What Is Sustainable Tourism and Why Is It Important?

Sustainable management and socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental impacts are the four pillars of sustainable tourism

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What Makes Tourism Sustainable?

The role of tourists, types of sustainable tourism.

Sustainable tourism considers its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts by addressing the needs of its ecological surroundings and the local communities. This is achieved by protecting natural environments and wildlife when developing and managing tourism activities, providing only authentic experiences for tourists that don’t appropriate or misrepresent local heritage and culture, or creating direct socioeconomic benefits for local communities through training and employment.

As people begin to pay more attention to sustainability and the direct and indirect effects of their actions, travel destinations and organizations are following suit. For example, the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment is aiming to see every New Zealand tourism business committed to sustainability by 2025, while the island country of Palau has required visitors to sign an eco pledge upon entry since 2017.

Tourism industries are considered successfully sustainable when they can meet the needs of travelers while having a low impact on natural resources and generating long-term employment for locals. By creating positive experiences for local people, travelers, and the industry itself, properly managed sustainable tourism can meet the needs of the present without compromising the future.

What Is Sustainability?

At its core, sustainability focuses on balance — maintaining our environmental, social, and economic benefits without using up the resources that future generations will need to thrive. In the past, sustainability ideals tended to lean towards business, though more modern definitions of sustainability highlight finding ways to avoid depleting natural resources in order to keep an ecological balance and maintain the quality of environmental and human societies.

Since tourism impacts and is impacted by a wide range of different activities and industries, all sectors and stakeholders (tourists, governments, host communities, tourism businesses) need to collaborate on sustainable tourism in order for it to be successful.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) , which is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of sustainable tourism, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) , the global standard for sustainable travel and tourism, have similar opinions on what makes tourism sustainable. By their account, sustainable tourism should make the best use of environmental resources while helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity, respect the socio-culture of local host communities, and contribute to intercultural understanding. Economically, it should also ensure viable long-term operations that will provide benefits to all stakeholders, whether that includes stable employment to locals, social services, or contributions to poverty alleviation.

The GSTC has developed a series of criteria to create a common language about sustainable travel and tourism. These criteria are used to distinguish sustainable destinations and organizations, but can also help create sustainable policies for businesses and government agencies. Arranged in four pillars, the global baseline standards include sustainable management, socioeconomic impact, cultural impacts, and environmental impacts.

Travel Tip:

The GSTC is an excellent resource for travelers who want to find sustainably managed destinations and accommodations and learn how to become a more sustainable traveler in general.


Protecting natural environments is the bedrock of sustainable tourism. Data released by the World Tourism Organization estimates that tourism-based CO2 emissions are forecast to increase 25% by 2030. In 2016, tourism transport-related emissions contributed to 5% of all man-made emissions, while transport-related emissions from long-haul international travel were expected to grow 45% by 2030.

The environmental ramifications of tourism don’t end with carbon emissions, either. Unsustainably managed tourism can create waste problems, lead to land loss or soil erosion, increase natural habitat loss, and put pressure on endangered species . More often than not, the resources in these places are already scarce, and sadly, the negative effects can contribute to the destruction of the very environment on which the industry depends.

Industries and destinations that want to be sustainable must do their part to conserve resources, reduce pollution, and conserve biodiversity and important ecosystems. In order to achieve this, proper resource management and management of waste and emissions is important. In Bali, for example, tourism consumes 65% of local water resources, while in Zanzibar, tourists use 15 times as much water per night as local residents.

Another factor to environmentally focused sustainable tourism comes in the form of purchasing: Does the tour operator, hotel, or restaurant favor locally sourced suppliers and products? How do they manage their food waste and dispose of goods? Something as simple as offering paper straws instead of plastic ones can make a huge dent in an organization’s harmful pollutant footprint.

