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Golf-centered Development in Coastal Mediterranean Europe: A Soft Sustainability Test

H. Briassoulis Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, Lesvos, Greece

Since the late 1980s, upmarket tourist and residential golf resorts, golf-centered development (GCD) henceforth, are spreading in the environmentally sensitive and already stressed coastal Mediterranean Europe. This paper examines, on a Mediterraneanwide level, whether and under what conditions GCD is (or might be) a sustainable local and regional development option. After reviewing the main features of GCD in coastal Mediterranean Europe, it conducts a soft sustainability test using a set of criteria that reect the overarching quest to maintain the present and future integrity of local and regional socio-ecological systems. The criteria are assessed using primary and secondary information for coastal Mediterranean Europe complemented with international evidence where appropriate. The ndings indicate that the principal criteria of resource maintenance and use efciency, livelihood sufciency and opportunity and intra- and intergenerational equity as well as the necessary conditions to achieve them may not always be satisfactorily met. A summative evaluation, guided by Aristotelian phronesis in balancing multiple goals under conditions of uncertainty, suggests that GCD engenders considerable risks to sustainable local and regional development in coastal Mediterranean Europe. Siting GCD should be embedded within cautious strategic regional planning that is multifunctional, collaborative and adaptive. In closing, the paper indicates future research directions.

doi: 10.2167/jost722.0 Keywords: golf tourism, sustainable development, coastal Mediterranean Europe

Tourism and residential development feature prominently among the many pressures straining the European Mediterranean coast since the mid-1950s. In the last decades, complexes catering to upmarket consumers, known as integrated resorts, golf resorts, golf communities, golf estates, resort communities, planned tourist or residential development or holiday cities, are intensively promoted and developed. Because golf courses are their most strongly-advertised components, this paper uses the term golf-centered development (GCD). While GCD has been tooted as a motor of local and regional development, generating signicant pecuniary benets compared to other forms of development, it has spawned intense controversies worldwide because of its signicant adverse environmental, economic and sociocultural consequences (Davis & Morais, 2004; Freitag, 1994; Palmer, 2004; Papatheodorou, 2004; Pleumarom, 1994, 1999,
0966-9582/07/05 441-22 $20.00/0 JOURNAL OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

2007 H. Briassoulis Vol. 15, No. 5, 2007



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2002; Stanton & Alislabie, 1992; Torres & Momsen, 2005; UNAoO, 2002a; Wall, 1997; Warnken et al., 2001). Thus, the question arises whether and under what conditions GCD contributes to sustainable local and regional development. Comprehensive studies addressing this question for the environmentally sensitive and already stressed coastal Mediterranean Europe between 35 and 37 latitude do not exist, to this authors knowledge. The present modest attempt to explore it adopts the local/regional perspective because GCD is primarily justied on the grounds that it benets host regions (and the nation), contributing to sustainable development. Moreover, tourism and GCD inevitably involve the sectors and resources of the broader local and regional system within which they are embedded. The perspective of GCD enterprises, i.e. the sustainability of golf courses and GCD, is not directly addressed although it is interwoven with the sustainability of host communities. The paper rst reviews the main features of GCD in coastal Mediterranean Europe. Then, it conducts a soft sustainability test using selected assessment criteria and available evidence. Lastly, it discusses the ndings and indicates future research directions.

Golf-centered Development in Coastal Mediterranean Europe between 35 and 37 Latitude

GCD appeared in the coastal Mediterranean Europe in the late 1950s to early 1960s when golf courses, after making a slow start in the early 20th century, increasingly came to constitute highly valued components of upmarket large-scale tourism and residential development. (As in several peripheral countries worldwide [e.g. SE Asia, Latin America, Australia]). In the late 1980s, GCD accelerated mainly in Spain, Portugal and Italy (including their insular territories). More recently, it is spreading to Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey (which is speeding up golf course construction and represents a keen competitor to the traditional Mediterranean destinations), owing to the interplay of various demand, supply and exogenous factors. GCD demand is growing due to, among others, retirement migration towards Southern Europe (Casado-Diaz, 2004; King et al., 1998), changing upmarket consumer preferences, intense promotion of golf and rising number of golfers (estimated to exceed 60 million worldwide) (Ennemoser, n.d.; INVgolf, 2003). On the supply side, host countries, espousing a growth-oriented, modernisation ideology, view GCD as a means to upgrade their tourist product, curb tourism seasonality, solve scal decit problems and counterbalance the decline of agriculture (Barke & Towner, 2004; Ioannides & Holcomb, 2003; Papatheodorou, 2004). They provide favourable economic incentives, exploiting EU funding opportunities, remove bureaucratic barriers such as restrictive forest, protected areas and archaeological legislation and tight Environmental Impact Assessment requirements, concede public lands to developers and institute favourable spatial planning provisions (Bianchi, 2004; GCA, n.d.). More importantly, their Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) are signicant pools of cheap and easy-to-obtain land. Locals, keen to earn money and in the absence of better livelihood opportunities, sell their property and often out-migrate. These regions, however, are mostly resource-constrained (water, soil, energy),

