Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Relationship between tourism entrepreneurship and support of local-community’s culture


Rania Ragab

Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt

Nashwa F. Attallah

Tourism Studies Department, Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Alexandria University, Egypt



Tourism entrepreneurship provides an essential value to the advancement and quality of the tourism industry. In order to ensure the sustainability of tourism in destinations, the role of local communities and local business should be enhanced. The power of local culture and awareness of local traditions and values supports the potential of innovation and future development. Therefore, it is necessary to create project ideas that reinforce and promote the values and traditions of society rather than those that can change its features. On the other hand, the start-ups business should create benefits for society at all levels. The current study aims to examine the impact of tourism entrepreneurship on destination development and sustainability achievement. It is based on semi-structured interview with the owner of a start-up tourism business in Alexandria, and the findings proved that entrepreneurial tourism businesses are trying to support the local community but not in the framework of sustainable tourism entrepreneurship.

Key Words: Tourism entrepreneurship, sustainability, local community.



Tourism entrepreneurship and innovation are considered the three main pillars in national policies intended to boost local economies (Gunnarsdóttir & Jóhannesson, 2014). According to Crnogaj et al. (2014), tourism entrepreneurship helps to link tourism benefits to the local economy, encourage the development of local businesses and reduce unemployment. On the other hand, relying on local culture and values to access innovative ideas and to create new tourism ventures, helps achieving sustainable development. The concept of entrepreneurship is often connected with new and innovative activities (Page & Ateljevic, 2009).

In recent years, several of subtopics have emerged in the field of entrepreneurship, such as sustainable entrepreneurship (Dean & McMullen, 2007; Shepherd & Patzelt, 2011), and social entrepreneurship (Zahra et al., 2009; Ahmad et al, 2014). The tourism sector requires many entrepreneurial efforts to keep up with the changes in the global tourism market. In addition, all tourism ventures need to apply sustainability to their operations (Crnogaj et al., 2014). 

Hence, this study aims to highlight the importance of tourism entrepreneurship and examine the relationship between the tourism sector and sustainable entrepreneurship. The study also explores the role of entrepreneurial businesses (small tourism firms) in supporting the local community and its culture.




  1. Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship involves multiple definitions and disciplines (Solvoll et al., 2015). For instance, Morrison (2006) noted that entrepreneurship is the process of creating or identifying opportunities and following them to achieve excellence (Page & Ateljevic, 2009). Commonly, entrepreneurship is defined as "the ability to recognize opportunities for change and the willingness to exploit them, which often requires a capacity for risk-taking" (Gunnarsdóttir & Jóhannesson, 2014, p.3).

In addition, in (1997) Venkataraman defined the field of entrepreneurship as "the scholarly examination of how, by whom, and with what effects, opportunities to create future goods and services are discovered, evaluated and exploited" (Page & Ateljevic, 2009, p.22). In (1934), Schumpeter linked the entrepreneurship with the idea of innovation with economic growth based on the introduction of new technologies (Page & Ateljevic, 2009). As evident from the above definitions, entrepreneurship includes innovation, identifying opportunities, risk management and action. This was emphasized by Solvoll et al. (2015) as follows:


  1. The entrepreneurship focuses on the perspective of innovation. This notion mainly relates mainly to the work of Schumpeter (1934), who considers entrepreneurs as innovators. These entrepreneurs are able to combine resources in new forms to create innovations and achieve a competitive advantage in the market by differentiating themselves from other competitors. Page and Ateljevic (2009) emphasize that innovation is directly related to entrepreneurial business creation and is positively correlated with success and excellence.
  2. Entrepreneurship focuses on the establishment of new organizations, generally "the business formation perspective", whether these are innovating or imitating new businesses or not.
  3. Entrepreneurship focuses on discovering and exploiting business opportunities to convert them into new goods and services.


