Volume: 36, No: 2, Year: 2011  

Tour Guides as Agents of Sustainability: Rhetoric, Reality and Implications for Research

BETTY WEILER and AISE KYOUNGJIN KIM

Some authors and researchers have argued that tour guides are well-placed to foster sustainable tourism outcomes by, for example, communicating about and connecting clients with the natural and cultural environment and its values (via nature and heritage interpretation), and conveying, monitoring and role-modelling appropriate visitor behaviour in these environments. However, research that has contributed to assessing or enhancing the sustainability outcomes of tour guiding has been limited. Moreover, tour guides have had limited exposure to the use of theory, tools and techniques for optimizing the visitor experience and visitor–environment interaction within a sustainability framework. Not surprisingly, then, findings to date suggest that guides may not be fully realizing their potential to communicate and role-model sustainability in their tour content and practice. With the ever increasing pressure for tourism to enhance its cultural and ecological sustainability, this paper presents a timely examination of the theories and research that have been and can be used to harness tour guides as agents of sustainability. After examining some of the challenges that constrain research in this area, avenues for future research are presented that are both theory-driven and responsive to the realities and expectations placed on tour guides.

Keywords: sustainability; sustainable tourism; tour guide; interpretation; visitor communication.

 
 
 
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