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environmentally fragile (e.g. desertied or desertication-sensitive) and socioculturally vulnerable (state inertia and absence of essential development guidance, heavy dependence on European Union [EU] subsidies, preponderance of family rms, land abandonment, outmigration). Lastly, important exogenous factors catalyse the GCD process. The deregulation and liberalisation movements in Europe and the USA in the 1980s and 1990s, among others, have spurred mergers and alliances among global players such as the airline, hospitality, tour operation and real estate sectors that favour large scale tourism and residential investments (Bianchi, 2004; Ioannides et al., 2001; Papatheodorou, 2004). Also, the recent EU enlargement and the reduction of agricultural subsidies encourage agricultural land conversion in the European South. Although GCD was originally associated with tourism, newer complexes target more permanent residents, usually retired nationals or foreigners (Priestley, 2004; Rebollo & Baidal, 2003). Older tourism complexes are gradually transformed into vacation or second homes for non-locals also (INVgolf, 2004; Tur et al., 2001). GCD is often categorised as golf tourism (subcategory of sport tourism), residential tourism, enclave tourism, integrated resort development, ecotourism, or eco-resort development. The difculties to classify it owe mainly to its dynamic transformations and the lack of generally accepted, unambiguous tourism typologies. GCD host regions, known as golf destinations (a minimum of three golf courses required), are at various stages of development (cf. Butler, 2006). They range from established, mature destinations found in the Algarve (Portugal), Andalucia and Mallorca (Spain) to emerging destinations in other parts of the Mediterranean coast. Golf courses are central components of GCD. Table 1 presents the number of extant courses. Figures for the many more planned courses are considerably uncertain. On a population basis, Portugal and Spain have the highest golf course density. On an area basis, Italy comes rst followed closely by Portugal. Mallorca, with 18 courses, has a stunning golf course density of 23.37 courses per million inhabitants, which may increase further if the courses become 30 as planned (http://www.magoco.com/stoppress.html). GCD has gathered both proponents and opponents. The proponents include tightly connected, globalised sectors, such as real estate, hoteliers, tour
Table 1 Golf course density in Mediterranean Europe (2005) Country Portugal Spain Italy Malta Greece Cyprus Area (Sq. Km.) 92391 504782 301230 316 131940 5895 Population (million) 10 40 57.600 0.398 10.600 0.689 Golf courses 67 266 229 1 6 4 Courses/ 1000 km2 0.725 0.527 0.760 3.165 0,045 0.678 Courses/ million inhabitants 6.700 6.650 3.975 2.510 0.566 5.800

Sources: EGA (2005); Country census. Southern part of the Republic of Cyprus.


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operators, athletics and sports, agro-business, chemical, construction, automobile and machinery industries and consultancy rms. The real estate sector plays a pivotal role acting as a broker between developers, land owners and consumers (Papatheodorou, 2004). Proponents emphasise the pecuniary benets GCD offers to national and local governments and to mostly international GCD-related businesses (INVgolf, 2003). The opponents, less visible, less organised and more diverse, comprise nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), professional and scientic associations, local groups and individuals. Their concerns about the negative impacts of GCD and golf courses were rst publicised in the 1970s and are still hotly debated in both developed and developing countries (Bramwell, 2004b; Farrally et al., 2003; Warnken et al., 2001). Important among them are consumption and competition for scarce resources (land, water, soil, energy) between GCD and other activities, soil and water pollution, ecosystem degradation, socio-economic inequalities and induced, often unplanned, tourism and residential development. In response to these criticisms, GCD has been actively greening its performance since the early 1990s. Golf associations have green departments1 and numerous publications negotiate environmentally responsible design, construction and management of golf courses and associated tourism and residential complexes and better integration in their host region. The research literature on GCD in coastal Mediterranean Europe is relatively limited. Extant studies negotiate it either in the broader context of tourism development (Bardolet, 2001; Batle, 2000; Bramwell, 2004a; Ioannides et al., 2001; Sharpley, 2003), or discuss selected economic, social, environmental and planning issues (de Vivero & Mateos, 2005; Essex et al., 2004; Garcia et al., 2000, 2003; Garcia & Servera, 2003; Kent et al., 2002; Priestley, 2004; Tur et al., 2001). Some studies examine specically the economic and environmental impacts of golf courses, or even their sustainability, usually in isolation from the associated tourist and residential facilities (Aramburu & Escribano, 1993; Martins & Correia, 2004; Tapias & Salgot, 2004). Comparatively few studies consider tourism development in general and GCD in particular as components of the local/regional systems. The sociocultural and distributive implications of GCD, its contribution to sustainable local and regional development and the uncertainties surrounding it have received insufcient attention (Barke & Towner, 2004; Bianchi, 2004; Markwick, 2000; Rebollo & Baidal, 2003).

A Soft Sustainability Test of GCD

Introductory considerations The Mediterranean-wide test presented in this section aims at tentatively evaluating the contribution of GCD to local/regional sustainable development in coastal Mediterranean Europe, 35 to 37 latitude, and uncovering critical, often overlooked, issues that future research should address. A set of sustainability criteria, presented in the next section, is adopted that constitutes necessary and sufcient conditions for any local/regional development option to qualify as sustainable. These criteria are assessed with available evidence for Mediterranean Europe, complemented with international evidence where appropriate.

