University of Oulu

Saarinen, J. Is Being Responsible Sustainable in Tourism? Connections and Critical Differences. Sustainability 2021, 13, 6599.

Is being responsible sustainable in tourism? : connections and critical differences

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Author: Saarinen, Jarkko1,2
Organizations: 1Department of Geography, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
2School of Tourism and Hospitality, University of Johannesburg, P.O. Box 524, Auckland Park, Johannesburg 2092, South Africa
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-09-21


Since the early 1990s, sustainability has formed a development paradigm for tourism. Recently, however, researchers and policymakers have shown considerable interest in the notion of responsibility in tourism. While responsible and sustainable tourism share many common elements, their ideological context and societal background may involve critical differences. The purpose of this review paper is to discuss the ideas of responsibility and sustainability in tourism and especially how they have emerged in tourism studies and activities, and what implications their differences may have for tourism development and its future practices and policies. Here, sustainable tourism is understood as being based on regulative structures involving multiple scales of policies and decision-making, while responsible tourism derives some of its core focus and practices from neoliberal governance with its emphasis on individualized and personalized behavior and decision-making. These different contextual backgrounds indicate why we should not automatically equate these two ideas in research, especially when thinking about how the growth-driven tourism industry could and should respond to global challenges in future. Furthermore, building on the structuration theory, the paper discusses how these two different approaches are often interconnected and can lead a way towards sustainable development in tourism.

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Series: Sustainability
ISSN: 2071-1050
ISSN-E: 2071-1050
ISSN-L: 2071-1050
Volume: 13
Issue: 12
Article number: 6599
DOI: 10.3390/su13126599
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 519 Social and economic geography
Copyright information: © 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (