Skip to main content

Environmental, cultural, economic and socio-community sustainability: a framework for sustainable tourism in resort destinations


This paper utilizes an inclusive community based sustainability framework with a focus on a resort destination in providing a potential model for more inclusive long-range destination planning and implementation. Four diverse, but interrelated areas of sustainable tourism were specified in this framework for a more comprehensive process including ecological, cultural, economic and socio-community sustainability. In addition a strategic community driven structure, which provides direction, information and practices, serves the purpose of integrating and implementing the framework. The unique tourism destination, Noosa in Australia is used as an example of embracing sustainable tourism as a community and as part of a larger focus on the four key components of sustainability. By viewing sustainable community attributes as assets, all of which are important to manage, enhance and/or conserve, it is expected that the resort community will continue to attract visitors to feel connected and committed to experiencing its lifestyle, sense-of-community and natural features while also contributing to community sustainable stewardship and a strong tourism economy.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  • Ainsworth, D. (2007). Tourism Noosa takes out top marketing award. Noosa Tourism. 26 February 2007.

  • Armstrong, J. (1989). Yacaaba and Tomaree: A history of port stephens. Broadmeadow, Australia, Port Stephens Council.

  • Arnstein, S. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. American Institute of Planners Journal, 35(4), 216–224.

    Google Scholar 

  • Australian Government. (1997). Coastal tourism—a manual for sustainable development. Australian Government.

  • Bessette, G. (2004). Involving the community: A guide to participatory development communication. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blank, U. (1989). The community tourism industry: Imperative—the necessity, the opportunities, it’s potential. Venture: State College, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Box, R. (1998). Citizen governance: Leading American communities into the 21st century. Sage.

  • Brundtland, G. (1987). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • BTR. (2003). Australian tourism data card. Bureau of Tourism Research, Accessed on May 15, 2003.

  • Buckley, R., Pickering, C., & Weaver, D. (2003). Nature-based tourism, environment and land management. Cambridge: CABI Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Butler, R. W. (1990). Alternative tourism: Pious hope or trojan horse? Journal of Travel Research, 28(3), 40–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cato, N. (1979). The Noosa story: A study in unplanned development. Jacranda.

  • Corson, W. (1994). Changing course: An outline of strategies for a sustainable future. Futures, 26(2), 206–223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • D’Amore, L. (1993). A code of ethics and guidelines for socially and environmentally responsible tourism. Journal of Travel Research, 31(1), 64–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • de Guerre, D. W. (2002). Action research as process: The two stage model for active adaptation. Ecclectica (Vol. 2002, No. 4). Brandon University.

  • de Guerre, D. W. & Hornstein, H. (2004). Active adaptation of municipal government—an action research report. The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 9(1), 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dick, B. (2002). Action research: Action and research. Accessed 4 May 2007 from

  • Din, K. (1992). The “involvement stage” in the evolution of a tourist destination. Tourism Recreation Research, 17(1), 10–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • D-sipher (2002). Noosa 2015—a chosen future. Noosa Council.

  • Ecologically Sustainable Development Working Groups. (1991). Ecologically sustainable development working groups final report—tourism. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian Government Publishing Service.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edwards, A. (2005). The sustainability revolution—portrait of a paradigm shift. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • EMDA. (2002). Noosa tourism monitor. Economic and Market Development Advisers.

  • EMDA. (2003). Noosa tourism monitor. Economic and Market Development Advisers.

  • EMDA. (2006). Noosa tourism monitor. Economic and Market Development Advisers.

  • ERM. (2004). Noosa North shore eco-tourism portal flora and fauna survey report. Petrac: Environmental Resources Management.

  • Farrell, B. (1992). Tourism as an element in sustainable development: Hana, Maui. In V. L. Smith & W. R. Eadington (Eds.), Tourism alternatives (pp. 115–134). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farrell, B., & Runyan, D. (1991). Ecology and tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 18(1), 26–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flint, R. W, Frick, F. C., Duffy, A., Brittingham, J., Stephens, K., Graham, P., & Borgmeyer, C. (2002). Whistler, its our future—sustainit, characteristics of sustainable destination resort communities. BC, Canada: Resort Municipality of Whistler.

    Google Scholar 

  • Giampietro, M. (1994). Using hierarchy theory to explore the concept of sustainable development. Futures, 26(6), 616–625.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gloster, M. (1997). The shaping of Noosa. Noosa Blue Publishing.