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Uncertainties and the environmental, economic and social conditions and limits of Mediterranean Europe are taken into account. Primary data and information were collected from interviews and correspondence with environmental professionals, agronomists, economists, tourist analysts, consultants, investors, realtors, hoteliers, public ofcials, representatives of professional associations, NGOs and locals from several regions. Secondary data sources were the scientic and the grey literature (GCD project reports, conference papers, reports of international and national organisations, NGOs and GCD businesses, newspaper and Internet articles, etc.). The test is called soft for several reasons. The evaluation object, GCD, is multifarious, dynamic and induces spatial transformations under quite diverse European Mediterranean conditions that do not permit valid generalisations. Uncertain and unpredictable exogenous factors and developments, measurement problems and lack of reliable comprehensive data, information and monitoring for the region hamper the empirical assessment of impacts. These issues are particularly serious at ne spatial resolutions and in the case of LFAs. Lastly, essential criteria that concern intangible attributes and/or refer to complex spatio-temporal relationships are difcult to conceptualise and operationalise. Sustainability assessment criteria The sustainability assessment criteria (or indicators) employed in tourism studies over the last 15 years reect the evolution of different conceptions of sustainable tourism development (STD) and of tourisms relationship to its host regions. The literature comprises mostly suites of one-dimensional criteria, implicitly or explicitly organised either along the three main pillars of sustainable development (SD) (environmental, economic and social) or according to the PSR (Pressure-State-Response) or the DPSIR (Driving forces Pressure-StateImpact-Response) framework suggested by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Economic Area (EEA), respectively (Barke & Towner, 2004; Ceron & Dubois, 2003; EEA, 1998; Gossling et al., 2002; IFTO, 1994; OECD, 1998; Rebollo & Baidal, 2003; WTO, 1997). Criteria for particular environmental receptors and policy issues as well as selected composite indicators have also been developed. The environmental dimension of sustainable development remains the most represented vis-a-vis the social, institutional and cultural dimensions. Most extant criteria are not satisfactory operational expressions of holistic conceptualisations of SD or STD. They overlook the inseparability and interconnectedness of the many dimensions and constituents of inherently open and uncertain socio-spatial systems as well as tourisms embeddedness in these systems. Consequently, they cannot capture important spatial and temporal relationships among sectors, resources and their uses, indirect and induced impacts, the transition to sustainability and barriers to change, goal trade-offs and important sociocultural and ethical concerns (Briassoulis, 2001; Gibson et al., 2005). From the perspective of assessing the contribution of tourism to sustainable local and regional development, two issues are critical: (1) the people vs. places orientation of criteria and their suitability to particular spatial scales (Briassoulis, 2001; Ceron & Dubois, 2003) and (2) how, on the basis of what


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theory and value system, to combine individual criteria to support decisionmaking in concrete contexts. This study synthesises three contemporary strands of thought on SD and STD to derive assessment criteria. The rst acknowledges that tourism is an integral component of local/regional systems; thus, tourism and local sustainable development are interdependent (Bramwell, 2004a; Bramwell & Lane, 2000; Hardy et al., 2005; Hunter, 1997; Ioannides et al., 2001; Liu, 2003; Priestley, 2004; Sharpley, 2000; WTO, 2001). The second implicitly or explicitly adopts the living systems model in analysing spatial development (Berkes & Folke, 1998; Farrell & Twining-Ward, 2005; Hjorth & Bagheri, 2005; Holling, 2001). The third enriches the traditional pursuits of sustainable development with an emphasis on rights rather than on needs (Redclift, 2005; Springett, 2005). Thus, the overarching aim is to maintain the resilience2 and integrity of the local socio-environmental system over time which underscores the importance of local self-sufciency, self-reliance, security (low vulnerability) and wellbeing rather than well-having. The transition to sustainable development requires sufcient strategic natural, manmade and sociocultural capital, secure property rights, precaution and adaptation to local/regional conditions and limits, environmental and social stability, diversity and redundancy, democratic governance, sectoral coordination and policy integration (Barke & Towner, 2004; Bramwell, 2004a; Gibson et al., 2005; Hopwood et al., 2005; Hunter, 1997; Islam & Clarke, 2005; Lamberton, 2005; Liu, 2003; Mowforth & Munt, 1998; Pope et al., 2004; Santos, 2005; WTO, 2001). Desirable transitions are those that reconcile the interests of the tourism industry with the requirements for local and regional sustainable development (Ceron & Dubois, 2003; Jamal, 2004). Tables 2 and 3 present the assemblages of the adopted overlapping and interconnected criteria, which attempt to capture desired properties and features of the socio-spatial system and the conditions necessary to obtain them. The features are grouped into resource maintenance and efciency, livelihood sufciency and opportunity and intra- and inter-generational equity. The operational forms, cut-off values and trade-offs among the criteria are contextual and contingent on the specic application, thus always leaving their nal synthesis open to societal choice and evaluative judgments (Gibson et al., 2005; Pope et al., 2004). Their tentative assessment in the case of coastal Mediterranean Europe is presented next. The sustainability test Conservative and balanced use of local/regional resources GCD occupies substantial land surface; above 100 ha generally. One 18-hole golf course alone requires at least 5060 ha. GCD-induced infrastructure and urban growth takes up more land. Thus, the amount of land available for present and future purposes diminishes, generating conicts with other uses, such as agriculture, nature protection, recreation, etc. The issue is crucial where land supply is limited (e.g. on islands). GCD needs large quantities of water, a serious continual concern for the industry worldwide (Foley & Lardner, 2005; GCA, n.d.). Tourist and residential water use may reach 850 l person1 day1 during the summer (Essex et al., 2004;

