Tourism was once perceived as the panacea for many of the problems found in developing countries. Since the 1960s, tourism has been acknowledged as a means of enhancing levels of development. During the 1960s and 1970s, the concept of development was equated with economic growth. Increases in Gross National Product (GNP) at the national level and per capita income at the individual level were used as indicators of development. Tourism was perceived as a means of increasing foreign receipts, generating income and, thereby, promoting development.
Today indicators of development have shifted away from purely economic considerations to include environmental and social concepts. At the same time, tourism is now perceived as a means of achieving not only economic development but also sustainable development.
This thesis identifies and evaluates the impact of the characteristics of small scale tourism activities in rural areas in developing countries. These characteristics are assessed in the light of sustainability criteria which have been developed in this study. These sustainability criteria identify the conditions required to achieve sustainable development in the tourism context. The aim of sustainable tourism is not only to sustain the tourism industry, but also to promote the general principles of sustainable development. Three main conditions for sustainable tourism have been identified, these are: environmental sustainability; economic sustainability; and social sustainability.
The evaluation undertaken concludes that existing small scale tourism is economically sustainable, environmentally, however, it is unsustainable. In terms of social sustainability, no definite conclusions could be arrived at.
The thesis concludes, that despite some current problems, small scale tourism in developing countries has the potential to become sustainable if it is properly planned, implemented and managed. Therefore, small scale tourism needs to be considered as one of the options to current tourism approaches.