  1. The tourism sector and sustainable entrepreneurship

There is a strong relation between the entrepreneurship and tourism industry. According to Rathore et al. (2015), tourism positively affects the development of entrepreneurial ventures and entrepreneurship boosts the tourism development process. In addition, promoting tourism entrepreneurship requires social, economic and political support in order to motivate the entrepreneurs to search the available opportunities in this sector. As Hollick & Braun (2005) mentioned, tourism entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in the development of destinations. The growth of the tourism sector in the long run depends on being both sustainable and entrepreneurial at the same time.

From one side, sustainable tourism refers to all tourism activities that permanently contributes to the protection of the natural, cultural values, and guarantees the integrity of the local people. From the other side, sustainable entrepreneurship enables entrepreneurs to gain profits while improving the social and environmental conditions of locals (Crnogaj et al., 2014)

Sustainable entrepreneurship can be defined as: "An examination of how opportunities to bring into existence future goods and services are discovered, created and exploited, by whom, and with what economic, psychological, social, and environmental consequences" (Cohen & Winn, 2007, p. 35). Crnogaj et al. (2014) pointed out that sustainable entrepreneurship focuses on the fundamental entrepreneurial activities that relate to support the personal initiatives, discover business opportunities and realize success while in turn taking into account environmental and societal goals. Therefore, the sustainable entrepreneurship is considered as socially responsible entrepreneurship.

Gunnarsdóttir & Jóhannesson (2014) demonstrated that the local entrepreneurs are often closely connected to the community and local culture, where they choose to run their businesses. In this regard, tourism entrepreneurs use their local knowledge to create a link between the tourists and the local community, by providing them an authentic experience in the destination.Besides, Hollick & Braun (2005) indicated that responsible entrepreneurs in the tourism sector can play a major role in:-

  1. Increasing the overall employment, as well as, improving the quality of life.
  2. Influencing the volume of local tourism ventures.
  3. Refining the efficiency of resource use, transforming local resources into sustainable tourism products and services.
  4. Safeguarding environmental features, preserving the cultural/natural heritage and promoting sustainable development of tourism products.
  5. Reinforcing the local culture and protecting its identity.


  1. The Small Tourism Firms (STFs) and sustainable entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurial activity is often related with the small business, although the two are not synonymous. There are only a small percentage of STFs that are truly entrepreneurial and have some degree of innovation (Page & Ateljevic, 2009).Sustainable entrepreneurs simultaneously consider the principles of social, environmental, and economic responsibility when making business decisions)Crnogaj et al., 2014).

 Crnogaj et al. (2014) stated that when entrepreneurs develop sustainable firms in tourism, they should achieve three aims at the same time – namely: (1) economic stability, (2) social equity and (3) sustainable practices. Generally, at the destination level, the presence of these sustainable firms contributes to sustainable development but entrepreneurs and STFs have to act according to the continuous changes, turbulence and unpredictability.

Figure 1: The sustainable entrepreneurship    

Therefore, the operation of sustainable new businesses (as entrepreneurial activities) in the tourism sector at any tourism destination has a critical role in improving the local community, protecting its culture and adding value to it (Dyllick & Hockerts, 2002). Through it, the local economy can be improved, new job possibilities can be offered, local materials can be exploited and the traditional skills can be enriched (Crnogaj, et al., 2014).

This was realized by several countries, for example, Romania encouraged entrepreneurship in heritage tourism. Heritage tourism entrepreneurship was related to the development of new ventures oriented towards the cultural heritage of different areas and reinforcement of local community by offering enormous economic and social opportunities. In addition, the entrepreneurial activities in this destination were assigned to achieve quality of tourism products and sites (interpretation), quality of information and visitation services provided for tourists, as well as, the diversification and up gradation of the heritage experience through the support of various events and rituals, handicrafts, etc. Moreover, the entrepreneurial approach was used to connect heritage products with the creative industries such as entertainment, design, architecture, fashion, etc. (Surugiu & Surugiu, 2015)\

Another example is Malaysia. The country supported entrepreneurship through handicraft industry in rural areas in order to offer the community opportunities for employment and income generation, as well as, a way to describe their culture, local identity, and heritage. Consequently, the availability of handicraft products in the market was a result of the effort made by handicraft entrepreneurs (the majority were women), who developed their businesses by opening small and medium firms that use local resources and are meanwhile eco-friendly and labor intensive (Hassan, et al., 2017).



