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Do Socially Responsible Tour Operators Improve Tourism Sustainability? The Case of Nairobi, Kenya

Simon M. Thiong’o, Buke Basbuna,

Bob E.L. Wisbitemi, and Nebemiab Kiprutto

1. Introduction

According to the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, tourism is a very dynamic industry, contributing 5% of the world GDP and 6-7% of the working places only from direct activities. Taking into account the indirect and induced effects generated by the strong multiplier character of the tourist industry, the GDP contribution is 9%. The great contribution made by the tourism industry has necessitated that its stakeholders be keen in their operations so as to maintain and boost further the benefits associated by efficient tourism.

Tour operators play a leading role in the travel and tourism industry by developing tourism products and offering them to tourists (Budeanu, 2005). Over the past decades, many tour operators have incorporated operational strategies in operations that have in turn contributed to sustainable tourism development. According to Holloway (2010), tour operators are tagged with the responsibility of providing convenient package options for tourists, and to combine these components into a tour. Tourism sustainability has, nonetheless, posed a great problem in the industry and has also contributed to the little progress experienced today.

Buhalis (2001), however, notes that effective role-play by tour operators as one of the stakeholders in the tourism industry can create sustainable tourism development and in the long run help to curb the problem of unsustainability. Globally, many theories (corporate public policy, business ethics, and stakeholder theory/management, humanistic) have been put forward relating to the roles played by tour operators in sustainable tourism development. The theories seem to suggest that these roles do not enhance sustainable tourism development, while others have suggested that tour operators’ functions are best positioned to enhance sustainable tourism (Mitchell &c Ashley, 2010). A proper balance of the roles played by tour operators is a more appropriate way to curb the issues of unsustainability in tourism development because it offers a means of solving the existing problem of sustainable tourism.

Dahiru (2011) noted that in Africa, the poor performance of tour operators has been linked to tourism sustainability-related challenges. For example, the emergence of an increasingly sophisticated market niche— more experienced, well-educated and aware of what competition has to offer (“children of information age”)—has brought about the challenge of changing travel patterns from destination-oriented to experience- oriented in South Africa. This has affected the general performance of South African tour operators and the tourism industry, despite the fact that the country possesses incredible tourist attraction sites and good infrastructural facilities.

Regionally, existing literature has not been able to determine the influence of tour operators’ activities on sustainable tourism development. Locally, the creation of sustainable tourism through efficient role-play by tour operators has not borne much fruit as many tour operators are negligent and lag behind in carrying out their roles and effect on sustainable tourism development. Omollo (2012) has noted that attainment of sustainable tourism development by many tour operators in Nairobi is attributed to the professional management of the operators, but Dent (2012) has argued that the creation of sustainable tourism development is dependent entirely on the roles of key stakeholders, especially the ministry of tourism, in curbing the problem of unsustainability in the industry. Most tour- operating companies in Kenya have relied heavily on seasonal peaks to grow, which has proven fatal to business because of a lack of stability. This, therefore, implies the need to undertake a carefully considered mode of assessing the role of tour operators and their effect on sustainable tourism development despite perceived perceptions associated with its seasonal nature. For instance, in Kenya, tour operators such as Vintage Africa Ltd, among others, work with local communities to manage wastes and emissions (Akama, 1997). This has led to conservation of tourist attraction sites which has greatly contributed to sustainable tourism development.

Generally, tourism has been used by many countries as a panacea to development (Cheng & Zhang, 2020; Thiong’o, 2019; Maroto-Martos, Voth & Pinos-Navarrete, 2020). However, decades of developing tourism has led to the realization that it is a double-edged sword—containing seeds of its own destruction (Ahmad, Draz, Su & Rauf, 2019; Gossling, 2003; Mishra &c Kestwal, 2019). Proper management and planning is, therefore, required to maximize its benefits and minimize its negative impacts (Mayne, 1997). Given the importance of tourism in local and global economies, there is need to ensure that the base resources for tourism and the benefits accrued are sustained (Ristic, Vukoicic 8c Milincic, 2019; Ribot, 2004).

Most tour operators point a blaming finger on the failure of tourism stakeholders to promote sustainable tourism as they attempt to curb problems associated with managing the tourism industry (Kwena, 1997). Proven facts are lacking as a way to improve the tourism industry. It can be argued that the unavailability of such information potentially deprives operators of the information they need to curb this problem. Omollo (2012) notes that inefficiency by the tour operators prevents the tourism industry from creating an enabling environment for further developments.

