business strategy and the environment (1999), different tourism organizations are faced with different obstructions based on their size, level of compatibility with the commercial culture, knowledge and information adequacy or inadequacy, level of resource endowment, the management system in place, type of organization ownership and the organization’s level of growth (p 131). The barriers to sustainable tourism development according to Kirkland and Thompson are interrelated such that the occurrence of one barrier leads to the automatic occurrence of another one.

They also came up with a number of approaches that can be applied in making policies aimed at conquering the barriers and improving on the achievement of environment protection goals. “The first one of these approaches is the identification of the main cause of the barriers. The second one is on offering education to the community concerning the importance of tourism, the third point being that of offering sufficient training to the staff and providing them with efficient communication facilities. The fourth approach is on finding ways of sharing the available natural resources with the community in such a way that there will be no conflicts and sustainable development will result” (Kirkland and Thompson, 1999).

            Other findings by Dodds (2005) revealed some of the barriers to the implementation of sustainable development policies in the tourism sector. As his case study, he used the Malta and Mallorca islands destination and came up with a total of five barriers. The first one of these barriers is the failure by the management to plan. The second one is the absence of regional and nationwide integration frame works. Insufficient stakeholder participation comes in third, the fourth point being poor or no accountability practices. The fifth and final point is lack of government support on the tourism industry (Dodds, 2005). These are the barriers are according to the research conducted in Malta and Mallorca islands. However, they are applicable to any other tourism destination.

            On planning the tourism industry, Blackman et al (2004) give a theoretical and tactical outline for this. This model provides a framework which, once implemented will improve on the management of the tourism sector at any given destination. It illustrates the tourism management process as a series of four stages namely, planning, organizing, leadership and controlling. (Blackman, et al, 2004) Planning in this case has to involve the people in the neighborhood. The management should come to an agreement with the members of the community on the issues concerning environmental conservation. Organizing on the hand entails strategizing the marketing procedure and the community involvement in this. At this stage, a feasibility study is also carried out to determine the viability of the selected destination as a tourist site.

The third stage is that of leadership. For any organization to thrive, effective leadership has to be in place. With proper planning and organization, it is still possible for an enterprise to fail due to poor leadership. The fourth and final stage is that of controlling which encompasses evaluation, monitoring and taking counteractive measures in case a negative effect or a possibility of failure is detected. Blackman et al (2004) further states that this framework is a continuous process, and not one carried out at the beginning of the venture only.


            Most of the peripheral regions have a high capacity for the development of the tourism sector. This is an industry which can yield high economic benefits to the country, if measures are taken to eliminate the barriers which slow down its development. “These measures include improving the transport network, improving the tourism infrastructure and carrying out proper planning and involving the government in this process” (Blackman et al, 2004). There should be a system which evaluates and monitors the experience of tourist in the destination, such that any negative impression detected is corrected right away. An evaluation should also be done on the operator experience and environmental conditions prevailing in the region. The latter plays a very significant role in tourism development in the peripheral regions.

            The other recommendations useful in eliminating the barriers include composting and introducing financial systems such as levying taxes on domestic tourism. This will provide funds for the sector to grow without having to borrow funds from external sources. “There should be a tourism board whose function is to supervise the tourism development process and the realization of sustainable tourism plan” (Kirkland, 1999). Measures need to be put in place to ensure that there are no cases of corruption, as this is one of the major detriments to development. When doing the planning, it is advisable to consider other features such as transport and channels of communication, and the mode of advertising to be used.


Sustainable tourism development is a possibility in the peripheral regions. However, it may not happen as rapidly as anticipated. Its impact on the economic and social well-being may also not accrue instantaneously. This is experienced over time. “Success in any form of development is a long-term strategy which involves training, research, planning and implementation of the plan” (Ritchie, 2003). A serious involvement in the establishment of the barriers to sustainable Tourism Development in Peripheral Regions and the implementation of the planned strategies is what will lead to the achievement of sustainable development in the sector.






Blackman, A., Foster, F., Hyvonen, T., Kuilboer, A., & Moscardo, G. (2004). Factors Contributing to Successful Tourism Development in Peripheral Regions. Journal of Tourism Studies, 15 (1), 59-70.

Dodds, R., & University of Surrey. (2005). Barriers to the implementation of sustainable tourism policy in destinations. Guildford, London: University of Surrey.

Graci, S. (2010). Accommodating Green: Examining Barriers to Sustainable Development. International Journal of Hospitality Marketing and Management, 19(1), 38-55.

Kirkland, L. and Thompson, D. (1999). Challenges in designing, implementing and operating an environmental management system: Business strategy and the environment. Business Strategy and the Environment Journal, 8 (2), 128-141.

Lemky, K. I. M. (2006). Reviews / Comptes rendus: Nature-based Tourism in Peripheral Areas: Development or Disaster? The Canadian Geographer, 50, 3, 411-412.

Ritchie, J. R. B., & Crouch, G. I. (2003). The competitive destination: A sustainable tourism perspective. Oxon, UK: CABI Publishers.


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