Responsible Tourism and Poverty: A Case of Sandals Resorts International

Responsible Tourism and Poverty: A Case of Sandals Resorts International

Gaunette Sinclair-Maragh (University of Technology, Jamaica)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3117-3.ch003


The chapter provides a review of the principles of responsible tourism and its propensity to alleviate poverty. It presents a case study on the responsible tourism initiatives by Sandals Resorts International, a hotel company operating in a small developing island state in the Caribbean. The aim is to determine how these practices can help to alleviate poverty; both relative and absolute poverty in the countries in which they co-exist. Analysis of the case indicates that Sandals Resorts International through the Sandals Foundation embraces responsible tourism. This is manifested through its corporate social responsibility thrust to educate, build and protect the Caribbean, under the three pillars of community, education, and environment. According to the literature, the successful delivery and implementation of responsible tourism has the propensity to alleviate poverty in communities in which hospitality / tourism businesses operate. This is supported by the normative approach of the stakeholder theory which explains the moral and philosophical guidelines of an organization.
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Porter and Kramer (2006) argue that businesses need to be more socially responsible. For many years, this issue has been associated more with the manufacturing industry than with the service industry and has likewise gained much more research attention (Utting, 2002; Welford, 2000). It therefore, means that studies of the service sectors are lagging behind in this area and more scholarly work needs to be done to assess the practice of being responsible in this industry. The shift for tourism businesses to be socially responsible is perceived to be slow since it is purported that only 2 percent of them act in a socially responsible manner (Spenceley, 2007; Van der Merwe & Wocke, 2007). This is a concern as the tourism industry has a high impact on the very surroundings in which it operates (Sinclair-Maragh, 2010). According to Henderson (2007), the tourism industry has a special duty to society since it constitutes features of its product. It is therefore, becoming more important for businesses in the tourism industry to give greater attention to the environs in which they operate (George & Frey, 2010).

This analysis extends beyond the general principles of corporate social responsibility to examine tourism within the context of being responsible to society and how this thrust can alleviate poverty. Responsible tourism is imperative as advocates around the world including governments are becoming more aware of the impacts of business operations on the social, economic and ecological frameworks of nations. Consequently, they are developing and executing regulations that will encourage these organizations to be more responsible in carrying out their activities.

Responsible tourism is described as the manifestation of corporate social responsibility by the tourism sector (Chettiparamb & Kokkranikal, 2012). The practice of responsible tourism is usually associated with the sustainability-oriented alternative offerings to mass tourism. These alternatives aim at conserving the use of the environment, protecting the integrity of local culture, and encouraging community welfare and socioeconomic development (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2009). They include ecotourism, green tourism and community-based tourism (Chettiparamb & Kokkranikal (2012).

The incorporation of poverty alleviation in this analysis is important as many developing countries do not benefit from the potentials of globalization (UNWTO, 2016). According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization / UNESCO (2016), poverty is explained within the context of either being absolute or relative. Absolute poverty is measured in terms of the amount of money needed to meet the basic needs of individuals such as food, clothing and shelter. Relative poverty is measured in relation to the economic status of other members of the society where people are considered to be poor if they fall below the existing standards of living in a given societal context.

As a global economic activity, tourism realized US$1.5 trillion in exports from international tourism in 2014. Its total contribution to the world’s Gross Domestic Product in 2015 was US$7.3 billion (World Travel and Tourism Council / WTTC, 2016). Tourism therefore, has the propensity to improve the standard of living of local residents as well as eliminate poverty (Roe, Ashley, Page & Meyer, 2004). By extension, responsible tourism will place greater emphasis on doing so by way of pro-poor tourism initiatives. The purpose of these initiatives is to expand opportunities as well as create benefits for the poor (Cattarinich, 2001) through supply linkages, training opportunities, employment and job creation (Department of International Development / DFID, 1999).

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