Tour operators play a leading role in the travel and tourism industry by developing tourism products and offering them to tourists (Wall- Reinius, Ioannides &c Zampoukos, 2019; Drobotova, Krasnomovets, Radchenko &c Romanov, 2019). Thus, they should be at the forefront in ensuring best practice in destinations. The role played by tour operators to curb unsustainable tourism has, however, been insufficient and at best, the existing literature does not show the link between tour operators’ roles (particularly corporate social responsibility [CSR]) and sustainable tourism development. This deficiency prompted this study.

2. Literature Review

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to positively affect the environment, society, and economy (Lisse, 2010). Tourism can involve primary transportation to a general location, accommodation, entertainment, recreation, and shopping, among others. It can be related to travel for leisure, gastronomy, business, and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) (Peeters & Dubois, 2010). Thus, there is a broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate (Peeters et al., 2004).

Without travel, there is no tourism. The concept of sustainable tourism development, therefore, is tightly linked to a concept of sustainable mobility (Hoyer, 2000). Two relevant considerations are tourism’s reliance on fossil fuels and tourism’s effect on climate change—72% of tourism’s CO, emissions come from transportation, 24% from accommodation, and 4% from local activities (Peeters & Dubois, 2010). However, when considering the impact of all greenhouse gas emissions from tourism and that aviation emissions occur at high altitudes where their effect on climate is amplified, aviation alone accounts for 75% of tourism’s climate impact (Gossling, Hall, Peeters and Scott, 2010).

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) considers an annual increase in aviation fuel efficiency of 2% per year through 2050 to be realistic. By 2050, with other economic sectors having greatly reduced their CO, emissions, tourism is likely to generate 40% of global carbon emissions (Cohen, Higham, Peters and Gossling, 2014). The main cause is an increase in the average distance traveled by tourists, which for many years has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of trips taken.

Sustainable transportation is now established as the critical issue confronting a global tourism industry that is palpably unsustainable (Gos- sling et al., 2010).

Sustainable tourism development is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, and biological diversity and life support systems (McIntyre, 1993). Sustainable tourism products are those that are operated in harmony with the local environment, communities, and cultures so that these become the beneficiaries and not the victims of tourism development (Hoyer, 2000).

The Prosper model developed by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) uses an indicators approach to assess the economic, social, and environmental value of tourism in a destination. The STCRC kit for Promoting Awareness of the Value of Tourism is an important tool for communicating with stakeholders. The components include: industrial contribution—business investment; social contribution—community participation, civic pride; municipal contribution—infrastructure management, urban planning; cultural contribution—maintenance of regional image, heritage, and cultural resources; capacity contribution— partnership establishment, data collection, cooperative ventures; environmental contribution—preservation of natural environments; and tourist contribution—visitor numbers and satisfaction.

2.1 Sustainability Theory and Its Humanistic Perspectives

This study was guided by the sustainability theory which employed the use of three models: the economic model, the ecological model, and the political model (Griessler Sc Littig, 2005; UNDESA, 2007a, 2007b). The theory tends to prioritize and integrate social responses to environmental and cultural problems (Barry, 2007). The economic model looks to sustain natural and financial capital; the ecological model looks into biological diversity and ecological integrity; and the political model looks into social systems that realize human dignity.

The economic model as developed by Solow (1993) proposes that sustainability ought to be thought of as an investment problem, in which we must use returns from the use of natural resources to create new opportunities of equal or greater value. From Solow’s classical viewpoint, social spending on the poor or on environmental protection, while perhaps justifiable on other grounds, takes away from this investment and so competes with a commitment to sustainability (Bauman, Bohannon Sc O’Brien, 2017). With another view of capital, however, the economic model might look different. If we do not assume that “natural capital” is always interchangeable with financial capital, and other proponents of ecological economics, argues Herman (1996), then sustaining opportunity for the future requires strong conservation measures to preserve ecological goods and to keep economies operating within natural limits. These considerations complement an ecological model. From a different perspective of the relation between opportunity and capital, spending on the poor might be regarded as a kind of investment in the future. According to Amartya (1999), we create options for the future by creating options for today’s poor because more options will drive greater development.

