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EJBO Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organization Studies Vol. 16, No. 1 (2011)
Does Luxury Indicate Sustainability? An Analysis of the Maldives
Blanca de-Miguel-Molina María de-Miguel-Molina Mariela Rumiche-Sosa
The environment of small tourism islands, as climate and coastal resources, make them favourable locations for luxury resorts. However, tourism can cause a threat to these islands’ local environment. Thus, the Maldives government has developed regulations to ensure a balance between resource protection and use. This study examines, from the conceptual framework of sustainable tourism, whether luxury indicates sustainability in the Maldives, that is, if there is a link between luxury and sustainability. To perform this analysis we have studied 91 deluxe and non-deluxe resorts in the Maldives using content analysis methodology. Then we have applied a Principal Components Analysis
to determine whether the resorts can be grouped according to their tourist attractions and sustainable activities. Results show that we can not affirm that luxury implies sustainability, but we might conclude that both are possible.
Small islands, Sustainable Tourism, Business Social Responsibility, Environmental Impact of Recreational Activities
Tourism is a major economic driver in many small islands (Shareef and McA- leer, 2005; Nurse and Moore, 2005; Belle and Bramwell, 2005; McElroy, 2006; Clampling and Rosalie, 2006). However, the economic and environmental aspects of tourism need to be balanced (Hend- erson, 2001) to guarantee long-term ben- efits to communities (UNWTO, 2004). While tourism can bring many economic advantages to small islands, there are many examples of rapid, unplanned tour- ist development which have produced over-reliance on this one industry, en- vironmental degradation and excessive concentration at the lower quality end of the mass tourism market. As a result, in the 1990s many islands started to remedy this situation by showing greater com- mitment to planning, upgrading their fa- cilities and developing new markets (Bull and Weed, 1999).
Both internal (tourism impact: Zu- bair et al., 2010; Belle and Bramwell, 2005; Georges, 2006) and external (cli- mate change: Briguglio, 1995; Belle and Bramwell, 2005; Roper 2005) factors can have an impact on the environment of small islands, which can reduce the attractiveness of these coastal tourism destinations and may reduce the number of people who want to visit small is- lands in tropical and subtropical regions (Nurse and Moore, 2005). In an attempt to preserve its local ecosystem, the Mal- dives signed all the major international agreements promoted by the UN Envi- ronment Programme, and the Maldives Government established specific regula- tions to develop sustainable tourism: the Environmental Protection and Preserva- tion Act of Maldives (Maldives Govern- ment, 1993), the Tourism Act of Maldives (Maldives Government, 1999) and the Regulation on the Protection and Con- servation of Environment in the Tourism Industry (Maldives Government, 2006).
Small island states should readily ac- cept on one hand that they are unlikely to be in a position to access substantial external resources to adapt their model of tourism to an eco-tourism model and on the other, that their strategies to com- bat climate change should be integrated
into existing plans and programmes (Nurse and Moore, 2005). For example, municipal solid waste is the most signifi- cant waste stream in many small islands (Georges, 2006). In this sense, small is- lands could set an example for the rest of the world (Roper, 2005).
Up until now, studies about small is- lands, including the Maldives, have not analysed every island separately. When studying sustainable tourism, indicator analyses are based on national data so as to compare different countries (Buzz- igoli, 2009). Thus, we have not found any studies that focus on the eco-friendly im- age that the resorts in the Maldives give to tourists or on whether luxury and sus- tainable tourism are compatible in the Maldives.
Thus, our paper’s goal is to examine, from a conceptual sustainable tourism framework, whether luxury indicates sustainability in the Maldives, that is, if there is a link between luxury resorts and sustainability.
Small islands and the environment
Despite the literature on these small is- lands (Figure 1), there is no common definition about them in either quantita- tive or qualitative terms. Authors refer to them as SIDS – Small Island Developing States (Nurse and Moore, 2005; Roper, 2005; Fry, 2005; Belle and Bramwell, 2005; Clampling and Rosalie, 2006; Van der Velde et al, 2007) or SITEs – Small Island Tourism Economies (Shareef and McAleer, 2005; McElroy, 2006). McElroy and Albuquerque’s definition of small is- lands (1998) included islands that have less than 500,000 inhabitants and a sur- face area of less than 2,000 km2 while McElroy (2006) included those with a population of less than one million in- habitants in a land area of less than 5,000 km2.
Scheyvens and Momsen (2008) sum- marized the features that different authors have noted in the cases of the islands that have been studied. These characteristics are related to their economic and envi- ronmental vulnerabilities (McElroy and Albuquerque, 1998), including the ef- fects on tourism activities associated with scarce natural resources and waste man-
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