Recently, there has been an uptick in companies that promote carbon offsetting . The idea behind carbon offsetting is to compensate for generated greenhouse gas emissions by canceling out emissions somewhere else. Much like the idea that reducing or reusing should be considered first before recycling , carbon offsetting shouldn’t be the primary goal. Sustainable tourism industries always work towards reducing emissions first and offset what they can’t.

Properly managed sustainable tourism also has the power to provide alternatives to need-based professions and behaviors like poaching . Often, and especially in underdeveloped countries, residents turn to environmentally harmful practices due to poverty and other social issues. At Periyar Tiger Reserve in India, for example, an unregulated increase in tourists made it more difficult to control poaching in the area. In response, an eco development program aimed at providing employment for locals turned 85 former poachers into reserve gamekeepers. Under supervision of the reserve’s management staff, the group of gamekeepers have developed a series of tourism packages and are now protecting land instead of exploiting it. They’ve found that jobs in responsible wildlife tourism are more rewarding and lucrative than illegal work.

Flying nonstop and spending more time in a single destination can help save CO2, since planes use more fuel the more times they take off.

Local Culture and Residents

One of the most important and overlooked aspects of sustainable tourism is contributing to protecting, preserving, and enhancing local sites and traditions. These include areas of historical, archaeological, or cultural significance, but also "intangible heritage," such as ceremonial dance or traditional art techniques.

In cases where a site is being used as a tourist attraction, it is important that the tourism doesn’t impede access to local residents. For example, some tourist organizations create local programs that offer residents the chance to visit tourism sites with cultural value in their own countries. A program called “Children in the Wilderness” run by Wilderness Safaris educates children in rural Africa about the importance of wildlife conservation and valuable leadership development tools. Vacations booked through travel site Responsible Travel contribute to the company’s “Trip for a Trip” program, which organizes day trips for disadvantaged youth who live near popular tourist destinations but have never had the opportunity to visit.

Sustainable tourism bodies work alongside communities to incorporate various local cultural expressions as part of a traveler’s experiences and ensure that they are appropriately represented. They collaborate with locals and seek their input on culturally appropriate interpretation of sites, and train guides to give visitors a valuable (and correct) impression of the site. The key is to inspire travelers to want to protect the area because they understand its significance.

Bhutan, a small landlocked country in South Asia, has enforced a system of all-inclusive tax for international visitors since 1997 ($200 per day in the off season and $250 per day in the high season). This way, the government is able to restrict the tourism market to local entrepreneurs exclusively and restrict tourism to specific regions, ensuring that the country’s most precious natural resources won’t be exploited.

Incorporating volunteer work into your vacation is an amazing way to learn more about the local culture and help contribute to your host community at the same time. You can also book a trip that is focused primarily on volunteer work through a locally run charity or non profit (just be sure that the job isn’t taking employment opportunities away from residents).

It's not difficult to make a business case for sustainable tourism, especially if one looks at a destination as a product. Think of protecting a destination, cultural landmark, or ecosystem as an investment. By keeping the environment healthy and the locals happy, sustainable tourism will maximize the efficiency of business resources. This is especially true in places where locals are more likely to voice their concerns if they feel like the industry is treating visitors better than residents.

Not only does reducing reliance on natural resources help save money in the long run, studies have shown that modern travelers are likely to participate in environmentally friendly tourism. In 2019, Booking.com found that 73% of travelers preferred an eco-sustainable hotel over a traditional one and 72% of travelers believed that people need to make sustainable travel choices for the sake of future generations.

Always be mindful of where your souvenirs are coming from and whether or not the money is going directly towards the local economy. For example, opt for handcrafted souvenirs made by local artisans.

Growth in the travel and tourism sectors alone has outpaced the overall global economy growth for nine years in a row. Prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism accounted for an $9.6 trillion contribution to the global GDP and 333 million jobs (or one in four new jobs around the world).