The ecological model by Olson (1994) proposes the sustainment of ecological integrity and biological diversity. That is, rather than focusing on opportunity as the key unit of sustainability, they focus directly on the well-being of the world. From an anthropocentric viewpoint, the pertinent naturally occurring resources, along with regenerative processes and ecological systems on which human systems depend, should be supported and especially, sustained (Bauman et al., 2017; Tollefsen, 2011). Further, and according to Tollefsen (2011), species and ecological systems ought to be sustained for their intrinsic value, and as generators of creatures with intrinsic value, respectively (eco-centrism).

The political model as asserted by Agyeman (2005) proposes sustainment of social systems that realize human dignity. Additionally, there is a focus on sustaining the environmental conditions for a sustainable human life—in which local and global environmental problems jeopardize human dignity (UNECOSOC, 2008; Scoones, 2016). Essentially, this model focuses on and advocates for environmental and civic justice, although the model’s pragmatic approach in regard to keeping the sustainability debate alive is constrained by the fact that ecological and economic quality and quantity is regulated by the political system in play (Jenkins, 2009).

Summarily, in addressing tourism sustainability, decision-makers and tourism stakeholders need to constantly be mindful of the complementarities and relationships among these three distinct yet interconnected pillars. It is also necessary that all players are sustainable-development conscious, cultured, and compliant. This is why Hoffman (2000) asserts, “Sustainable development will not become a genuine concern until the business environment becomes a driver of the social equity issues inherent in the sustainability agenda.”

In relation to this study, the theory, therefore, can be used to show that sustainability is an investment problem. For tour operators to generate “supportable tourism”, they should prioritize and integrate social responses to environmental, economic, and cultural (and political) problems. They should also focus on effective role-play so as to promote the good and positive aimed at harnessing sustainable tourism development. Moreover, while tourism has positive implications for societies, the industry raises many concerns. Given this, actors in the industry should embrace a “slow tourism” configuration (Vails, Mota, Vieira &

Santos, 2019)—that which is capable of enhancing responsible practice on social-cultural environments within which they operate (Miretpastor, Peiro-Signes, Segarra-Ona & Mondejar-Jimenez, 2015). This is based on the understanding by Gray, Kouhy and Lavers (1995) that the environment has a limited natural capital. Thus, an environmentally (and therefore socially) sustainable society protects and ensures that the systems are kept running for the better good of everyone. This is particularly so in developing countries (Kenya in this case) where the relative importance and reliance on natural resources is greater (Cistulli, 2002)—an implication that the relationship between the environmental resources base and welfare is pertinent.

Moreover, tourism enterprises (tour operators in this instance) influence the environment within which they operate (Niedziolka, 2014). There is, therefore, a general expectation that they should not only influence economic growth but also generally contribute to the welfare of societies (social responsiveness)—directly or indirectly (Kornienko, 2017). Essentially, there should be a mutual trade-off between tour operators and the society through doing what is generally acceptable and morally right—that is, humanism (Caton, 2016).

There could, therefore, be a universal understanding that “good” practice for tour operators (and other tourism stakeholders) ought to be anchored in an established and reflective approach that represents the actual nature of giving back—a humanistic, common-sense approach— that is, social responsibility (DeCarvalho, 1991; Caton, 2016; Goldstein, 1986). This could ultimately ensure responsible human behavior (Men- sah &c Ricart Casadevall, 2019).

2.2 Establishing the Place of Corporate Social Responsibility in Sustainable Tourism Development

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)—used here to refer to the contribution towards societal goals and practices—is a valuable tool for creating reputational capital (Fisher, 2004). Tour operators accepting CSR means acknowledging that they have a responsibility not only to their owners and shareholders but also to society (Kornienko, 2017).

According to studies such as Font and Cochrane (2005) and Khairat and Maher (2012), among others, tour operators have in the past, tended to neglect their socio-environmental responsibilities, citing as justification that they are mere intermediaries, and that destination impacts are a local authority responsibility. While these stakeholders clearly share the responsibility, most tour operators now understand that it is precisely because they are intermediaries (working closely with tourists and tourism service suppliers) that they can have an important impact on management of destination resources by influencing consumer choices, suppliers, and the development patterns of destinations (Curtin & Busby, 1999;

Styles, SchOnberger & Galvez Martos, 2013; Dent, 2012). Tour operators, thus, need to incorporate CSR in their operations at all times so as to boost industry sustainability. Besides, their practice of CSR equates to a good corporate image and reputation (Foss, 1997).