This study is descriptive analytical in nature, in which the researcher depended on secondary data and primary data. Secondary data was collected from various sources including books, reports and papers related to describe the subject of the study. Primary data was collected by conducting semi-structured interview with the owner of a start-up tourism business (Ramasside Tours) which was the first online travel company in Egypt in 2006 Besides, the study analyzed the official website of this firm. The purpose of the interview and the site analysis is to explore the role of entrepreneurial businesses (Small Tourism Firms) in supporting the local community and its culture in the city of Alexandria. The interview concentrated on exploring two components specified by Crnogaj et al. (2014) to achieve sustainable tourism entrepreneurship, which are social equity and sustainable practices. The owner was asked about the criteria adopted in employees’ choice in the firm, whether they are locals or foreigners, professionals or fresh graduates, men or women. Furthermore, he was asked about the activities provided by the firm, their relation to the society’s culture and the extent of benefits generated to the local community. Finally, he was inquired about the challenges that his firm faces and prevents it from achieving its goals.



Concerning the findings of the interview and the analysis of the firm’s website, it was found that the firm is very selective when choosing its staff. Generally, it relies on the local employees, and it doesn’t only choose qualified and professional tour guides and leaders but also it also selects those who are friendly, know-well their culture, and are committed to offer a superior level of service. Besides, it depends heavily on the new graduates and trains them on providing special e-travel services,

Therefore, in the appointment of employees, the firm doesn't focus on the gender but on the efficiency and effectiveness of employees in order to improve the firm’ productivity.

  As for the activities provided, the owner confirmed that the firm didn't participate in any activities aimed at developing the society. However, initially it provided innovative tours for tourists through offering a full experience in Alexandria and all over Egypt to discover the country’s history, local lifestyle, traditions, folklore and markets to understand  Egypt’s culture. Some of these tours were in Alexandria in specific areas that reflect its identity like (Al-Max, Bahari, Manshiya and Kom Al-Dekka ).

The interview also highlighted that the firm focused at first on providing benefits to the local community. For instance, the tour guides of the firm in agreement with the fishermen and local cafes welcomed tourists during the tours and gave them some money for that.

         As for the challenges faced, at the beginning, the firm didn't find any legal support from the government as a start-up business. In addition, the local areas that reflect the authenticity of Alexandria were not prepared and equipped to receive tourists and the government doesn't give attention to these areas, which made the company reduce the tours that emphasized before.



According to the literature review of sustainable entrepreneurship in tourism, it is obvious that the sustainable new ventures in tourism sector provide many benefits to the destinations. As mentioned by Dyllick & Hockerts (2002), these ventures have a critical role in supporting the local community, protecting its culture and add value to the destinations, thus realizing the sustainable development at the destination level, taking into account that small tourism firms (STFs) face continuous changes, turbulences, and unpredictability.

From the analysis of the experience of one start-up tourism business (Ramasside Tours) in Alexandria, it is obvious that the absence of the government support and inadequate and suitable tourism services and facilities has resulted in reducing the activities dedicated for supporting the local community and its culture.

Therefore,  the start- up businesses in the tourism sector should be more sustainable, social responsible, and aim to achieve benefits for the local community both inside and outside the work environment and to support the sustainable practices that contribute to the protection of the natural, social and economic environment.

On the other hand, the country should encourage and support the entrepreneurship initiatives in the tourism sector and provide the facilities that help them in starting and operating their new ventures as new small tourism firms.




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