Sustainable travel dollars help support employees, who in turn pay taxes that contribute to their local economy. If those employees are not paid a fair wage or aren’t treated fairly, the traveler is unknowingly supporting damaging or unsustainable practices that do nothing to contribute to the future of the community. Similarly, if a hotel doesn’t take into account its ecological footprint, it may be building infrastructure on animal nesting grounds or contributing to excessive pollution. The same goes for attractions, since sustainably managed spots (like nature preserves) often put profits towards conservation and research.

Costa Rica was able to turn a severe deforestation crisis in the 1980s into a diversified tourism-based economy by designating 25.56% of land protected as either a national park, wildlife refuge, or reserve.

While traveling, think of how you would want your home country or home town to be treated by visitors.

Are You a Sustainable Traveler?

Sustainable travelers understand that their actions create an ecological and social footprint on the places they visit. Be mindful of the destinations , accommodations, and activities you choose, and choose destinations that are closer to home or extend your length of stay to save resources. Consider switching to more environmentally friendly modes of transportation such as bicycles, trains, or walking while on vacation. Look into supporting locally run tour operations or local family-owned businesses rather than large international chains. Don’t engage in activities that harm wildlife, such as elephant riding or tiger petting , and opt instead for a wildlife sanctuary (or better yet, attend a beach clean up or plan an hour or two of some volunteer work that interests you). Leave natural areas as you found them by taking out what you carry in, not littering, and respecting the local residents and their traditions.

Most of us travel to experience the world. New cultures, new traditions, new sights and smells and tastes are what makes traveling so rewarding. It is our responsibility as travelers to ensure that these destinations are protected not only for the sake of the communities who rely upon them, but for a future generation of travelers.

Sustainable tourism has many different layers, most of which oppose the more traditional forms of mass tourism that are more likely to lead to environmental damage, loss of culture, pollution, negative economic impacts, and overtourism.

Ecotourism highlights responsible travel to natural areas that focus on environmental conservation. A sustainable tourism body supports and contributes to biodiversity conservation by managing its own property responsibly and respecting or enhancing nearby natural protected areas (or areas of high biological value). Most of the time, this looks like a financial compensation to conservation management, but it can also include making sure that tours, attractions, and infrastructure don’t disturb natural ecosystems.

On the same page, wildlife interactions with free roaming wildlife should be non-invasive and managed responsibly to avoid negative impacts to the animals. As a traveler, prioritize visits to accredited rescue and rehabilitation centers that focus on treating, rehoming, or releasing animals back into the wild, such as the Jaguar Rescue Center in Costa Rica.

Soft Tourism

Soft tourism may highlight local experiences, local languages, or encourage longer time spent in individual areas. This is opposed to hard tourism featuring short duration of visits, travel without respecting culture, taking lots of selfies , and generally feeling a sense of superiority as a tourist.

Many World Heritage Sites, for example, pay special attention to protection, preservation, and sustainability by promoting soft tourism. Peru’s famed Machu Picchu was previously known as one of the world’s worst victims of overtourism , or a place of interest that has experienced negative effects (such as traffic or litter) from excessive numbers of tourists. The attraction has taken steps to control damages in recent years, requiring hikers to hire local guides on the Inca Trail, specifying dates and time on visitor tickets to negate overcrowding, and banning all single use plastics from the site.

Traveling during a destination’s shoulder season , the period between the peak and low seasons, typically combines good weather and low prices without the large crowds. This allows better opportunities to immerse yourself in a new place without contributing to overtourism, but also provides the local economy with income during a normally slow season.

Rural Tourism

Rural tourism applies to tourism that takes place in non-urbanized areas such as national parks, forests, nature reserves, and mountain areas. This can mean anything from camping and glamping to hiking and WOOFing. Rural tourism is a great way to practice sustainable tourism, since it usually requires less use of natural resources.