Rogovysky and Dunfee (2002) posit that the tourism business, just like any other business, will be spurred to adopt CSR in order to fulfill a strategic-moral need. Lavelle (2002) agrees with this and adds that CSR can be used by tour operators as a strategic tool if the program is aligned to the tour operator’s goal, resulting in a competitive edge over competitors (corporate social performance) in the same way that price differentials can be used (Rangan, Chase & Karim, 2012). He further argues that where CSR is successfully woven into tour operators’ goals, the effect of enhancement on the brand name cannot be challenged. For Picket (2008), this is a smarter way of gaining mileage from public relations because it results in a win-win situation, with the tour-operating company being viewed more favorably by both society at large and shareholders.

Viewpoint (2008) further argues that the management of tour- operating firms can be forced to adopt CSR to remain relevant. This is fulfilling the moral goal, by doing what is right in the eyes of society (“humanism”). Doing what is right puts a burden of adoption of CSR on tour operators because they are perceived as taking from society and should, therefore, give back to society. Additionally, they may be better suited to deal with numerous societal problems than governments or non-governmental organizations as they operate in competitive markets and develop unique competencies (Fernando, 2007). They can also have a large local-community knowledge base, which may not be matched by governments or non-governmental organizations. Smith (2007) limits this capability mainly to large tour-operating firms, as small tour-operating firms tend to have limited resources and, hence, limited capacity.

In reference to the theory, and in addressing the study question, the following conditions were assumed to be true for the study to be undertaken:

i. That the tour operators are in a position to enhance sustainable tourism development by the roles they play in the tourism industry.

ii. That these tour operators have in the past encountered the challenge of unsustainable tourism and are aware of its impact on their business, hence are ready to employ sustainable tourism development strategies to curb this.

iii. That the tour operators value tourism and are keen to promote it so as to curb unsustainable tourism.

The hypothesis for the study was, therefore: “There is no significant relationship between Tour operators’ practice of Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable tourism development in Nairobi County.”

  • 3. Methods
  • 3.1 Research Design

The study adopted a survey research design because of its ability to collect varied responses from the respondents, with an aim of properly understanding the issues under study. This implies that, through the survey study, the researchers were able to examine in detail the contribution of tour operators and their effect on sustainable tourism development.

Survey study research excels at bringing understanding of a complex issue or object and can extend experience or add strength to what is already known through previous research (Patton, 2002). According to Kerlinger (1973), descriptive studies are not only restricted to fact finding but may also be used in the formulation of important principles of knowledge and, hence, the applicability of survey method.

The target population consisted of 1,440 employees of tour-operator firms and the Kenya Association of Tour Operators representatives (Table 3.1).

3.2 Sampling Procedures

The study adopted a systemic sampling method to draw a sample of the desired number of tour operators to include in the study. All tour operators in Nairobi County were computer generated in alphabetical order, for a total of 60. The third tour operator from the existing list was picked systematically, hence drawing 20 tour operator firms in Nairobi:

The study employed simple random sampling for the employees and a purposive sampling technique for KATO employees and managers. This technique enabled the researchers to sample one KATO representative, four managers of tour-operator firms, and 298 employees of tour- operator firms.

Table 3.1 Target population


Number of employees

KATO employees


Managers of KATO'-registered tour firms


Employees of KATO-registered tour firms




Source: Tourism Regulatory Authority (2016)

The sample size of the study was calculated using the following formula as recommended by Fisher (1998) and Fan and Thompson (2001):

Where: nf = Sample size (when the population is less than 10,000).

n = Sample size (when the population is more than 10,000); 384 (a constant)

N = Estimate of the population size; 85

3.3 Sample Size for the Respondents

The desired sample size, therefore, comprised 303 respondents (Table 3.2).

3.4 Data Collection Procedures

The researchers obtained a research permit from Kenya’s National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) before proceeding to data collection. After participation in the study was confirmed, a date was set and appointment booked with the organization authorities as well as the study participants. Questionnaires were administered to the employees of the tour-operating firms, utilizing a five-point Likert scale—Strongly Agree (SA), Agree (A), Neutral (N), Disagree (D), and Strongly Disagree (SD)—which was assigned scores of between 5 and 1, respectively. This allowed the researchers to draw conclusions based on comparisons made from the responses.

The researchers then conducted face-to-face interviews with the managers of the tour firms and KATO representatives. Interviews eliminated any sources of bias that could be associated with the use of questionnaires— there were opportunities to clarify any misunderstandings through

Table 3.2 Sample frame of the respondents
















Managers of tour firms










Simple random sampling




Source: Authors’ own elaboration probing (respondents also had freedom in answering). The assembled information was collected for analysis.

