Cultural Sustainability for Tourism Businesses

In tourism, cultural sustainability embodies the crucial mission to preserve, respect, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage that defines destinations worldwide. It represents a commitment to nurturing the traditions, customs, languages, and arts that have shaped communities over generations. Embedded within the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria, cultural sustainability serves as a fundamental pillar guiding tourism businesses and destinations towards responsible and inclusive practices.

When it comes to Cultural Sustainability, it’s essential to distinguish between indicators tailored for tourism businesses and those crafted for destinations as a whole. While both sets of indicators share the overarching goal of promoting sustainable practices, they operate at different scales and focus on distinct aspects of tourism.

Criteria for Tourism Business

The criteria for tourism businesses underscore the imperative of responsible stewardship and engagement with cultural heritage, ensuring that tourism activities contribute positively to preserving local cultures, traditions, and identities. Embracing these principles allows businesses to fulfill ethical responsibilities and contribute to the long-term sustainability and resilience of tourism destinations worldwide.

1. Cultural interactions

The organization follows international and national good practices and locally agreed guidance for the management and promotion of visits to indigenous communities and culturally or historically sensitive sites to minimize adverse impacts and maximize local benefits and visitor fulfillment.

2. Protecting cultural heritage

The organization contributes to the protection, preservation, and enhancement of local properties, sites, and traditions of historical, archaeological, cultural, and spiritual significance and does not impede access to them by residents.

3. Presenting culture and heritage

The organization values and incorporates authentic elements of traditional and contemporary local culture in its operations, design, decoration, cuisine, or shops, while respecting the intellectual property rights of local communities.

4. Artifacts

Historical and archaeological artifacts are not sold, traded, or displayed, except as permitted by local and international law.

Criteria for Destination

The destination criteria comprehensively address the preservation of cultural heritage, as well as ensuring an enriching visitor experience. Under the aspect of protecting cultural heritage, the destination establishes policies and systems for evaluating, conserving, and rehabilitating cultural assets. Simultaneously, it enforces laws regulating the handling of artifacts and supports the celebration of intangible cultural heritage. Additionally, the criteria for visiting cultural sites prioritize responsible visitor management and accurate site interpretation, aiming to optimize the visitor experience while minimizing negative impacts on sensitive cultural and natural elements.

1. Protecting Cultural Heritage

The destination commits to safeguarding its rich cultural legacy through a comprehensive approach. This involves evaluating, rehabilitating, and conserving cultural assets, including historical sites and cultural landscapes. Laws are in place to regulate the proper handling of historical and archaeological artifacts, ensuring their preservation and preventing unauthorized sale or display.

Additionally, the destination supports the celebration and protection of intangible cultural heritage, such as local traditions, arts, and language, while also prioritizing the restoration of community access to natural and cultural sites. Intellectual property rights of communities and individuals are respected and upheld, contributing to the preservation of cultural identities.

2. Visiting Cultural Sites

The destination prioritizes responsible visitor management at cultural sites to optimize the visitor experience while minimizing negative impacts. A systematic approach is implemented to manage visitor flow and ensure sensitivity to the cultural and natural significance of these sites.

Guidelines for visitor behavior are provided in advance, promoting respectful interactions and adherence to cultural norms. Moreover, accurate interpretative materials are available to inform visitors of the cultural and natural significance of the sites they visit, developed in collaboration with local communities and communicated in relevant languages for both visitors and residents.

The outlined destination criteria provide a strong foundation for fostering cultural sustainability in tourism. But how do these principles translate into real-world action?

Panglipuran Village

In Bali, Indonesia’s Bangli Regency sits in the traditional village of Desa Panglipuran. It is highly known for its distinctive architectural style, gorgeous scenery, and well-preserved Balinese culture. The town has gained distinction for its dedication to preserving its traditional way of life, architecture, and customs.

The village’s ancient architecture is well-known. It is arranged in a clean, Trimandala-like pattern, with three concentric circles signifying three distinct zones with varying degrees of purity and function. The town has embraced responsible tourism practices by implementing several steps to protect its cultural assets. These initiatives seek to achieve a balance between safeguarding the environment and the local community’s well-being and enabling tourists to encounter and enjoy the distinctive village culture.

Fivelement Retreat

Located in Bali, Indonesia, Fivelements Retreat Bali is a renowned wellness retreat. It provides genuine healing experiences influenced by old Balinese customs and is dedicated to maintaining cultural traditions. The goal of the retreat is to create a serene space for spiritual growth, cultural preservation, and healing while encouraging harmony and respect between staff, visitors, and the neighborhood.

Fivelements Retreat Bali offers farm-to-table eating experiences that highlight the flavors of Bali and is dedicated to environmentally responsible methods, such as organic farming and supporting regional craftspeople. The retreat is also committed to protecting Bali’s rich cultural legacy. It gives visitors the chance to discover and enjoy Bali’s customs as well as the historic sites and sacred places that are significant to the local community.

In conclusion, prioritizing cultural sustainability in tourism is not just about preserving the past; it’s about fostering a future where tourism enriches both visitors and destinations. By embracing responsible practices, tourism businesses and destinations can ensure that cultural heritage thrives, local communities benefit, and visitors gain a deeper appreciation for the unique character of each place they explore. This collaborative approach ensures a more meaningful and sustainable tourism experience for all.


Muhammad Sofyan Hadi
Business Analyst Wise Steps Consulting