Community Tourism

Community-based tourism involves tourism where local residents invite travelers to visit their own communities. It sometimes includes overnight stays and often takes place in rural or underdeveloped countries. This type of tourism fosters connection and enables tourists to gain an in-depth knowledge of local habitats, wildlife, and traditional cultures — all while providing direct economic benefits to the host communities. Ecuador is a world leader in community tourism, offering unique accommodation options like the Sani Lodge run by the local Kichwa indigenous community, which offers responsible cultural experiences in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest.

" Transport-related CO 2  Emissions of the Tourism Sector – Modelling Results ." World Tourism Organization and International Transport Forum , 2019, doi:10.18111/9789284416660

" 45 Arrivals Every Second ." The World Counts.

Becken, Susanne. " Water Equity- Contrasting Tourism Water Use With That of the Local Community ." Water Resources and Industry , vol. 7-8, 2014, pp. 9-22, doi:10.1016/j.wri.2014.09.002

Kutty, Govindan M., and T.K. Raghavan Nair. " Periyar Tiger Reserve: Poachers Turned Gamekeepers ." Food and Agriculture Organization.

" GSTC Destination Criteria ." Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Rinzin, Chhewang, et al. " Ecotourism as a Mechanism for Sustainable Development: the Case of Bhutan ." Environmental Sciences , vol. 4, no. 2, 2007, pp. 109-125, doi:10.1080/15693430701365420

" Booking.com Reveals Key Findings From Its 2019 Sustainable Travel Report ." Booking.com.

" Economic Impact Reports ." World Travel and Tourism Council .

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Inside the Travel Lab

9 Powerful Benefits of Sustainable Tourism and Why You Should Care

August 7, 2022

9 Benefits of Sustainable Tourism

Let’s talk about the benefits of sustainable tourism. No, not just the part that tries to make you feel guilty and then fob you off with a bamboo toothbrush. But real, powerful, meaningful benefits. Turns out that travel is good for the planet. Let’s go.

9 Benefits of Sustainable Tourism

Table of Contents

What is the Definition of Sustainable Tourism?

Gah, sustainable tourism. It’s sexy but it sure doesn’t sound like it.

The UNWTO Definition: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”

Yet it’s more than just green travel or responsible travel or even eco-friendly travel. The emphasis on sustainability refers to lots of different, important considerations. But one of them, is that people should be having fun. Otherwise, we’re missing the point.

With that in mind, let’s talk more about some of the top benefits of sustainable tourism.

The Benefits of Sustainable Tourism

Elephant standing at the river edge in Kenya

1. Sustainable Tourism Directly Helps Save Endangered Animals

What’s the most powerful way of protecting endangered animals? Making them more valuable alive than dead.

And with sustainably run wildlife encounters, that’s exactly what happens. When communities earn their living by drawing visitors to see and appreciate wildlife in their natural habitats, the pressure to poach diminishes. The benefits of sustainable tourism extend beyond the travel industry as entire regions begin to see preserving local species as economically beneficial, as well as just morally so.

Walking through Anaga Natural Park

2. Sustainable Tourism Protects Landscapes and Environments

Just as with endangered animals, sustainable tourism creates a massive incentive for communities to protect landscapes as well as the creatures that live within them. While areas can be fenced off by authorities simply for their own protection, one of the benefits of sustainable tourism includes an income for the people who live nearby while also financing the protection of the area in question. And it’s not just “landscapes.” Marine life and aquatic environments can also benefit from the positive impact of sustainable tourism.

Note, this is generally the opposite of overtourism.

Still mist and water in a kayak in Alaska

3. Sustainable Tourism Reduces Pollution

While sustainable tourism protects against poaching and the active destruction of habitats, as mentioned above, it also helps to reduce pollution.

With extra incentives to keep local areas clean to earn an income from visitors, it is easier to to get group cooperation to reduce pollution on an individual level, and a corporate and government level.