3.5 Description of Data Analysis Procedure

Qualitative analysis was done thematically to analyze data collected for interview schedules. The strength of qualitative research is its ability to provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue (Mugenda & Mugenda, 2003; Denzin, 2000). It is also effective in identifying intangible factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, gender roles, ethnicity and religion, whose role in the research issue may not be readily apparent (Denzin, 2000).

Quantitative techniques were done using descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics involved the use of frequencies, percentages, and means, while inferential statistics involved the use of the following regression model:

XI: Corporate social responsibility

X2: Community involvement

X3: Participating in responsible tourism

X4: Participation in developing tourism policies

p0: Constant term

p: Beta coefficients

e: Error term

  • 4. Data Analysis, Presentation, and Interpretation
  • 4.1 Overview

Targeting 1,440 respondents, the study sought to investigate CSR as the responsibility of tour operators and its effect on sustainable tourism in Nairobi, Kenya. From the possible sample size of 303, the study managed to collect date from 287 respondents. This translated to a 94.7% response rate, which was considered sufficient for data analysis.

4.2 Background Information of the Respondents

Understanding study respondents’ social and economic demographics is critical in conceptualizing the nature of, and characteristics of respondents, which may influence results. Through analysis frequency and percentages, the study identified the background information of the respondents, including age bracket and level of experience in the industry. The findings are displayed in Table 3.3.

Table 3.3 Background information of the respondents





Less than 30 years



31-40 years



41-50 years



More than 51 years






Length of experience

Less than 3 years



4-7 years



8-11 years



More than 11 years






Source: Authors’ own elaboration

The findings regarding age bracket of the respondents showed that 21.3% were younger than 30 years, 28.2% were between 31-40 years, 32.1% were between 41-50 years, and 18.5% were older than 51 years. This implies that the researchers were able to avoid bias in terms of age group by collecting data across different age groups and representing the opinions of valid age groups.

Results regarding length of experience of the respondents indicated that 18.5% had worked fewer than three years, 37.3% between four and seven years, 33.8% between eight and 11 years, and 10.5% had worked for more than 12 years in the industry. This implies that the majority of the respondents had served between four and seven years, indicating that employee retention was high and turnover minimal, thereby maintaining a competent and experienced human resource base—an important aspect in this study. The study collected varied opinions, and the responses were deemed a true (or at least fair) representation of the happenings at the institutions, without influences resulting from being with an institution for too long or being relatively new to the organization.

  • 4.3 Analysis of the Study Objective
  • 4.3.1 Effect of Corporate Social Responsibility on Enhancing Sustainable Tourism

The study first sought to determine the reliability of the variables of corporate social responsibility; the results are given in Table 3.4.

Reliability results indicated that the variables had a Cronbach’s coefficient alpha value of 0.805 which was above 0.70; therefore, the study variables were valid for analysis.

Table ЗА Reliability results of corporate social responsibility

Reliability statistics

Cron bach’s alpha

Number of items



Source: Authors’ own elaboration

Table 3.5 Effect of corporate social responsibility on sustainable tourism

Corporate social responsibility


Ensures tour operators participate in the rehabilitation of tourist attraction sites



  • 287
  • 100
  • 3.47
  • 69.4

Enables tour operators to fund tourism-marketing activities



  • 287
  • 100
  • 3.44
  • 68.8

Ensures tour operators provide quality services in the tourism sector



  • 287
  • 100
  • 3.35
  • 67

Ensures tour operators reach out to their surrounding society



  • 287
  • 100
  • 3.51
  • 70.2

Source: Authors’ own elaboration

The results (Table 3.5) indicated that 69.4% of the respondents were of the opinion that CSR ensured that tour operators participate in the rehabilitation of tourist attraction sites; 68.8% were of the opinion that SCR enabled tour operators to fund tourism-marketing activities; and 67% were of the opinion that CSR ensured that tour operators provide quality services in the tourism sector.

Further, 70.2% of the respondents were of the opinion that CSR ensured that tour operators reached out to their surrounding society. This implies that the society/environment affects the creation of a sustainable tourism industry.

These findings are in line with the results by Sharma and Talwar (2005) who acknowledge that the tourism business world is dynamic, with tour- operating companies compelled to keep up with changes taking place in the environment. This is further supported by a study by Viewpoint (2008) who presents social responsibility as a critical element to tour- operator activities—that the society would expect them to return benefits accrued from their activities to maintain their relevance.