Golf-centered Development
Table 2 Sustainability assessment criteria Criteria Overarching criterion Maintenance of the integrity of socio-ecological systems in the present and in the future i.e. maintenance of their resilience and adaptive capacity to reduce uncertainty and vulnerability Requirements Properties and features of socioecological systems Conservative and balanced use of local/regional resources by tourists and locals Variety, diversication, connectedness of resource base Net local/regional economic welfare Local QOL Local self-reliance Sustained tourism and residential demand and protability Tourist welfare and satisfaction Local/regional economic and social inequalities Necessary conditions


Resource maintenance and use efciency

Socio-ecological civility, phronesis, moderation Democratic governance Planning, management, policy Education, literacy, awareness

Livelihood sufciency and opportunity

Intra- and intergenerational equity

Kent et al., 2002; WWF, 2004). Golf courses may consume up to 10,000 m3 ha1 year1 , the equivalent consumption of 12,000 people (Mastny, 2001; UNEP, 2004; WWF, 2004). GCD-induced development boosts water demand. The problems worsen during the summer, when demand from all activities peaks, and during droughts, which are very common in coastal Mediterranean Europe.3 These are bound to worsen with the advancing climatic change (JOST, 2006; JRC, 2005; Kent et al., 2002; Perry, 2004). Many regions import drinking water. Local and supra-local conicts over water use are common. Often, illegal groundwater extraction (http://www.guardian.co.uk/spain/article/0,,1774028,00.html.) and overdraft signicantly lowers water tables, strains aquifers, lowers streamows and lake levels and causes land subsidence and seawater intrusion (WWF/Adena, 2003; Zektser et al., 2005). Strategies to reduce water consumption include recycling of treated efuent (Angelakis et al., 2003), seawater desalination, use of drought-tolerant grasses and construction of desert type and naturalistic golf courses (http://www.committedtogreen.com). These options do not always effectively reduce water consumption, they imply high construction and maintenance costs that affect GCD protability, while serious health-related and ecological concerns remain (Asano, 2001; Essex et al., 2004; Farrally et al., 2003; Garcia & Servera, 2003; Salgot & Tapias, 2003; WWF/Adena, 2004).


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Table 3 Sustainability assessment criteria brief explanation Criterion Explanation Resource maintenance and use efciency Conservative and balanced use of local/ regional resources by tourists and locals Natural and manmade resource use by tourists and locals within regional limits No resource shortages, conicts and competition among users in the present and in the future; sufcient resource renewal; limited pollution and resource degradation

Variety, diversication, connectedness of Contribution to or detraction from the diresource base versity of the local/regional resource base Livelihood sufciency and opportunity Net local/regional economic welfare Risk-weighted revenues earned/anticipated minus losses incurred due to leakages, ination, damage and/or loss of natural and manmade capital, competition from other destinations and opportunity costs of foregone present and future development options Individual and collective local quality of life living conditions (housing, infrastructure, social services, amenities, etc.), education, satisfaction of locals Potential to develop with as little dependence as possible on external assistance, exploit local/regional natural and cultural resources to reduce competition, diversify the local/regional economic base and augment present and future development options (avoid specialization/ monocultures) Requires: sufcient and diverse critical local environmental, economic, social and cultural resources (land, water, energy, raw materials, private and public capital, technology, know-how). re-investment in the local economy, entrepreneurship, socio-ecological integration

Local QOL

Local/regional self-reliance

Sustained tourism and residential demand Presence of factors affecting the volatility and protability and uncertainties of tourism and residential demand and protability in general in Mediterranean Europe Tourist welfare/satisfaction Total quality of tourism experience

Intra- and inter-generational equity Local/regional inequalities economic and social Present and future differences among locals, between tourists and locals and among tourist market segments as regards net welfare, QOL, access to/exclusion from resources (especially CPRs) and other development benets, life opportunities, satisfaction, etc.

Golf-centered Development
Table 3 contd Criterion Explanation Necessary conditions Socio-ecological civility, phronesis, moderation


Wise and conscientious management of local/regional resources espousing the precautionary principle, adaptation to local conditions, ethics; i.e. collective responsibility of accounting for the interests of absent third parties (future generations, natural habitats, present unknown groups) Equitable representation of all interests in local and tourism decision making, host population empowerment (rights to decision, resource property rights) and involvement; collaboration and partnership arrangements among public and private, foreign and local, formal and informal actors Arrangements that: (1) protect critical, strategic local/regional resources, ensure safe distances from environmental limits to reduce vulnerability and avoid competition, (2) promote multi-functional and complementary use of resources and compatible forms of development (including tourism); i.e. consider more than one development option to provide for exibility and adaptation to uncertain future conditions, (3) promote intersectoral and interregional coordination to maximise multiplier effects, (4) foster policy integration and (5) ensure policy and planning compliance and enforcement Appropriate rates in urban and rural population segments on a repertoire of relevant issues

Democratic governance

Planning, management, policy

Education, literacy, awareness

Surface and groundwater pollution and bioaccumulation of toxic substances due to intensive use of pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers in golf courses represent serious concerns especially under the particular geological and soil conditions of Mediterranean Europe (faults, limestone, calcareous, permeable soils) (Farally et al., 2003; Salgot & Tapias, 2003; UNAoO, 2002, 2002b). Integrated pest management is the suggested best practice to minimise these risks. It is unknown, however, whether it is widely practiced and to what effects. GCD and GCD-induced development directly and indirectly contribute to soil loss and degradation locally and supra-locally4 (Potschin & Haines-Young, 2003; Tapias & Salgot, 2004), a relatively under-researched and little publicised serious issue in coastal Mediterranean Europe. The lack of adequate EU and


