Earth Institute Research Projects

Promoting Sustainable Tourism in Huizhou, China

Lead PI: Dr. Dong Guo , Kelsie DeFrancia , Hayley Martinez

Unit Affiliation: Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management (SPM)

September 2015 - March 2016
Asia ; China ; Huizhou
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Situated in the southeastern part of the Guangdong Province, the City of Huizhou is a famous historical and cultural city within the Pearl River Delta in China. Huizhou is well-known for its abundance of natural resources, and there are more than 900 “scenic spots” in the city and surrounding Huizhou region. The city’s historical and cultural significance and beautiful natural landscapes make tourism an important and promising industry for the long-term economic development of Huizhou. / The City of Huizhou was one of 16 cities selected to receive a Smarter Cities Challenge grant from IBM in 2015, receiving recommendations from IBM experts on how Huizhou can measure and grow its tourism industry. Tourism, however—perhaps more than any other economic activity—has complex relationships with both natural and cultural heritage, given its unique dependence on the availability and quality of those resources. As Huizhou increases local economic activity, an influx of tourism may also lead to the degradation of vital resources, subsequently threatening continued tourism, as well as local sustainable development. Sustainability is therefore an important factor to ensure the long-term success of the tourism industry in Huizhou. The Earth Institute’s Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management at Columbia University was tasked by IBM to execute a study on the relationship between the tourism industry, sustainability, and economic development in Huizhou.

OUTCOMES: By using sustainability as a lens with which to analyze tourism growth, we have developed a management system and set of recommendations for developing Huizhou’s tourism industry—one which encourages environmental sustainability, reduces seasonality, and expands the marketing of Huizhou as a “green” city. This report begins with a background of the tourism industry and its expansion both within China and internationally, followed by a discussion of the case studies we analyzed to form the basis of our recommendations. We then provide a sustainable tourism management system for Huizhou, an indicator system which we developed for the city to assess its progress and evaluate long-term success, both environmentally and economically. Finally, the majority of the report is devoted to our six recommendations for Huizhou’s tourism development, which collectively touch upon topics of policy, environment, marketing, and off-season tourism.


IBM Corporation




Alison Miller, Mary Foster, Melissa Gallant




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