Publications & Reviews

Book Review: "The Encyclopedia of Sustainable Tourism"

Encyclopaedia of Sustainable TourismThe Encyclopedia of Sustainable Tourism

Edited by Carl Cater, Brian Garrod and Tiffany Low
CABI International, ISBN 9781780641430, October 2015, Hardback, 662 pages.

This, like many quality encyclopaedias, is a fine example of "crowdwriting", in this case a collaborative effort by 163 Contributors from 28 countries in 5 continents. This reference work was originally meant for publication in 2013, to follow the release of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria in 2012 but there were delays as at least two members of the editorial board, we are told, had to peer-review each entry. But it paid off as the style is on the one hand largely consistent and on the other hand you can refreshingly still detect subjective opinions e.g. “the world's largest concentration of tourist traps is Las Vegas”.


Over 600 cross-referenced entries are analysed in around 600 pages, covering a very wide spectrum, ranging from general notions and definitions such as “hospitality” to tourism types, acronyms, organizations, schemes, awards, publications, destinations, declarations, treaties to specialised technical aspects or more obscure concepts such as “quadruple bottom line” and “pleasure periphery”. Political pluralism is also present, with, for example, entries for both “Market Segmentation” and “Commodification”.

The Encyclopedia appropriately includes an introductory 6 page discussion of the various definitions of Sustainable Tourism and, to its credit, offers more questions than answers (aiming for a universal, one-size-fits-all definition is after all a futile exercise and in fact contrary to the very principles of sustainability). Short entries are provided for basic terms, around 100 words, medium-sized entries for more complicated entries, around 300 words and essay-length entries of around 800 words allowing more depth for for key terms and concepts. The Editors have artfully sized and resized the entries, but some could have been longer, for example the one on “Hotels”. Perhaps there should have been more entries linked to the online world of travel, for example Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Some letters, such as K, O, X and Z have very few entries. But understandably it is impossible to include everything, in one, printed volume. 

Encyclopedias are not meant to be read from start to finish - although such readers are known to exist - but those attempting to do just that will be facilitated and rewarded by over 180 carefully selected, black & white, pictures, tables and graphs, and over 30 interesting case studies (e.g. “Developing a wind farm into a sustainable tourist attraction” or “Community-based ecotourism in Cambodia”), of between 1 and 3 pages long. Many entries, including all organizational ones, include website links for further reading.

In fact trying to read the encyclopedia at random is also beneficial and thought-provoking as you are bound to find a variety of entries indirectly but closely associated with sustainable tourism, ranging from “Conflict Management” to “Human Rights” and “Social Ecology”. Other assets include a detailed Index and the extensive Bibliography (46 pages).

This is clearly a book to be adored by academic librarians, academics and all printed reference book fans due to robustness, weight (and cost!). An electronic, hyperlinked version would attract a broader audience and assist in further popularising the concept of sustainable tourism. This comprehensive work is an instant classic as it will also serve as a record of what the world understood by and hoped for Sustainable Tourism in the early 21st Century. (Disclosure: the Editor has authored some entries).