Publications: Sustainable and responsible tourism

The Handbook for sustainable tourism practitioners: The essential toolbox (2021)
Anna Spenceley (editor)


This insightful Handbook brings together the practical guidance of over 50 international practitioners in sustainable tourism. Applying strong research design principles it provides a workable and rational toolkit for investigating practical challenges while accounting for modest timeframes and resources.

Expert contributors illustrate how to undertake environmental, socio-cultural and economic assessments that establish the feasibility of new tourism ventures and ascertain their impact over time. Chapters cover fundamentals including how to conduct feasibility studies and business plans, and address key topics such as visitor management and overcrowding. Offering how-to tools and step-by-step guidance, this Handbook combines academic insight with extensive professional experience to outline the best practices for an array of tasks to inform sustainable tourism planning, development and operation.

Incorporating concrete solutions employed in numerous contexts, this Handbook is crucial reading for practitioners of sustainable tourism and agencies commissioning sustainable tourism assignments who are in need of innovative methods and up-to-date guidance in the field. It will also benefit tourism scholars, particularly those investigating practical methodologies for creating sustainable tourism experiences.

  • Get the book in hardback or ebook here
    – Watch the launch events with presentations by lead authors here 
    – Read the first chapter and foreword here
The Responsible Tourist: How to find, book and get the most from your holiday (2016)
Anna Spenceley and Andrew Rylance


The Responsible Tourist gives you the tools you need to make an informed decision about your holiday. The book describes how to find a responsible destination, how to find and use online booking platforms that promote sustainable holidays, and how to find and book directly with a responsible hotel or tour operator.

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Advancing sustainable tourism: A regional sustainable tourism situational analysis: Southern Africa (2013)
Anna Spenceley

Advancing sustianable tourism africa coverAgainst the background of the importance of tourism to the economies of southern Africa, the purpose of this study was to provide a situational assessment and analysis of the sustainable tourism activities, needs and priorities of countries in Southern Africa; barriers to mainstreaming sustainability in tourism and recommendations for overcoming them; and an overview of stakeholders and funders implementing and enabling sustainable tourism initiatives in the region. The analysis was commissioned by UNEP and the Global Partnership on Sustainable Tourism.

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Responsible Wildlife Tourism in Africa (2012)
Anna Spenceley and Andrew Rylance

Leslie 2Africa is a continent famed for its rich natural heritage and diverse wildlife. However, it is essential in the development and delivery of wildlife tourism is undertaken responsibly.  So how do tourism operators manage tourism so that they do not destroy the wildlife resources that their businesses are based on? How do they balance the social and cultural needs of residents with the demands of tourists? This paper provides and overview of the key issues and principles surrounding responsible wildlife tourism. The chapter is published in “Responsible tourism: concepts, theory and practice” edited by David Leslie.

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Southern Africa, policy initiatives and environmental performance (2009)
Anna Spenceley

Leslie 3This book chapter provides an overview of the policy framework for sustainable and responsible tourism in southern Africa.  It examines the environmental impacts of nature-based tourism in the region and also review the prevalence of tourism certification programs and the underlying demand for responsible holidays. This chapter appears in “Tourism enterprises and sustainable development: International Perspectives on responses to the sustainability agenda” edited by David Leslie.

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Responsible Tourism: Critical issues for Conservation and Development (2008)
Anna Spenceley (Editor)

Screenshot 2015-12-07 at 01.09.41 pmAll too often conservation efforts are seen to be in conflict with local livelihoods and resource use. As more land and natural resources are incorporated into protected areas ‘responsible tourism’ is often invoked as a way to serve both conservation ends and support local livelihoods and promote economic development. Yet does it actually work in practice?  Employing a series of case studies by practitioners from across southern Africa – one of the testing grounds for the idea that responsible tourism can promote biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation – this book provides a comprehensive, evidence based examination of the range of issues of what works and what does not.

The book opens with an overview of the issues, examines what sustainable and responsible tourism mean in practice and how they can contribute to conservation, poverty alleviation and local economic development.   The book concludes with a detailed synthesis of the key findings with implications for policy, management and the business side of tourism.

This is an essential reference and a unique and rich source of cases studies and salient insights for professionals and academics from across conservation, development and tourism.

