Nowadays, maybe more than ever, there is a need for managing sustainable tourism development, and this cannot be attained without taking into account environmental problems and their global dimension. There are many problems and needs of society and of the development of urban areas that may be solved by transforming the cities into attractive tourist destinations. Therefore, the aim of this study is to explore how sustainable tourism development in urban areas can practically be achieved and managed.
Sustainable development is a multidimensional concept, which is related to the environment and resources as well as to the population and industrial and agricultural production [1
]. A sustainable behavior of consumption is the key element of long-term development [2
] (p. 143). Therefore, achieving sustainable development implies solutions aiming at the same time at the social, political, economic, demographic, and technical fields [1
]. Sustainable development may be achieved if it relies on the harmony between economic progress and the boundaries of nature, particularly between the quantity and the regeneration time of natural sources, human-made emissions, and the neutralization capabilities of nature [3
Therefore, to be more specific, the focus and purpose of this study is to identify the main success factors for managing sustainable tourism development in urban areas, based on a literature review and on a case study regarding Bucharest as a tourist destination. The research was conducted using evidence provided by conceptual papers, research papers, and literature reviews, as well as books and internet sources. In order to answer the research question, we have first revealed some modern approaches in defining sustainable tourism. Secondly, the study disclosed some success factors for managing sustainable tourism development in urban areas. Thirdly, we have emphasized a case study regarding Bucharest, the capital of Romania, as a tourist destination with an eye to identify the main ways of developing sustainable tourism in Bucharest based upon empirical research conducted with the aid of a survey. In order to answer the research question, we have analyzed the published sources, and we have evaluated and interpreted the empirical data collected through the questionnaire created.
The contribution this paper will make to the literature and practice derives from the logical connections of the arguments and counter-arguments for identifying the success factors for managing sustainable tourism development in urban areas, as well as from the possibility of using the findings in comparative urban studies or in order to conceive a strategy for developing Bucharest as a sustainable tourist destination.
2. Modern Approaches in Defining Sustainable Tourism
There are many approaches and ways of defining the concept of sustainable tourism that can be found in the literature, and many of them start the inquiry by making a transition from the concepts of sustainability or sustainable development. The abundance of definitions, meanings, and implications will be further reviewed in order to reveal the essence of the sustainable tourism concept.
Sustainable development may be defined as an all-embracing concept which involves all aspects of human activity and in which all the nations of the world should be involved in Zaharia et al
] (p. 159). Moreover, it is seen as one of the major challenges of modern evolution. In order to achieve sustainable development, there is a need to identify the main causes of environmental degradation firstly, to assess its size secondly, to find reasonable solutions to counteract it thirdly, and to reduce its negative impacts on economic and social life fourthly [5
] (p. 99).
As Rifkin [6
] asserts, a significant impact into the 21st century will be the Third Industrial Revolution, which will radically change all facets of working and living. The social, economic, and political life of the previous industrial revolutions based on fossil fuels was characterized by a conventional top-down organization of society. However, this type of organization is rapidly changing, and new distributed and collaborative relations emerge as a foundation of the green industrial era [6
The concept of sustainable tourism emerged in the early 1990s, by connecting sustainable development ideas and principles with tourism. This new concept, at that time, was quickly accepted and promoted by many international and national organizations. For instance, the International Union for Nature Conservation, World Federation for Nature Protection, and the European Federation of National and Natural Parks defined sustainable tourism in 1991 as development, marketing, and management of all forms/types of tourism taking into account the natural, social, and economic environment and preserving the natural and cultural resources for future generations [7
]. From this definition it follows that tourism (ecotourism, green tourism, rural tourism, business tourism, urban tourism, etc.
) should be based on the principles of sustainable development [9
] (p. 250). Currently, there is a strengthening of political concerns for nature conservation due to the aggravation of environmental problems and due to the acknowledgment of the importance of maintaining the quality of the environment for future generations [5
] (p. 100).
According to the World Tourism Organization, the development of sustainable tourism responds to the present needs of tourists and to those of the host regions, and also protects and increases future chances and opportunities. Through sustainable tourism, all resources can be managed so as to satisfy needs and to maintain cultural integrity, biological diversity, ecological dimensions, and the life system [10
]. Accordingly, sustainable tourism can be defined as a form of tourism that takes into account present and future impacts (economic impact, social impact, and environmental impact), and responds to the various needs of tourists, industry, and local communities, as well as the environment [11
] (p. 85).
Tourism sustainability is a complex concept because it has a latent, relative, and multidimensional nature [12
] (p. 277). The multidimensional nature of tourism sustainability is based on three distinct sustainability dimensions: environmental, social, and economic sustainability [13
] (pp. 5–6). As a result, sustainable tourism must undertake the environmental, social, and economic principles of sustainability (Figure 1
] (p. 3). This way the synergy effect is produced at the level of tourism sustainability. As a general rule, synergy means that certain features occur within the whole system without occurring in any of the subsystems [15
] (p. 68).
Principles of sustainable tourism. Source: Adapted from White et al.