  • Godfrey, K. (1996). Towards sustainability? Tourism in the Republic of Cyprus. In L. C. Harrison & W. Husbands (Eds.), Practicing responsible tourism: International case studies in tourism planning, policy and development. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grisham, V. (1999). Tupelo: The. evolution of a community. Dayton, Ohio: Kettering Foundation Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gurran, N., Squires, C., & Blakely, E. (2006). Meeting the sea change challenge: Best practice models of local & regional planning for sea change communities. National Sea Change Taskforce, University of Sydney.

  • Hall, C. (1998). Introduction to tourism: development, dimensions and issues, (3rd ed.). Australia: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, D., & Richards, G. (2000). Tourism and sustainable community development. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, D., Roberts, L., & Mitchell, M. (2004). New directions in rural tourism—new directions in tourism analysis. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heath, E., & Wall, G. (1992). Marketing tourism destinations: A strategic planning approach. Wiley.

  • Hult, M., & Lennung, S. (1980). Towards a definition of action research: A note and bibliography. Journal of Management Studies, 17(2), 242–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunter, C. (1995). On the need to re-conceptualise sustainable tourism development. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 3(3), 155–165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kahn, A. (1966). The tyranny of small decisions: market failures, imperfections, and the limits of economics. Kylos, 19, 23–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kennedy, I. (1992). Endemic tourism: A profitable industry in a sustainable environment. Towards a vision for Australia and the region. Sydney: Pacific Asia Travel Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kotler, P., Haider, D., & Rein, I. (1993). Marketing places. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krippendorf, J. (1987). The holiday makers: Understanding the impact of leisure and travel. Oxford, England: Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • McNiff. (2002). Action research for professional development. Accessed 4 May, 2007 at

  • Morgan, N., Pritchard, A., & Pride, R. (2002). Destination branding, second edition: Creating the unique destination proposition. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mose, I. (1993). Hohe Tauern National Park: Test case for “soft tourism” in the Austrian Alps? Experiences with projects in the upper Pinzgau region. Tourism Recreation Research, 18(1), 11–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mowforth, M., & Munt, I. (1998). Tourism and sustainability. New tourism in the third world. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Murphy, P. (1985). Tourism: A community approach. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • NCAHB. (2002). Noosa Community Sector Plans Arts and Heritage Sector Plan 2002–2015. Prepared by the Noosa Community Environment Board. Noosa Council.

  • NCEB. (2002a). Noosa Community Sector Plans Economic Sector Plan 2002–2015. Prepared by the Noosa Community Environment Board. Noosa Council.

  • NCEB. (2002b). Noosa Community Sector Plans Environment Sector Plan 2002–2015. Prepared by the Noosa Community Environment Board. Noosa Council.

  • NCSB. (2002). Noosa Community Sector Plans—Social Sector Plan 2002 –2015. Prepared by the Noosa Community Social Board. Noosa Shire Council.

  • NCTB. (2001). Noosa Tourism Action Plan 2011. Noosa Collaborative Tourism Board.

  • Noosa Collaborative Board. (2001). Tourism Plan 2001–2011 and Action Plan 2001–2004. Noosa Collaborative Board.

  • Noosa Council. (2003). Noosa Council Corporate Plan 2003–2007. Noosa Council.

  • Noosa Council. (2004). The Noosa River Plan. Noosa Council Strategic Planning Section. Noosa Council.

  • Noosa Council. (2005). Community grants program guidelines. Noosa Council.

  • Noosa Council. (2006). Noosa Shire—the Noosa Plan. Noosa Council.

  • Noosa Council. (2007). Review of non-financial sustainability indicators. Noosa Council.

  • Noosa Tourism (2007). Sustainable tourism. Accessed on 15 June 2007.

  • O’Brien, R. (2001). An overview of the methodological approach of action research. In R. Richardson (Ed.), Theory and practice of action research. João Pessoa, Brazil: Universidade Federal da Paraíba. (English version) Accessed 4 May 2007.

  • Odum, W. E. (1982). Environmental degradation and the tyranny of small decisions. BioScience, 32(9), 728–729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Hare, D. (2001). Articulating the heritage tourism resource in coastal towns: A case study of Noosa. In Proceedings Heritage economics: Challenges for heritage conservation and sustainable development in the 21st Century (pp. 97–107). Canberra: Australian National University.

  • O’Hare, D. (2006) Mobilising myths in paradise: The planning and development of Noosa as ‘not another Gold Coast’. In R. W. Childs Iraphne & J. Hudson Brian (Eds.), Queensland geographical perspectives (pp. 91–109). Royal Geographical Society of Queensland.