Journal of Sustainable Tourism

national soil protection regimes (CEC, 2002) aggravates the seriousness of these impacts in desertication-prone areas5 with sensitive soils and scarce water resources. During construction and operation, GCD and golf courses variously cause habitat degradation and loss, eutrophication, coastal erosion and other impacts in managed and natural ecosystems including prime and marginal agricultural land, desertied and coastal areas, forests and wetlands (Garca et al., 2000, 2003; Garca & Servera, 2003; Marin, 2004; Palmer, 2004; Pleumarom, 2002; Potschin & Haines-Young, 2003; UNAoO, 2002a; Vivero & Mateos, 2005). Several of them are extremely fragile and protected (e.g. NATURA 2000 sites). The use of exotic plant species or GM grass cultivars disturbs local biodiversity (Blais, 2005; Shaw & Allen, 2003). The alleged contribution of golf courses to nature and biodiversity protection (Farrally et al., 2003; Tapias & Salgot, 2004) has not been veried in the diverse Mediterranean situations. Besides, account has to be taken for GCD as a whole, the uncertainty, context-dependence and generalisability of environmental research results and the often inadequate historical data. GCD has considerable energy requirements despite the adoption of energy saving practices (Gossling, 2002; Gossling et al., 2002; Mastny, 2001). The issue is particularly acute in resource- and energy-dependent regions, especially where desalinisation and wastewater treatment are used. GCD also places a heavy burden on public local and regional circulation, sanitation, water supply and garbage collection infrastructure networks. Recapitulating, GCD makes intensive, year-round use of resources especially if cumulative impacts are taken into account (Gossling, 2002; Gossling et al., 2002). Thus, it detracts from their conservative and balanced use and potentially forecloses present and future development options. Technological solutions do not guarantee cost-efcient resource use. In coastal Mediterranean Europe, GCD seriously strains strategic resources (land, soil, water and energy) whose critical limits may have been permanently exceeded, as revealed by shortages and crises.

Variety, diversication, connectedness of resource base Lack of research evidence does not permit the assessment of this criterion. The scale and impacts of GCD, however, may produce ecosystem and landscape fragmentation and perturbations with negative and unknown long term consequences for the dynamic stability, variety and connectedness of the local/regional resource base. Net local/regional economic welfare GCD produces pecuniary benets as well as costs. Direct benets accrue to host regions as personal income earned from local jobs, local business revenues and local and regional taxes and fees. Their magnitude depends on the relative shares of local and non-local employment (Immigrant and/or illegal or specialised; locals may not accept low-status and -pay jobs offered), enterprises and capital, the local unemployment rate, the degree of diversity, vitality and connectedness of the local/regional economy and the degree of integration of GCD in the local community. The latter is usually low, implying weak

Golf-centered Development


employment and income multiplier effects (indirect benets) (Bramwell, 2004b; Freitag, 1994; Ioannides & Holcomb, 2003; Stanton & Alislabie, 1992; Wall, 1997). Anticipated benets are also subject to considerable uncertainty and risk caused by the complex interplay of volatile tourist6 and real estate demand, broader climatic, demographic, economic and technological developments, high operating costs, keen competition among many (some cheaper) destinations and market saturation (A not-so-distant possibility [Sterba, 2004; WTTC, 2003]). GCD incurs individual and collective costs. As in all large scale, upmarket complexes, required equipment, products and services are mostly imported rather than bought locally. The revenues of mostly foreign-owned GCD businesses may leak out of host regions (Brohman, 1996; Dwyer & Forsyth, 1997; Mastny, 2001); whether they are re-invested locally remains uncertain or unknown. Competition for resources (e.g. land, water, etc.) causes ination, a common occurrence in tourist areas, raising the cost of living for both tourists and locals. Land appreciation and speculation around golf courses often lead to rapid housing development that may end up in real estate bubbles (see, e.g. http://www.spanishpropertyinsight.com/spanish_property_bubble.htm.) that generate economy-wide adverse impacts (Bardolet, 2001; Batle, 2000; Priestley, 2004). The negative environmental impacts of GCD translate into the value of damaged or lost natural capital that cannot be put to other present and future uses (Potchin & Haines-Young, 2003). Financial resources channelled to support GCD imply opportunity costs (lost benets) of alternative uses foregone (e.g. organic farming, small-scale ecotourism, handicrafts, etc.) that may offer comparable, less uncertain pecuniary benets and incur less environmental cost. The public sector shoulders the construction and maintenance costs of overburdened local infrastructure (new residents, immigrants and locals). Lastly, conicts and competition imply jobs and revenues losses in existing economic sectors (e.g. sheries, agriculture, leisure, other forms of tourism, etc.). The most serious long term costs of GCD, increased socio-environmental vulnerability, draw from the specialisation (or lock-in) of local and regional systems as golf-centered, service sector-dominated monocultures (e.g. SE Spain, Mallorca and the Algarve, Portugal). Their development implications are discussed under the criteria that follow. The net contribution of GCD to welfare, i.e. the benets it offers minus the costs it incurs, remains overall highly uncertain, at least in a long term perspective (adopting Hicks [1946] notion of sustainable income7 ). It cannot be assessed unambiguously because, besides the well-known problems of quantifying several benets and costs, their magnitude and relative weights depend on the prevailing local/regional conditions, dominant value systems and broader global circumstances.