Traditional Jordanian Food Recipes learned at Beit Sitti in Amman

4. Sustainable Tourism Shares Knowledge

While “bad tourism” herds people into resorts where they have no idea where they are or what local traditions look like, sustainable tourism invites visitors and residents to share their experiences, exchange knowledge and have fun.

  • Recommended reading: Learning about Jordanian food in Beit Sitti

Cooking lessons at Eumelia

5. Sustainable Tourism Prevents Cash Crops and Protects Livelihoods

Mass industry and thoughtless mass tourism leads to cash crops and precarious livelihoods. Areas can find themselves supported by only one crop or one corporation and then it only takes one small change in circumstances, like a hurricane or corporate failure, for the entire area to struggle.

Sustainable tourism encourages a diverse approach to accommodation, food, farming and the preservation of tradition in local communities.

With smaller boutique hotels, cooking classes, agroturismo and the tours woven into the tourism industry, communities are left less at the mercy of external events and the disadvantages of cash crop economies.

  • Recommended reading: The Cheese Route in Austria and What does agroturismo have to teach in Greece?

Organic farming at Eumelia Peloponnese Greece

6. Sustainable Tourism is Good for Your Health

Whether we’re talking physical health or mental health, one of the benefits of sustainable tourism is wellness.

Clean air, clean water, sustainable farming practices and beautiful natural landscapes are each known to improve health on a population level.

And laughter and meeting new friends helps too. Seriously. It’s all scientifically approved!

The Kasestrasse Cheese Route in Bregenzerwald Austria

7. Sustainable Tourism Protects and Preserves Valued Traditions

Traditional practices bind cultures together. Almost by definition, they are sustainable and have survived for centuries when we all had far less. Yet globalisation threatens many traditional practices.

In the modern world, where is the market for all the artisanal produce and practices? Responsible tourism helps to bring together traders and customers for small, traditional practices, from gin distilleries to hand-woven carpets to any and every kind of local culture and tradition.

For examples, see:

  • Uncovering tradition in the highest vineyards in Europe

Icy landscape in Patagonia

8. Sustainable Tourism Doesn’t Require Charity

Sometimes, the best of intentions result in the most harm. Several efforts to help alleviate the 1980s famine in east Africa, for example, resulted in harm that lasted for decades.

Sustainable travel seeks a win-win situation.

It demands a formula that works for today  and  tomorrow.

A method that benefits tourists and local communities, that conserves the environment and which, crucially, is both affordable and makes enough money to keep the whole show on the road.

In the words of a banker turned philanthropist.

“If we become a loss-making organisation, we are no help at all. We must be stable and sustainable. Running a business that depends on yearly grants and fundraising provides no security at all.” Jean-Marc Debricon, founder of the Green Shoots Foundation.

Truly sustainable travel should support the local economy and local people without creating a dependency on fundraising or aid.

Finland - Helsinki - Abigail King - Snowy Hat - One day in Helsinki

9. Sustainable Tourism Feels Good!

Travel is one of the most joyful and rewarding things we can do with our lives on this planet. People on their deathbeds don’t wish for more time in the office or better clothes. They wish for more time with their family and their friends, and to have travelled more.

One of the many benefits of sustainable tourism is also one of the simplest: it just feels good!

In Summary: The Benefits of Sustainable Tourism

  • Protects endangered animals
  • Protects landscapes and marine reserves under threat
  • Reduces pollution and protects natural resources
  • Shares knowledge
  • Protects livelihoods and brings economic benefits
  • Promotes health
  • Develops independence
  • Feels good!

What Sustainable Tourism Is Not

Sometimes, it’s easier to understand the benefits of sustainable tourism by talking about the opposite. What sustainable tourism is not.

Not Just a “Third World” Problem

Leaving aside for a moment the terminology, sustainable tourism applies to everyone everywhere. The Palace of Versailles outside Paris needs to manage the principles of sustainable tourism just as much as the Amazon rainforest does.

Not Paternalistic

It’s not about “rich white saviours” deciding what’s best for other people and their land. It’s about everyone working together.