Results on whether CSR increases participation in rehabilitation of tourist attraction sites (Figure 3.1) indicates that 54% of the respondents agreed with the opinion, whereas 46% disagreed. This indicates that the majority confirms that CSR impacts the increase in participation of the rehabilitation of tourist attraction sites.

Corporate social responsibility increases participation in rehabilitation of tourist sites

Figure 3.1 Corporate social responsibility increases participation in rehabilitation of tourist sites

Corporate social responsibility helps fund tourism-marketing activities in creating sustainable tourism

Figure 3.2 Corporate social responsibility helps fund tourism-marketing activities in creating sustainable tourism

Results on whether CSR funds tourism-marketing activities in creating sustainable tourism showed that 52.3% of the respondents were in agreement, while 47.7% were not in agreement with the opinion (Figure 3.2).

Research findings on the importance of CSR in creating sustainable tourism indicated that the majority (39.7%) of the respondents agreed to the opinion that it attracts and retains investors, 30.7% agreed that it increases creativity, 17.8% agreed that it boosts tourism engagement, and 11.8% were of the opinion that it improves public image (Figure 3.3). This implies that through practicing CSR, measures of enhanced tourism sustainability in destinations (in this

Importance of corporate social responsibility in improving sustainable tourism

Figure 3.3 Importance of corporate social responsibility in improving sustainable tourism

case—investments creation, public image, engagement, and creativity) are positively influenced.

4.4 Test of Hypotheses

The following was the hypothesis of the study and the conclusion drawn after testing:

H0: There is no significant effect of tour operators’ corporate social responsibility on sustainable tourism development in Nairobi County.

The results of the study indicated that there was a significant effect between CSR and sustainable tourism development (p = 0.000); the study, therefore, rejected the null hypothesis (and accepted its alternative form).

4.5 Discussion of the Interview Schedule

The study employed interview schedules drawn from the constructs/vari- ables of the study objectives. Face-to-face conversations with research respondents—managers of the selected tour-operating firms and KATO representatives—were conducted.

The responses from the interviews demonstrated a direct positive correlation between tourism sustainability and the variables. There was a general observation that tour operators’ contribution to societal needs and processes could enhance sustainability of tourism within Nairobi, and by extension to other tourist destinations.

Tour firms have embraced CSR by fulfilling this strategic goal/moral need that they are better placed to deal with than other organizations.

There was also agreement with the observation that CSR could be used by tour operators as a strategic tool if the program is aligned to tour operators’ goals, resulting in a competitive edge over others in the same way that price can be used successfully to weave into tour operators’ objectives. In this case, a tour-operating company can also become a trendsetter among competitors seeking to use it as a benchmark on corporate social responsibility, hence effect, on sustainable tourism development.

5. Study Limitations

This study was limited by the following factors: the research was self- financed, therefore budget limited; the sample of respondents on which the results were based may have been influenced by personal perceptions, beliefs, and experiences, leading to bias; and questionnaires were written only in English. This last factor was a limitation in that respondents who spoke a different language could not directly communicate in English— translation was required in this case.

6. Conclusion and Recommendations

Based on the background literature and from the findings of the study, it can be concluded that corporate social responsibility is an important aspect in sustainable tourism development and could be used by tourism stakeholders as a tool for gaining competitive edge.

Tourism sustainability should be a big part of a tour operator’s (and by extension, other stakeholders in tourism) marketing strategies and relations with its customers, as well as its partnerships and presence in destinations. In enhancing destination sustainability, tour operators could also participate in rehabilitation of tourist attraction sites. This is because tourism is not always a clean business and at times leads to degradation of resources. These responsibilities are now being acknowledged by pioneering tour operators and welcomed by their markets and other stakeholders.

Stakeholders in the tourism sector should collaborate to create practical tools for enhancing sustainability, including action plans and strategies at the local, national, regional, and international levels utilizing multi-stakeholder processes. This would potentially ensure that tourism sustainability is firmly grounded in industry practices and that responsibilities are clearly defined and complementary toward the common societal good.

Finally, the study recommends additional research into other tourism stakeholders, including the local community and government and private actors, among others, to validate these results. There is also a need to test other potential indicators of tourism sustainability other than stakeholder involvement. Nonetheless, the study is an important pacesetter in conceptualizing tour operator roles.


1. Kenya Association of Tour Operators—the official registered body for tour operators in Kenya.


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