Local quality of life (QOL) QOL is generally difcult to assess comprehensively (indices, such as UNDPs Human Development Index, do not encompass all aspects of QOL). Its valuation depends on prevailing socio-economic, cultural and political conditions. Allencompassing reports of the impacts of GCD on local QOL are rare. Some aspects may, however, show improvement, such as provision of infrastructure, which


Journal of Sustainable Tourism

could have occurred independently of GCD. Other aspects, such as congestion, building densities, conditions of physical infrastructure, landscape aesthetics, education, etc. may worsen due to induced urban development and sociocultural changes (Barke & Towner, 2004; Bianchi, 2004; Selwyn, 2000). Finally, for certain aspects, such as satisfaction of locals, the evidence is inconclusive and context-dependent.

Local self-reliance Several conditions must be met to achieve self-reliance (Table 3). Host regions often face serious resource shortages, depend heavily on imports and foreign private capital and investments to support GCD and GCD-induced development, while re-investment of tourism revenues remains uncertain (Ioannides & Holcomb, 2003; Jamal, 2004; Sharpley, 2003; UNAoO, 2002a). The problems are particularly acute in small islands and resource-constrained regions. In Murcia, water is imported (Guardian, 22 July 2005). In Mallorca and Torrevieja, water, food and consumer products are imported, energy sufciency is problematic, a large share of capital and other resources are foreign-owned, promotion is controlled by external agents and immigrants offer (cheap) labour (Bianchi, 2004; Essex et al., 2004; Kent et al., 2004; Rebollo & Baidal, 2003). Once host regions are caught in a spiral of external dependence, they may not be able to fully exploit and maintain local/regional economic, social and cultural capital to diversify their productive base and develop the requisite exibility to adapt to uncertain future conditions and pursue other goals. These include food and resource security, reduced economic and sociocultural vulnerability (especially to competition from other destinations), promotion of local entrepreneurship and socio-ecological integration. The degree of self-reliance depends on the size, scale and level of development of host regions (cf. Butler, 2006). Generally, it may be hard to obtain in the light of volatile and sensitive GCD demand, adverse environmental change and socioeconomic globalisation (Bianchi, 2004). Preservation of cultural identity The impacts of GCD on social and cultural capital and identity in Mediterranean resorts have not been systematically researched. The available evidence suggests that these may not differ from those of tourism development in general, e.g. changes in local values and loss of authenticity (Bramwell, 2004a). GCD effects, however, broader and deeper sociocultural transformations. The particular mode of production associated with golf destinations and the gradual replacement of the indigenous population with foreigners whose percentages sometimes exceed 30% (In Mallorca, it exceeds 40% [Bianchi, 2004]) produces a sociocultural identity distinct from a places original one. A manifestation of the transformative potential of GCD is the joint naming of Andalucias Costa del Sol and Costa del Golf. Sustained tourism and residential demand and protability The optimistic projections of GCD demand and protability are usually based on current growth trends owing to population aging, increases in leisure time and wealth and preference of well-off, retired Northern Europeans

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and golfers for the milder climate of Southern countries (Ennemoser, n.d.; InvGolf, 2004; King et al., 1998). Several factors that render demand and protability uncertain globally and in particular, at destinations, are not taken into account. These include climate change (JOST, 2006; Perry, 2004), competition, fertility decline, end of the baby boom generation, economic and other crises, changes in tour operators priorities, changing preferences for the game (http://www.azcentral.com/sports/golf/articles/0116golfparticipation0116.html), and supply side constraints, e.g. market saturation and destination decline (Sterba, 2004; WTTC, 2003).

Tourist welfare and satisfaction Research evidence on this criterion is scant, for both GCD occupants and other tourists. Its assessment requires the synthesis of numerous dynamically interacting changing components of welfare and satisfaction; e.g. cost of living, tourism preferences and experience, marketing and promotion and state of the surrounding territory (In GCD-saturated areas, complaints are expressed about the quality of living).

Local/regional economic and social inequalities GCD generates intra- and intergenerational inequities worldwide (Davis & Morais, 2004; Liu, 2003; Palmer, 2004; Stolle-McAllister, 2004; Torres & Momsen, 2005); the terms exclusive developments, gated communities, enclave resorts, and luxury ghettos are telling. Compared to other forms of development, it over-consumes resources as revealed, among others, by its considerable ecological footprint (Gossling et al., 2002). Although these are mostly Common Pool Resources (CPRs)8 (e.g. water, coasts), their privatisation allots their exclusive use to high-paying tourists thus effectively seriously limiting, or even excluding, usually the weakest locals, other activities (e.g. agriculture) and other types of tourists from using them. The low integration of GCD in host communities, the uncertain diffusion of its benets locally and the inux of immigrant labour generate signicant differences in income, QOL and access to resources, power and opportunities between locals and GCD occupants and immigrants (Bardolet, 2001; Bianchi, 2004; Bramwell, 2004b; Mitchell & Reid, 2001; WWF/Adena, 2003). Furthermore, GCD activates, or reinforces, processes of spatial polarisation that produce spatial inequalities. Due to ination and land appreciation, richer foreigners outcompete locals in the land and housing market. Frequently, traditional communities turn into foreign-owned residential tourism areas (a conversion that may affect tourist enterprises eventually). Where state policies favour GCD (Frequently justied as an antidote to vanishing EU agricultural subsidies), nite public resources are diverted from other current and future activities and alternative forms of development. The concentration of investments in coastal areas may hinder the development of the hinterland, thus limiting the chances of backward regions to obtain regional convergence (Bianchi, 2004; Gorzelak & Jalowiecki, 2002).