Not Just Being Green

Ecotourism or green travel makes protecting the environment the main concern. Sustainable tourism goes further than that. It looks at protecting people, their culture and their future as well as their past. It also focuses on the traveller having a good time in whichever way that feels meaningful to them.

Why? Because…

It needs to make a profit to be economically sustainable.

Here’s the sustainable part. It has to make money. It cannot be a setup that relies on donations, which could stop at any time, or that relies on the traveller feeling good about feeling bad.

Some industries can just about pull that off. But travel cannot because…

“Travel is my one time to relax and take a break, goddammit!”

Not A Chore

Tourism has to be sustainable. Which means that it has to be manageable (and I’d wager pleasurable) to the traveller as well as the host community. That’s something that green travel and ethical travel and ecotourism occasionally lose sight of.

Responsible travel is almost the same thing. But it doesn’t sound much fun, does it?! What happened to taking a break from some of our responsibilities for a short while?!

And finally, we can all be  very  responsible for a short period of time. But is there a system in place that makes being responsible  sustainable? That’s the key question.

In Summary: What Sustainable Tourism Is Not

  • For “third world” countries
  • About “being green”
  • “White saviours” dictating terms
  • No fun for the traveller!

FAQs About Sustainable Tourism

Who benefits from sustainable tourism?

Everyone. Both locals and travellers and people who never visit the destination.

What is sustainable tourism?

It’s a model of tourism which benefits both people and places, as well as the environment and is economically sustainable on its own.

Why is sustainable tourism difficult to achieve?

I’m not convinced that it is, with the right mindset. But there is a temptation to cut corners and exploit natural resources for the fastest or cheapest result instead of the most beneficial one.

What are the benefits of responsible tourism?

All of the above!

Sustainable Living: The Key Takeaway…

We can’t wait until we’re perfect to start doing something better.

More on Sustainable Travel

  • Start here: how to be a responsible tourist
  • Is dark tourism ethical? What you need to know.
  • Get inspired by this collection of the best sustainable travel blogs.
  • The unmistakable emotional meaning of home
  • Why you need to know about the cork trees in Portugal
  • The importance of doing nothing
  • How to find the most ethical travel destinations
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  • Five Ways Travel Can Help the Planet – rethinking Earth Day
  • Voluntourism – the questions you should ask by Uncornered Market

Hands around globe destination planner

5 thoughts on “9 Powerful Benefits of Sustainable Tourism and Why You Should Care”

The positive of sustainable tourism is to ensure that development is a positive experience for local people, tourism companies, and tourists themselves. I don’t know about before reading your article. Thank you so much for sharing such a valuable information.

Many efforts at sustainability focus on the environment, some on the residents. But for true success, we need to consider all three components. Thanks for stopping by!

Sustainable tourism is the key to establishing the balance between development and nature. It is indeed true that it helps protect endangered animals and birds, protects landscapes and promotes a healthy lifestyle. One such example is the Khonoma Village of Nagaland in India. The villagers were once hunters but now is mainly known for their preservation efforts, ecotourism and sustainable tourism

Thanks for the recommendation! Hope to check it out one day.

You’re welcome Abi. Dzulekie is another village near Khonoma known for the same.

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Sustainable tourism

Related sdgs, promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable ....

sustainable tourism importance



Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries and an important source of foreign exchange and employment, while being closely linked to the social, economic, and environmental well-being of many countries, especially developing countries. Maritime or ocean-related tourism, as well as coastal tourism, are for example vital sectors of the economy in small island developing States (SIDS) and coastal least developed countries (LDCs) (see also: The Potential of the Blue Economy report as well as the Community of Ocean Action on sustainable blue economy).

The World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities".

Based on General assembly resolution 70/193, 2017 was declared as the  International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development SDG target 8.9, aims to “by 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”. The importance of sustainable tourism is also highlighted in SDG target 12.b. which aims to “develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products”.