] (p. 4).
Principles of sustainable tourism. Source: Adapted from White et al.
] (p. 4).
Sustainable tourism covers all types/forms of tourism: conventional mass tourism, cultural tourism, mountain tourism, seaside tourism, spa tourism, business tourism, medical tourism, rural tourism, urban tourism, etc.
Regardless of the type or tourism activities, they should take on the principles of sustainable tourism: (1) the local community should initiate the tourism activity by its own means, maintaining control over tourism development in the area; (2) tourism should provide jobs to the residents, thus improving the quality of life; (3) the accepted international standards in tourism should be used when the guidelines for tour operators, for monitoring the impact of various tourism activities, and for setting the acceptability limits for different areas are established; (4) educational and training programs to improve management in the area of protecting natural and cultural resources must be implemented [16
3. Success Factors for Managing Sustainable Tourism Development in Urban Areas
Nowadays, cities must assume an important role in addressing environmental problems. They are innovation, efficiency, investment, and productivity centers, but they are also an important cause of climate change. The solutions to sustainable development and global climate change are to be found in the ecological urbanization of cities. Therefore, the campaigns and projects carried out by urban managers in order to reach the sustainable development of regions, cities, and rural areas around are becoming extremely important these days [9
] (p. 254).
The role of urban areas in sustainable development is more and more recognized at a global level. Providing services to residents and businesses, creating jobs, stimulating research, and development within and outside the economic sector are only some of the functions of the cities. However, these functions are not only limited to administrative boundaries of cities, but they also create benefits for the whole region in which cities are included. A success condition for a modern city is to demonstrate that it meets the environmental requirements [17
] (p. 379).
Even if local socio-economic development is achievable and accelerated in urban areas, these are, at the same time, places of environmental problems [18
] (p. 79). Cities are special local environments, and the manner in which they should be governed and managed is determined by their features [19
] (p. 31). A feasible urban development strategy should include elements relating to the image and brand of the city, elements which will ensure a competitive advantage for the local community [20
] (p. 734). Today, business organizations and not-for-profit organizations, among which is the government, need to create and maintain permanent and effective mechanisms which to enable them to adjust in a timely manner in order to respond to trend changes that characterize the environment in which they perform [21
] (p. 7).
In this context, the local authorities, along with other partners (stakeholders), may establish the strategy for sustainable urban development and the suitable forms of assistance [17
] (p. 383). Today, a new paradigm is emerging, in which the individual is recognized as a partner of the public administration, being referred to as a “stakeholder” [22
] (p. 41). This partnership of urban stakeholders may lead to the development of urban areas through integrated urban transport systems for the accessibility and mobility of citizens, as well as environmentally friendly buildings that use renewable energy [17
] (p. 383). Nowadays cities are operating on a global market, competing with other urban areas around the world for investments, residents, and tourists, and thus there is a need for competitiveness [17
] (380). When tourists are choosing their holidays packages they make comparisons, evaluate the possible destinations, and estimate the benefits and drawbacks of each one as a potential holiday destination [23
] (p. 808). The tourists have the liberty to set up their personal itineraries to follow; however, they are not free to interfere in the natural course of the environment they are visiting [24
The negative ecological, economic, and social effects of tourism may be lessened through professional urban management [10
] (p. 256). It is important to mention that [19
] has identified a relatively clear distinction between urban management, with reference to the officials executing the policies, and urban governance, which refers to additional components [19
] (p. 34). The author has concluded in his article that urban management is a reform of city administration and that its task is to create equilibrium between social and economic development, which have a fragile coexistence [19
Tourism enhancement implies planning, development, management, and continuous improvement [25
]. The continuous improvement process should be applied to all forms of tourism, whether we are referring to urban tourism, resorts, rural and coastal areas tourism, or mountains and protected areas tourism [12
]. Recreational activities may be developed within natural areas and may bring significant revenues both to those who manage them and to the local communities. Tourism is one of the few economic sectors through which sustainable development of these areas can be achieved, and ecotourism is the most accepted form of sustainable tourism for any country or region of the world [10
] (p. 256). Small tourism enterprises have the potential to help tourism destinations to progress towards sustainability objectives because of their numerical dominance, their central role in human activities, and their increasing importance within the framework of sustainable tourism development [26
] (p. 575).
One of the main barriers to achieving sustainable tourism refers to the difficulty of measuring the sustainability level of a tourism destination. This barrier has hindered the decision-making processes and made it difficult to encounter the needs of the tourism destinations [12
] (p. 278). Achieving sustainable tourism means taking the effects and needs into account in its planning and development [11
] (p. 85).
Furthermore, one of the main challenges in achieving sustainable tourism is to fill the existing gap between the stages of planning and implementation. The stage of planning includes the design of methodologies, tourism policies, and technological know-how. The stage of implementation refers to the execution of tourism projects and plans by public agencies and tourism companies [12
] (p. 279).
