The Sustainability of Coastal Tourism
Title: The Sustainability of Coastal Tourism: Environmental management practices of hotels on the Kenya coast
Author: Alice Mapenzi Kubo
University: Universiteit Leiden Netherlands
Sustainable tourism development has three main pillars namely economic, social-cultural and environmental sustainability. Sustainable tourism development is a continuous process and consists of developing alternative forms of tourism as well as greening the existing tourism industry. This demands research into the well-being of destination areas on an ongoing basis not only directed at alternative types of tourism but also with focus on finding ways to improve the environmental management of existing accommodations – the main objective of this study.
Kenya’s coastal tourism is characterised by a high reliance on international mass tourism. The numbers of visitors to Kenya in 2002 was more than 800,000 with more than 3 million bednights. An estimated 60% of the visitors spend time at the Kenya Coast where accommodations are concentrated in three areas, Mombasa North, Diani and Malindi. The North coast of Mombasa is one of the developed tourist destinations at the Kenya coast, it harbours a third of all 150 hotel accommodations on the coastal strip. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Kenya had an advantage in tourism over other African countries but by now the Kenya Coast has acquired characteristicts of the so-called ‘stagnation’ stage. Tourism and its related sectors are one of the largest employers in the area. In 1993, the area accounted for 24 percent of all coastal tourism industry earnings. Kenyan coastal tourism is characterised with high reliance on international mass tourism. Package tours yield high concentration of low spending tourists. Thus, the number of tourists end up being high but the receipts from tourism are low. The high numbers of tourists, in turn, bring about severe impacts on the destination areas, either directly or indirectly. Coastal tourism in Kenya places heavy pressure on the coastal land and beaches, environment, water, energy and sanitation.
The study examined the environmental management practises of hotels on the Kenya Coast, namely Mombasa North consisting of Nyali, Bamburi and Shanzu Beaches. The study compared 8 (TUI) hotels with 8 apartment complexes of the same standards and relied on a series of interviews with hotel managers, government officials and other actors in the Kenyan tourism industry. The interviews with hotel managers focused particularly on four subject areas of direct environmental action (energy consumption, water consumption, wastewater and waste management) and four areas of indirect action (environmental organisation, guest instructions, biodiversity and nature conservation, support to local community). The main research questions concerned the following:
- What is the economic importance of the coastal tourism sector?
- What is the environmental pressure that results from coastal tourism?
- What measures are accommodations taking to reduce the environmental impacts?
- How do the TUI hotels compare with other accommodations in respect of
- How do the TUI hotels compare with each other in respect of environmental
- What improvements are possible?
The study focused more on the environmental impacts of tourism than the other types of impacts since the first was the principal interest of the commissioner – TUI. The negative social-cultural impacts (crime, prostitution, drug abuse) that were mentioned in the original proposal were not studied in detail. However, the questionnaire based on the ‘TUI Checklist for Accommodation Environmental Management’, did include the sub-topic ‘local community support’. The linkages with local and upcountry economic sectors as well as incomes from tourism mentioned in the original proposal and the subject of environmental friendly foods and products, turned out too difficult to tackle. Necessary information was difficult to obtain and this would require separate studies. A comparison of TUI with other tour operators in the area was not pursued because most operators use the same hotels. Instead a comparison between TUI hotels and apartment complexes was done.
The data analysis was mainly concerned with questions on environmental management practices. The answers to the items on direct and indirect environmental actions were coded and listed for each of the sixteen hotels. The questions were grouped under the eight subheadings mentioned and average scores per sub-topic calculated for the two groups of hotels. An overall environmental score was calculated for each of the TUI hotels with an environmental ranking.
More than half of the accommodations have implemented environmental management measures on waste management, wastewater management and local community support. The measures that are still in their infancy are those related to energy consumption and water consumption. Largely absent are indirect measures in respect of environmental organisation, guest environmental instructions and nature conservation. TUI hotels are more advanced in the implementation of energy consumption measures, waste management and various indirect actions. However, they receive much larger numbers of visitors than the apartment complexes which means more pressure on the environment and natural resources because of their sheer numbers, whatever environmental measures they may take. Large differences exist among individual TUI hotels in respect of overall environmental management score. Two hotels rank highest and are doing well, four hotels have a medium score and two hotels are doing poorly. However, when the environmental scores were compared with the package tour prices of the respective hotels, there was no clear relation. Thus, implementation of sustainability measures does not necessarily lead to higher prices for consumers.
Even though the measures taken by accommodations can be seen as moves towards sustainable tourism, they mostly lie towards the ‘shallow’ end of sustainability and practices that do not ask for great efforts or large investments. In respect of economic sustainability, tourism marginalises traditional economic activities. The development of tourism has increased employment opportunities but employment benefits have not gone equally to the local population. Social-cultural sustainability generally receives little attention. Tourist establishments are to a large extent in the hands of foreigners. There is little evidence of local community input in tourism developments in the area and no strong awareness of or attempt to utilise the region’s indigenous cultural attributes in marketing.
Recommendations are formulated for the three main actors, TUI Netherlands, the TUI hotels and the Kenya Government. TUI can bear an influence directly through active involvement in various projects and activities, but it can also try to influence the hotels as well as the clients. Hotels can bear an influence directly as well as indirectly, and should particularly focus on the subject areas that were examined by the study. The Kenya Government can exercise its influence at the level of central or regional government as well as at the level of local administration.