Small scale entreprises

The small-scale tourism enterprises are generally considered a very important ingredient of sustainable tourism. They are often considered more sustainable, which is based on the assumption that smaller companies are more integrated into their (social, economic and natural) environment.

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However, on the level of the individual enterprise it is often not very clear what the relation is between sustainability of the enterprise and sustainable development of tourism. Not every aspect of sustainable development necessarily is beneficial for the individual small-scale tourism enterprise and not every action beneficial for the individual enterprise, necessarily is beneficial for sustainable development. Moreover, small-scale tourism businesses are often caught up in daily business. Sustainable tourism development tends to be an issue, which is far from daily reality.

Their contribution to sustainability thus often goes unnoticed. It appears more difficult for small-scale enterprises to meet formal sustainability criteria, for example criteria, which are related to hallmarks. Meeting such formal criteria becomes increasingly relevant, however. The section of the tourism industry for which sustainability is an issue is demanding better and more transparent performance on sustainability. Standardized procedures and meeting formal criteria are required to be formally accepted as sustainable enterprise.

The Retour Foundation supports small-scale tourism enterprises in contributing to sustainable tourism development. Following the above line of thinking, this can be done in two ways.

Firstly, as mere continuation of small-scale enterprises is considered beneficial for sustainable development, attention should be paid to supporting structures for small-scale enterprises. Since small scale entrepreneurs are crucial for the development of sustainable tourism it is imperative to support them in building their institutional capacity, not only for the development of their organization to deal with sustainable tourism but also for the development of new markets, new products and new forms of communication.

The second line is how small-scale enterprises can be stimulated to contribute to sustainable development in a more conscious and formal way. In our view, this latter can be achieved by making sustainable development understandable, acceptable and attractive to small-scale tourism entrepreneurs.

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