Developing Resilient Coastal Tourism Destinations


SDG 14, Life below water, requires tourism to increase economic benefits to small island destinations and least developed countries in target 14.7. For tourism, oceans are holiday destinations, a source of income, a vital protein source for human consumption, and home to millions of species. Coastal tourism is beach based tourism and recreation activities, including swimming, sun bathing and water sports, alongside other activities, taking place at the coast, and for which the proximity of the sea is advantageous. According to WTO, Coastal Tourism is based on a unique resource combination at the border of land and sea environments: sun, water, beaches, outstanding scenic views, rich biological diversity (birds, whales, and corals), sea food and good transportation infrastructure.
Destination resilience is particularly important for island destinations whose economies are supported by tourism. A resilient tourism destination is one that has the capacity to absorb disturbances, reorganize and adapt while undergoing change so as to still retain its competitiveness and stewardship, or a higher form of it. These were discussion students enagaged in with academia and industry professionals at the 28th Inter University Seminar hosted by Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya.

Emerging Issues

Dynamism of Complexity of Destination development

Destinations are not static, and their development is not linear. Destinations are dynamic, and are constantly being changed by shifts in consumer behavior, economic recession, natural disasters, internal instabilities, or even terrorism. These disturbances affect a destination at any stage as it evolves from exploration, to involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, and decline/rejuvenation phases. The evolution and disturbances in tourism, require industry practitioners to disrupt so as to build tourism models that are resilient socially, ecologically and economically.

Tourism at The Coast of Kenya

About 65% of tourism visitations to Kenya are to the coast of Kenya, and this makes coastal circuit an important region that cannot be left to decline. However, the region is currently at the decline stage, and needs interventions to turn this round. The first step is to assess its socio ecological capital for improvement. Social issues in development can affect a destination’s competitiveness and resilience. For instance, poverty is a developmental challenge, and affects communities in coastal destinations. Data by the Society for International Development (2013) on severity of poverty among the 47 counties in Kenya, shows that the top three, Tana River, Kwale and Kilifi are within the coastal tourism circuit (Figure 1). The coastal circuit is a priority area for tourism development by the government, and among the leading regions in tourism investments and revenues within Kenya.

Figure 1: Severity of Poverty in Kenya. (Society for International Development – East Africa, 2013)

Coastal tourism relies mostly on all climate and natural factors, i.e sun, sand, sea, and a disruption in any affects coastal destinations. The coast of Kenya also faces pollution challenges, and this threatens marine life. These factors can be linked to the declining status of Kenya’s coastal tourism. Collaboration is key for stakeholders to address these issues.

What makes a destination resilient?

Resilient destinations have strong leadership with a vision and sustainable management strategy. They are able to manage & mitigate conflicts over resource use, to drive forward change, to promote stakeholder cohesiveness and to facilitate market engagement.
Such destinations sustainably manage resources. They are keen on protection, conservation & preservation of Natural and Cultural resources. They uphold qualified human resource with quality jobs and support inclusive supply chains.
Resilient destinations have stakeholders who collaborate, have strong partnerships, and pool their resources together to achieve a common destination goal. To them, competition is secondary. They also have flexible systems to adapt to change, and have good governance in terms of management and implementation.
Awareness and ability to harness market systems are key components of a resilient destination. This allows understanding of the complexity of destination management and having the capacity to innovatively capitalize on changes in the tourism market to create market based offerings. Strong research and development institutions build resilience in destinations. A learning attitude about tourism development and quality improvement helps to keep up with changes in the tourism market. This requires the ability to reflect critically and make adjustments to existing systems of thinking, corporation, policy and/or regulation

Socio ecological aspects of a resilient destination

A destination can be resilient to social and ecological disturbances by;
• Making optimal use of environmental resources maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural resources and biodiversity
• Respecting the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities.
• Ensuring viable, long-term economic operations, and contributing to poverty alleviation.
• Minimizing the load on the environment
• Strengthening on local aspects
• Promote use of the sites to increase health and well-being
• Promoting growth and job creation in the local economy

Economic resilience in coastal tourism

Three quarters of all large cities in the world are located along coasts, and the size of these cities will increase with global population increase. Coastal tourism plays a crucial role in harnessing the potential of an economy and improving living standards of coastal communities.
Accommodation is a crucial supply in coastal tourism, yet it may have damaging effects to destination communities and environment. Accommodation sector at coastal destinations contributes to biodiversity loss due to build infrastructure; may have overconsumption of energy and water, and mismanagement of food resources; pollutes air; has economic leakages where massive benefits are retained by foreign Multi-national corporations; may offer seasonal, low wage and high rotation jobs.
Tour operators act as intermediaries in connecting different suppliers in the tourism supply chain, combining various elements of a trip required to meet traveler’s needs. They can therefore play a lead role in sustainability of tourism by choosing suppliers that have proven record of promoting positive social, economic and environmental impacts of coastal tourism. Tour operators can also work with suppliers who have clear sustainability policies.
Creation of a resilient destination is based on shared value, i.e. ensuring that economic benefits from the sustainable use and management of tourism resources are equitably distributed in the entire value chain. Travelers are conscious about their travel impacts to destinations, and will avoid destinations that do not promote responsible tourism. One possible way to build resilient coastal destinations is by mainstreaming sustainability certifications and environmental initiatives for resorts and hotels.


Some models for tourism management in destinations are no longer tenable, and their implications can be global. We must interrogate all tourism models through research if we are to achieve resilient destinations. Coastal tourism can stimulate sustainable development if properly planned and managed. This will in turn promote sustainable tourism that can contribute to improved livelihoods, cultural heritage and natural resource protection, and promote international understanding. Sustainability means we can all benefit economically today, tomorrow and in years to come.


Society for International Development – East Africa. (2013). Exploring Kenya’s Inequality: Pulling apart or Pooling together. Nairobi

Presentations by:


Let’s Go Travel Uniglobe

Students from Pwani University

Faculty from Pwani University

Universities in Attendance

Pwani University-Hosts
Technical University of Mombasa

Nairobi University

Total number of Students in attendance: 178

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