The attainment of sustainable development has emerged as one of the main challenges facing society and the economy in the twenty-first century. In tourism, the English Tourism Council (2001 a, p. 11) recognise that sustainable tourism can no longer be regarded as an optional extra, but is fundamental to safeguarding the long-term competitiveness of the industry. To establish sustainable development as a primary strategic objective within the tourism industry represents a substantial challenge. Such a goal is problematic not least because the sector is so diverse and is based around a large number of small businesses which are not always accessible or responsive to change and innovation. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the response of tourism-related businesses to environmental sustainability issues in South East Cornwall. The research represents a three-year joint project funded by the University of Plymouth and Caradon District Council, with support from South West Tourism and the European Regional Development Fund through Caradon Area LEADER II (1999-2001). The aims of the project were to obtain a more detailed understanding of the issues and barriers that tourism businesses face in the implementation of sustainable business practices. The results had practical outcomes in the formulation of a district-wide strategy for sustainable tourism. Through a mixed-method research programme, almost half of tourism businesses in the district contributed to the study. The results revealed a diversity of behaviour, attitudes and motives that are currently not recognised within policy interventions or conceptual models of business behavior. Additionally, the research demonstrated that business responses are modified by a range of complex barriers, which operate at different geographical scales and require a broad policy focus. Within policy initiatives for sustainable tourism, small tourism businesses cannot be treated as scaled-down versions of large businesses. More sophisticated policy interventions will have to be developed if sustainable development is to become a reality within the sector.

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