What are the issues facing SMALL ISLANDS?

Our work includes work on sustainable tourism development and policy implementation on islands. We have done work in many small island destinations (Mediterranean, Caribbean, SE Asia, Canada). The following are island issues and vulnerabilities which she has encountered:


  • Water – water shortages or water usage
  • Energy – renewable energy usage, power shortages
  • Waste Management – landfill issues, lack of recycling due to awareness or critical mass
  • Erosion / Coastal Zone Management – e.g. trail erosion, mangrove removal causing erosion
  • Noise pollution
  • Infrastructure congestion
  • Climate Change – rising sea levels
  • Crowding – pressure of tourist traffic in destinations

Social / Marketing

  • Marketing – lack of island identity, lack of a unified brand to promote the island, marketing cooperation issues
  • Seasonality – short season
  • Crime
  • Lack of identify – competition with other islands/island insularity
  • Quality standards – not all businesses/attractions have same level of service/quality
  • Branding – lack of promotion of island as a brand instead focus on individual products
  • Last minute booking – increased use of internet for marketing purposes


  • Leakage – money from holiday homes leaving island, ferry services being operated by mainland owned business
  • Inflation – rise in house prices/goods due to holiday home/tourist presence
  • Infrastructure upkeep – roads, schools, overall building maintenance
  • Day-tripper market – lack of economic contribution to island & potential high environmental impact
  • Employment – season or part time employment


  • Depopulation – population moving off islands in search of work, aging population
  • Access – remote locations, infrequent air/ferry access
  • Education – awareness of environmental/social issues in community and to tourists
  • Weather – hurricanes, tsunamis, etc.


  • Branding – Arran Island, Scotland offers a Taste of Arran combining all local island food products.
  • Chumbe Island, Zanzibar – environmental and marine management


Further Resources

Read about sustainable tourism in island destinations – click here to find Sustainable Tourism in Island Destinations

ID21 Insights Magazine

Island vulnerability – informative site on island issues, projects and references

Small Islands Development Network (SIDS)

European Small Island Network (ESIN)

Report by UN on small island sensitivities

Island ecosystems (IUCN site)

Islands and Small States Institute

Commonwealth Secretariat – Thirty-two of the Commonwealth’s 53 member countries are small states

Repeating islands – a blog about issues in the Caribbean


Do you want more information on sustainable tourism? Determine your level of responsibility as an organisation/destination by asking yourself these questions?