In order to plan and manage sustainable tourism development there is a need for thorough insight into the present levels of sustainability or at least sustainability performance, because this is a precondition for designing effective and efficient policies [13
] (p. 4). The definitions of sustainability indicators must take into account the interconnectivity in the tourism system and must reflect the distinctive environmental, economic, and socio-cultural attributes of the destination or entity to which they would be applied [26
Development of information and communication technologies has created the premises for better collaboration and communication between tourism organizations, on one hand, and between them and their clients (the tourists), on the other hand [27
] (pp. 84–85). According to [28
], it is predicted that the Internet will be the key to future management of the tourism sector, in the sense that only the companies that will use the technology to identify the customer needs and to respond to them will survive on the market [28
] (p. 501). There is a need to apply some innovative technologies within the tourism sector, since certain services are still based on outdated and unsuccessful methods. The investments should focus on developing the infrastructure in the tourism sector, mainly the major structures such as airports, retail centers, theaters, museums, hotels, and conference centers, which may influence the visible and invisible impact of the tourism sector on the environment [24
] (p. 127). Tourism companies with a well-designed website have access to a vast tourism market, and they can offer their services to a wide range of clients both at the national and international level [28
] (p. 492).
Information and communication technologies may be used by the companies to increase service flexibility and adaptability to the needs of the clients [27
] (pp. 84–85). For instance, consistent with [29
] (p. 133), through the Web, the museum “breaks” the traditional value chain in the sense that it enhances its role from being just a “commodity” with value added to the local tourism services to becoming the catalyst of an innovative “niche” supply developed around the cultural event. Moreover, if effectively integrated in the service process, new technologies could actively support the development of strategies related to innovation, collaboration, and value co-creation, playing a key role in providing competitive services [27
] (p. 85).
The results of the survey reveal that there are some points worth highlighting. On one hand, the capital city may be a good destination for cultural tourism due to the heterogeneousness of the museums and other cultural places and events (festivals, concerts, etc.) that can be organized. On the other hand, there are many actions that need to be done in order to promote Bucharest as a cultural tourist destination. For instance, increasing information availability, the translation of official websites into English and other foreign languages, and using multimedia information systems are only some of the recommendations to redesign the traditional services and to promote new cultural experiences for tourists.
Another idea emerging from the data analyzed is that the Internet is the main source of information regarding tourist destinations. Therefore, we strongly recommend using the advantages of the Internet to attract tourists, and to further involve them in the production of tourist services. Social networks like Twitter or Facebook may be used to promote Bucharest as a tourist destination due to rapid dissemination of information. Not unintentionally, we have presented the results of the blog online contest “The Best City to Visit Travel Tournament 2013 Championship” in the beginning of Section 4
of this article. Such online contests or ways of interaction attract people, and may be used within the strategies to promote tourist urban destinations.
The public administration is in the best position to implement programs, policies, and strategies to promote and develop sustainable tourism in urban areas. These strategies may benefit the development of information and communication technologies so as to lead to providing competitive services. Public authorities may create an urban brand in order to attract tourists and to convince them to recommend the city to other visitors.
The main ways of developing sustainable tourism in Bucharest identified by the respondents suggest that they care about the environment, as well as about the natural and cultural heritage.
On the basis of what has been revealed above, we may bring the paper to a close by saying that it may be appropriate to find a way to apply better management based on sustainable urban tourism strategies. The public administration, the residents, and the private companies, as well as other stakeholders, play an important role in this endeavor. The development of Bucharest as a sustainable tourist destination is possible only if there is a real partnership between all actors more or less involved in tourist activities.
This study has revealed some success factors for managing sustainable tourism development in urban areas and has emphasized a case study regarding Bucharest, the capital of Romania, as a tourist destination. The main conclusions of this study may be summarized as follows: (1) among the success factors for managing sustainable tourism development in urban areas, the strategic planning plays an important role; (2) sustainable tourism development in Romania may be achieved through developing urban areas as touristic destinations; and (3) the subjects comprised in this study appreciate that sustainable tourism development in Bucharest may be achieved in different manners.
The originality and value of this study consist of identifying the main ways of developing sustainable tourism in Bucharest based upon empirical research conducted with the aid of a survey. These ways of developing sustainable tourism in Bucharest are the following: limitation of waste and environment degradation, integration of tourism into planning, practice of better management based on sustainable urban tourism strategies, education, preservation of the natural and cultural heritage, avoidance of exceeding ecological limits, and development of sustainable recreational activities. Any policy or strategy in the area of sustainable urban tourism development should start from the needs and desires of the people and should be connected to the principles of sustainable development.
Our current experience advises us that there is no panacea for successful sustainable urban tourism development. The findings of this study can inform future research on urban sustainability by using them in comparative studies or as a starting point for developing policies and strategies in the field. We suggest that further research should be done in the direction of identifying the opinions of the representatives of the public administration and of tourism organizations, and to use them along with the findings of this study to conceive a strategy for developing Bucharest as sustainable tourist destination. Another direction for future research could be to replicate the survey in various cities from different regions in order to find out how local culture may influence the approach of sustainable urban tourism and what its effects are (if any) on the development preferences.