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Socio-ecological civility, phronesis and moderation The previous discussion and the numerous golf courses and related colossal tourist and residential developments planned in already congested and environmentally degraded Southern European regions (e.g. Andalucia, Mallorca, Cyprus)9 suggest that this criterion can be hardly satised. GCD is prioritised over nature and cultural preservation, agriculture and other forms of tourism development. This lack of phronesis and moderation in GCD growth underpin a neglect for the precautionary principle (Fennell & Ebert, 2004), misadaptation to local conditions (Barke & Towner, 2004) and inattention to equity issues. Democratic governance Most GCD-related decisions in coastal Mediterranean Europe are taken at higher levels, between national and regional administrations and investors who promote their particular vision of the regions development (Bianchi, 2004; INVgolf, 2004, 2006). Note the statement: . . . the premise is made that the countries of Southern Europe Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, etc. are Europes Florida. . . . . (INVgolf, 2004). At least in the initial phases, supra-local market forces dominate decisionmaking while local interests are little involved or in charge of the future of their places. This democratic governance decit is serious as most of the resources involved are CPRs that are better managed through participatory and consensus building processes (Bramwell & Lane, 2000; Briassoulis, 2002). Planning, management and policy Most GCD in coastal Mediterranean Europe did not and still does not take place in the context of public planning. Where this happens (Mallorca passed tourism plans in the 2000s to cope with the outcomes of past haphazard development [Batle, 2000]), it serves mostly narrow interests (Bianchi, 2004), ratifying prearranged investment decisions (INVgolf, 2003, 2006). Inadequate rational environmental planning in several Southern European regions, loose and little coordinated policy and planning-related organisational apparatuses and a thriving informal sector encourage violations or shortcuts of building, environmental and other regulations (Briassoulis, 1999; La Spina & Sciortino, 1997; Pridham, 1998; Priestley, 2004; WWF/Adena, 2003). Furthermore, compliance with EU environmental policy and pertinent directives (especially the EU Water Framework Directive, EIA, SEA and the Habitats) is problematic as judged by the frequent Community notications and nes imposed. Overall, the available evidence and the preceding discussion suggest that the basic prerequisites for strategic sustainability planning (Table 3) are poorly satised. Education, literacy and awareness The literacy rate, level of education and environmental awareness in Southern European regions, especially the rural ones, are low by Northern standards. Moreover, empirical evidence suggests that GCD-related decisions are often incompletely and selectively informed by sound science. Thus, the essential

Golf-centered Development


prerequisite for democratic governance, better informed deliberation, may be hardly met.

On balance A summative, region-wide, evaluation of the contribution of GCD to local/regional sustainable development in coastal Mediterranean Europe is not a straightforward task. Golf resorts and their host regions are at various stages of development and the value/moral system of the decision context determines the criteria tradeoffs required for sustainability assessment. Thus, the following broad, preliminary evaluation basically aims at raising awareness of potential GCD-related risks and their policy, planning and management implications. It adopts an Aristotelian ethics perspective (Jamal, 2004) where phronesis guides the trade-offs among economic, sociocultural and environmental goals when evaluating alternatives under conditions of considerable uncertainty. Thus, safeguarding critical and strategic natural and human resources that secure present and future local self-reliance and preservation of cultural identity, ensuring democratic governance and delivering intra- and intergenerational fairness are prioritised (Gibson et al., 2005; Potschin & Haines-Young, 2003). Drawing on the preceding analysis, Table 4 depicts a tentative, qualitative assessment of the criteria. Despite the lack of systematic studies and information to completely assess all criteria, GCD appears to pose signicant risks for the maintenance of the present and future integrity of local socio-ecological systems. The resource maintenance and use efciency, livelihood sufciency and opportunity, and intra- and intergenerational equity criteria are hardly satised. More importantly, the necessary conditions to achieve them are not adequately met. Exact actions needed to counterbalance these risks cannot be pre-specied; these depend importantly on local circumstances, the broader socio-spatial context and the stage of development of host regions; i.e. whether they are mature golf destinations (see, e.g. Martins & Correia [2004]), or developing, emerging or undeveloped (cf. Butler, 2006). Nevertheless, it is indubitable that cautious planning and management are indispensable if GCD is to contribute genuinely to sustainable local/regional development and enhance its own protability. Siting GCD should be embedded within strategic integrated regional planning that supports spatial transformations accommodating a variety of choices and balancing the present and future interests of locals, tourists and tourism entrepreneurs. Thus, it will have to be multifunctional, collaborative and transparent, precautionary, adaptive and exible (see Table 3 for selected basic features). In this framework, GCD will also have to adapt to the scale, particularities and limits of coastal Mediterranean Europe through creative transformations in addition to adopting better environmental management practices (such as water and energy-saving measures, integrated pest management; see, also, the idea of brown golf courses [http://www.time.com/time/asia/tga/article/0,13673,5010607311218093,00.html]). Important prerequisites for planning effectiveness are, among others, the provision of complete and updated public data and information systems, the institution of continuous monitoring systems and effective enforcement mechanisms and rm compliance with important EU directives.