  • Pearce, G., Moscardo, G., & Ross, G. (1996). Tourism community relationships. Oxford: Pergamon.

    Google Scholar 

  • PHMS. (1988). Picnicking in the Proserpine river: Then and now. Proserpine Historical Museum Society, 6. Proserpine Historical Museum Society.

  • Pigram, J. (1990). Sustainable tourism—policy considerations. Journal of Tourism Studies, 1(2), 2–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • QPWS. (1999). Management Plan Noosa National Park. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

  • QTC. (2006). Noosa Shire Council Benchmarking Report. Queensland Treasury.

  • Queensland Government. (2007). Noosa Shire population and housing fact sheet. Department of local government, planning, sport and recreation, Queenland Government.

  • Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (Eds.) (2001). Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Richins, H., & Mathers, D. (2002). Sustainable Tourism Strategic Development Report for Noosa Shire Community. NCTB.

  • Richins, H., & Pearce, P. (2000). Influences on tourism development decision making: Coastal local government areas in Eastern Australia. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 8(3), 207–231.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Richins, H., Richins, K., Rickard, G., & Johnson, D. (2003). Noosa existing tourism product strategy. Noosa Community Tourism Board, Noosa Shire Council.

  • Richins, H., Mathers, D., Gaber, C., Richins, K., & Griffin, V. (2004). Noosa sustainable tourism draft dtrategy. Noosa Community Tourism Board. Noosa Shire Council.

  • Romeril, M. (1989). Tourism and the environment—accord or discord? Tourism Management, 10(3), 204–208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, C., Page, S., & Aicken, M. (2005). Taking tourism to the limits: Issues, concepts and managerial perspectives. Oxford: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simpson, K. (2001). Strategic planning and community involvement as contributors to sustainable tourism development. Current Issues in Tourism, 4(1), 3–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, R. (1992). Beach resort evolution: Implications for planning. Annals of Tourism Research, 19(2), 304–322.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spiller, R., & Lake, C. (2003). Investing in culture—the 4th bottom line. Ethical Investor, 22, 14–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • State of Hawaii. (2006). Department of business, economic development and tourism. Planning for Sustainable Tourism—Project Summary Report. Honolulu.

  • Stettner, A. (1993). Community or commodity? Sustainable development in mountain resorts. Tourism Recreation Research: Theme Issue Mountain Parks Resorts and Conservation, 18(1), 3–9.

  • Sullivan, H. (2001). Maximising the contribution of neighbourhoods—the role of community governance. Public Policy and Administration, 16(2), 30–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tourism Canada. (1990). Tourism stream action strategy committee produced the publication: an action strategy for sustainable tourism development. Globe ‘90. Tourism Canada. March 1990.

  • Tourism Noosa. (2007). Local government reform submission. Tourism Noosa.

  • Tourism Queensland. (2001). Facts and figures. Tourism Queensland.

  • Tourism Queensland. (2006). Sunshine Coast Regional Snapshot—Year Ended June 2006. Tourism Queenland.

  • TSC. (2002). Annual report. Tourism Sunshine Coast.

  • Uhlhorn, B. (2002). Noosa the brand. Brisbane, Australia: George Patterson Bates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vasiliauskas, E., Norris, R., Kennedy, A., Bryan, A., Richins, H. (2004). Choosing Noosa’s future: Involving the community in local governance. In A. Rainnie & M. Grobbelaar (Eds.), New Regionalism in Australia. Oxon: Ashgate Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wight, P. (1993a). Ecotourism: Ethics or eco sell? Journal of Travel Research, 31(3), 3–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wight, P. (1993b). Sustainable ecotourism: Balancing economic, environmental and social goals within an ethical framework. Journal of Tourism Studies, 4(2), 54–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright, S. (1996). Noosa experience. Kingsclear Books.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Harold Richins.

Additional information

Readers should send their comments on this paper to: within 3 months of publication of this issue.

Dr. Richins is Chair of the Graduate Program within the School of Travel Industry Management at University of Hawaii. He holds a Ph.D. from James Cook University in Australia and a B.S. and M.S. from University of Oregon. Previously he held leadership positions for over 15 years in Australian and New Zealand including Waikato University, University of Newcastle and University of the Sunshine Coast. He was also Chair of the Resort Management program at Sierra Nevada College in Nevada.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Richins, H. Environmental, cultural, economic and socio-community sustainability: a framework for sustainable tourism in resort destinations. Environ Dev Sustain 11, 785–800 (2009).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Environmental
  • Cultural
  • Economic and socio-community sustainability
  • Resort communities
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Tourism strategy