Thesis title: Sustainable Development of a Tourism Destination: Realism or Idealism? Evaluating the sustainability of a destination development project through community-based Ecotourism.

This paper by Master in Tourism Destination Management alumnus Wout Neckermann aims to find out whether ‘sustainable tourism’ is a valid sustainable development tool for ‘rural’ regions. Having volunteered as Project Assistant to the SwissContact WiSATA project for tourism destination development (in Flores, Indonesia) between July 2012 and June 2013, the author chose this case study for the report. The project is centred on the establishment of Destination Management Organisation (DMO) Flores.

This document discusses the origins, meanings and purposes of sustainable tourism, from an idealist perspective to a marketing strategy, and to a concept with real potential for making a positive change: CBET. The dissertation explains how ‘sustainable tourism development’ can serve as an ‘engine for economic growth’ by attracting foreign exchange. Thereby, the main research question arises:

How do the methods and strategies of the WiSATA project and DMO Flores compare to the normative goals and practical CSFs of CBET?

To answer this, the normative goals and critical success factors of CBET are first examined, and then translated into qualitative assessment criteria (QAC), by which holistic selections of methods, strategies and activities that fall under WiSATA’s DMO approach in Flores are measured.

Qualitative primary research methods were used in the field to extract information on the project’s working methods in Flores. Mostly observations, meetings, interviews and workshops served as primary sources, but also telephone calls and a survey. The information material was gathered digitally, or manually noted and then later digitalised. A qualitative assessment of this data followed, resulting in a quantitative representation of numerical results in an assessment matrix.

The research results point out that the SC WiSATA approach scores well on its assessment results for all three CSFs of CBET, meaning that its methods and strategies are aligned with the normative goals and practical CSFs of CBET. Furthermore, the document offers a reflection on what the essence of sustainable development is, and why it matters from whose perspective it comes into practice.

As a case study, this work is an excellent reference for future destination developers in regions that are at a similar stage of economic development as the people of Flores. The report’s findings on the case study may encourage stakeholders to question and reformulate their own views on ‘sustainable development through tourism’, and can serve as a baseline for destination developers in similar regions to perhaps improve their own destination development and management strategies.

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