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Table 4 Contribution of GCD to local/regional sustainable development Score Score Overarching criterion Score */**

Criteria Conservative and balanced local/ regional resource use by tourists and locals Variety, diversication, connectedness of resource base Net local/regional economic welfare QOL Local self-reliance Sustained tourism and residential demand and protability Tourist welfare and satisfaction Local/regional economic and social inequalities Socio-ecological civility, phronesis, moderation Democratic governance Planning, management, policy Education, literacy, awareness


Resource maintenance and use efciency

* ** ** * Livelihood sufciency and opportunity ** Maintenance of the integrity of socioecological systems in the present and in the future Intra- and inter-generational equity *



* * * * Necessary conditions *

Degree to which a criterion is met: * = low, ** = moderate

Open Questions and Future Research Directions

While GCD is spreading in coastal Mediterranean Europe (InvGolf, 2004), assessments of its contribution to local/regional sustainable development are lagging behind. The present Mediterranean-wide endeavour aimed to serve as a springboard for future studies. Existing analyses do not treat the impacts of GCD as an amalgam of those associated with large scale tourism and residential developments and those with golf courses. They employ a limited set of criteria, which reect an instrumental, growth-oriented, non-holistic, conception of sustainable development. The risks GCD presents for local/regional sustainable development, future environmental, socio-economic and political uncertainties and considerations of alternative development options are often overlooked.

Golf-centered Development


Issues of economic protability primarily and environmental protection secondarily dominate questions of local and regional self-reliance, vulnerability and security, sociocultural identity and ethics. The latter partly owes to the absence of an adequate philosophical and ethical basis of the good in the prevailing sustainable tourism paradigm (Jamal, 2004). The future exploration of the subject should move in several directions, preferably undertaken in combination. First and foremost, empirical, in-depth studies of the morphology, evolution and contemporary transformations of GCD and its host regions in a diversity of Mediterranean situations are needed. These may be guided by the TALC model or its variants (Butler, 2006) and should employ reliable historical and contemporary data. These studies are the necessary backdrop for situated analyses of (1) the major biophysical, economic, sociocultural and institutional determinants of GCD; (2) its environmental, economic and sociocultural impacts10 ; (3) its implications for local/regional sustainable development in the context of alternative future environmental and sociopolitical development scenarios; (4) the role and responsibility of the local and supra-local actors (the state, real estate sector, tourist industry, individuals, social players, etc.) in the GCD process; and (5) comparisons of GCD with other present and future development options, using the same set of criteria. These analyses might hopefully guide sensible development decisionmaking in the sensitive regions of coastal Mediterranean Europe. Eventually, they might also help produce a broader theory of GCD-related development. On a more general level, to better respond to the practical requirements for sustainability assessments, the conceptual and operational denitions of several criteria proposed here (e.g. variety and connectedness of the local/regional resource base, QOL, tourist satisfaction and landscape aesthetics). as well as their interlinkages should be further elaborated. This will facilitate their valid and documented assessment and the analysis of the tradeoffs among them. Lastly, the discourse on sustainable tourism development should more rigorously encompass socio-ecological systems analysis approaches and governance and moral issues to address the question under which value and governance systems GCD might be a sustainable development option vis-` -vis other options a in host areas. Correspondence Any correspondence should be directed to H. Briassoulis, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, Mytilini 81100, Lesvos, Greece (e.briassouli@aegean.gr). Notes
1. 2. 3. In 2000, the Committed to Green Foundation (UK) was established in Europe (http://www.committedtogreen.com). A measure of a systems vulnerability to unexpected shocks (Holling, 2001). Since 2005, Portugal and Spain are experiencing the worst droughts of the last 50 years (http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/31517/ newsDate/5-Jul-2005/story.htm;http://www.guardian.co.uk/water/story/0,137 90,1533897,00.html; http://spainforvisitors. com/Article116.htm).

458 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

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In soil-poor areas, needed soil and other earth materials are imported, thus causing degradation in the areas of extraction. Soil loss in the Mediterranean amounts to 1 cm year1 ; this soil depth takes circa 5001000 years to form. The projected growth in the number of golfers may not continue indenitely due to demographic, socio-cultural and other changes; in the United States, this is already occurring (Foley & Lardner, 2005; Sterba, 2004). The maximum value which (a man) can consume during a week and still expect to be as well off at the end of the week as he was at the beginning. Resources for which exploitation by one user reduces the amount available for other users and exclusion of additional users is difcult or impossible (Bromley, 1991; Ostrom, 1990). http://www.andalucia.com/golf/articles/golfrush.htm http://www.andalucia.com/news/cdsn/2004-03-10.htm http://cache4.imente.com/vcache.cgi?cc=&clau=11326249461003247139&plt=17 HQiTECha&m=1&header=&catg=1115196882. Such as: impacts on water resources, local and regional biodiversity, soil degradation and desertication, degree of foreign ownership, revenues leakage and reinvestment and impacts on local entrepreneurship, employment and sociocultural identity.


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