Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

B.S. in Interior Design


Design and Innovation

First Advisor

Dustin Altschul

Second Advisor

Kim Buchholz


The act of traveling is often seen as exciting for many travelers looking for adventure or to experience something different than their everyday routines. However, many current tourism trends force negative burdens onto local communities and environments. For instance, when development increases consumption in an area where natural resources are scarce to begin with, it can put pressure on those resources. There is a certain level of visitor use that an environment can manage; negative impacts occur when the changes in visitor use exceed this limit.

While tourist destinations experience negative impacts from the tourism industry, tourism also supports the livelihood of the community. It can provide the opportunity to enhance cultural preservation, if done correctly. Cross-cultural interactions; understanding, maintaining, and strengthening local culture, values and traditions; and empowering host communities are a few common cultural ideals that have a positive impact on tourism.

When the economy prioritizes the experience of travelers over the lives of local residents, an uneven social and cultural divide is created that can cause dangerous and/or oppressive side effects from tourism - the very industry that also economically supports communities. In an effort to alleviate the various divides that result from tourism, this research explores four indicators of sustainability and how they contribute towards or within the tourism industry. These indicators of sustainability include human factors, social responsibility, economic stability, and environmental stewardship. Each indicator is compared against various case studies to better understand the role of the built environment in sustainable tourism.

In the context of travelling and vacation destinations, the tourism industry is largely based on/within the built environment, or human-made and curated experiences, to enhance the destination. Numerous leading hotel chains have established definitions of sustainability initiative actions with underlying intentions of competitive advantage and efficiency. Fundamental concerns of sustainability and enhancement of the natural environment must be the main focus and sincere intent of these hotels.The role of the built environment is to be the vehicle for incorporating these sustainability initiatives into the destination to improve the future growth of the tourism industry