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Culture and community: tourism studies in Eastern and Southern Africa (2007)
Bob Wishitemi, Anna Spenceley and Harry Wells (eds)

ATL_00045_m culture communityCultures and communities in Africa both feed and fight the European tourism image of Africa. ‘The European tourist gaze’ of Africa is primarily that of a pristine, pure, ‘uncivilised’, ‘wild’, ‘close to nature’ continent with all pictorial associations and representations that come with these words, like huts, water buckets on women’s heads, far and free horizons, lions and non-urban. This is the image that sells and lures (Western) tourists to Africa. In this book scientists from Europe and Africa join hands in presenting and critically analysing cases from eastern and southern Africa that show the cultural complexities and social intricacies that lie behind the touristic representations of Africa and Africans.

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Responsible Tourism Practices by South African Tour Operators (2007)
Anna Spenceley

In 2001 a survey was published by Tearfund on the responsible business practices reported by UK-based tour operators. This survey revealed that most tour operators had examples of where their operations were making a positive difference to the lives of local people. At that time, the report noted that responsible and ethical tourism issues were not mainstream, but the move was certainly in that direction. This research for the International Centre for Responsible Tourism replicated the Tearfund study in South Africa, in order to evaluate the extent to which South African tour operators were practicing responsible tourism activities, given the context of a post-apartheid country that has considerable poverty problems, but a country that has had responsible tourism guidelines since 2002. South African tour operators attending the annual national travel trade market “Indaba” in 2006 participated in the study by completing a self-administered questionnaire. They were asked about local benefits that their business generated, donations, partnerships, impacts on the natural and cultural environment, training, policies and tourist demand for responsible tourism. This report presents the results of the study.

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Sustainable Nature-based Tourism Assessment Toolkit (SUNTAT) (2003)
Anna Spenceley

This doctoral research contributed to knowledge through the design of a methodological approach that may be used to generate a tool capable of assessing sustainable tourism in a reliable and valid way, and the production of a new Sustainable Nature-based Tourism Assessment Toolkit (SUNTAT).  The SUNTAT, provides a mechanism that goes beyond simply defining sustainable tourism, and has begun a process of tangibly and transparently measuring its characteristics in a reliable and comparable way. By developing a database of economic, environmental, and social benchmarks relevant to sustainability, the toolkit may be used to develop baseline standards and improve performance within the tourism industry. The toolkit has been tested at four safari lodges in South Africa (Ngala Private Game Reserve, Jackalberry Lodge, Sabi Sabi and Pretoriuskop Camp) and a community-based tourism enterprise in Mozambique (Covane Community Lodge). Application of this toolkit may allow researchers to define the characteristics of the triple bottom line as relevant to different environments and destinations.

Download PhD thesis here
Download SUNTAT toolkit here

Responsible Tourism Manual (2002)
Anna Spenceley, Piers Relly, Heidi Keyser, Paul Warmeant, Margaret McKenzie, Aphista Mataboge, Peter Norton, Sipho Mahlangu and Jennifer Seif

RT manual coverThis manual was developed for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and aims to provide established as well as community-based tourism enterprises with information about “responsible tourism” and the opportunities that it presents for improving business performance. Specific to South Africa, and in line with current international best practice, the manual contains a range of practical and cost-effective responsible actions available to tourism businesses and tourism associations.

The document refers to many useful sources of information and examples of best practice that can help to guide users’ implementation of responsible business activities. The contents of this manual are thus intended to initiate a process – of working responsibly, setting targets, self-monitoring and showcasing achievements to customers, staff, the tourism sector, suppliers, neighbours and other relevant parties.

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The Development of Responsible Tourism Guidelines for South Africa (2002)
 Harold Goodwin, Anna Spenceley and Bill Maynard

This papers describes the process that led to the development of responsible tourism guidelines in South Africa.

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The Development of Responsible Tourism Guidelines for South Africa (2002)
 Anna Spenceley 

Three responsible nature-based tourism assessments were implemented in South Africa during February 2002. The case studies aimed to pilot test three commercial tourism enterprises in relation to a selection of the National Responsible Tourism Guidelines for South Africa that were developed in 2001. This report presents a summary of the results of the case studies

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