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‘socio-ecological quality’

The businesses operating in the tourism sector mainly consist of SMEs, as widely stressed by the tourism literature (Thomas et al., 2011). Such organizations somehow typify the sector and can be vital to job creation (Wanhill, 1999), competitiveness (Novelli et al., 2005), economic development (Andriotis, 2002), and sustainable tourism (Fuller et al., 2005; Horobin & Long, 1996). Because of the significant growth rates and dissemination in a specific geographical area, several papers (Holden, 2008; De Freitas, 2009; Battaglia et al., 2012) have demonstrated that tourist businesses may be considered as extremely polluting, and can generate complex social-cultural impacts. The impact of tourist flows is significant at the local level due to the cumulative effects produced by tourism businesses and the close relationship between business and other local actors. Evaluating the positive impacts and limiting the negative effects at social and environmental levels, represents the heart of sustainable tourism for businesses. The link between this specific sector and the local natural and social contexts occurs at two levels. The reason for protecting the local natural and historicalcultural heritage is that they represent the main sources of profit for local tour © SYMPHONYA Emerging Issues in Management, n. 3, 2017 symphonya.unimib.it Edited by: ISTEI – University of Milan-Bicocca ISSN: 1593-0319 125 operators. However, the possibly excessive protection and safeguarding may result unappreciated by tourists, with a negative impact on the sector. By looking for a good balance between ‘protection’ and ‘accessibility’ is the contribution that business can make to sustainable tourism. However, finding such a balance is not the only target for a tourism business. Indeed, in defining sustainable pathways of growth, it is necessary to balance the complexity of sustainability-related issues with criteria and standards of comfort and hospitality, as well as traditional efficiency goals. Efficiently allocating natural resources (such as energy and freshwater consumption) and human resources (such as staff), is essential in order to increase the competiveness of companies, and to attract as many clients as possible through a high quality service based on a good reputation. In summary, safeguarding the local natural and socio-cultural heritage, making it available for tourists to enjoy, guaranteeing specific levels of quality and standards and, finally, managing resources in an efficient way, represent the areas that need to be managed by tourism businesses, and represent their main challenge in relation to sustainability