Tourism is also identified as one of the tools to “by 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries” as comprised in SDG target 14.7.

In the Rio+20 outcome document The Future We want, sustainable tourism is defined by paragraph 130 as a significant contributor “to the three dimensions of sustainable development” thanks to its close linkages to other sectors and its ability to create decent jobs and generate trade opportunities. Therefore, Member States recognize “the need to support sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity-building that promote environmental awareness, conserve and protect the environment, respect wildlife, flora, biodiversity, ecosystems and cultural diversity, and improve the welfare and livelihoods of local communities by supporting their local economies and the human and natural environment as a whole. ” In paragraph 130, Member States also “call for enhanced support for sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity-building in developing countries in order to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development”.

In paragraph 131, Member States “encourage the promotion of investment in sustainable tourism, including eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which may include creating small- and medium-sized enterprises and facilitating access to finance, including through microcredit initiatives for the poor, indigenous peoples and local communities in areas with high eco-tourism potential”. In this regard, Member States also “underline the importance of establishing, where necessary, appropriate guidelines and regulations in accordance with national priorities and legislation for promoting and supporting sustainable tourism”.

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg called for the promotion of sustainable tourism development, including non-consumptive and eco-tourism, in Chapter IV, paragraph 43 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

At the Johannesburg Summit, the launch of the “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) initiative was announced. The initiative was inaugurated by the World Tourism Organization, in collaboration with UNCTAD, in order to develop sustainable tourism as a force for poverty alleviation.

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) last reviewed the issue of sustainable tourism in 2001, when it was acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Johannesburg Summit.

The importance of sustainable tourism was also mentioned in Agenda 21.

For more information and documents on this topic,  please visit this link

UNWTO Annual Report 2015

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The 2012 UNEP Foresight Process on Emerging Global Environmental Issues primarily identified emerging environmental issues and possible solutions on a global scale and perspective. In 2013, UNEP carried out a similar exercise to identify priority emerging environmental issues that are of concern to ...

Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom, We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for su...

15 Years of the UNWTO World Tourism Network on Child Protection: A Compilation of Good Practices

Although it is widely recognized that tourism is not the cause of child exploitation, it can aggravate the problem when parts of its infrastructure, such as transport networks and accommodation facilities, are exploited by child abusers for nefarious ends. Additionally, many other factors that contr...

Towards Measuring the Economic Value of Wildlife Watching Tourism in Africa

Set against the backdrop of the ongoing poaching crisis driven by a dramatic increase in the illicit trade in wildlife products, this briefing paper intends to support the ongoing efforts of African governments and the broader international community in the fight against poaching. Specifically, this...

Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012

Previous Caribbean assessments lumped data together into a single database regardless of geographic location, reef environment, depth, oceanographic conditions, etc. Data from shallow lagoons and back reef environments were combined with data from deep fore-reef environments and atolls. Geographic c...

Natural Resources Forum: Special Issue Tourism

The journal considers papers on all topics relevant to sustainable development. In addition, it dedicates series, issues and special sections to specific themes that are relevant to the current discussions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)....

Thailand: Supporting Sustainable Development in Thailand: A Geographic Clusters Approach

Market forces and government policies, including the Tenth National Development Plan (2007-2012), are moving Thailand toward a more geographically specialized economy. There is a growing consensus that Thailand’s comparative and competitive advantages lie in amenity services that have high reliance...

Road Map on Building a Green Economy for Sustainable Development in Carriacou and Petite Martinique, Grenada

This publication is the product of an international study led by the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs and the Ministry of Environment, Foreig...

Natural Resources Forum, a United Nations Sustainable Development Journal (NRF)

  Natural Resources Forum, a United Nations Sustainable Development Journal, seeks to address gaps in current knowledge and stimulate relevant policy discussions, leading to the implementation of the sustainable development agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable...

UN Ocean Conference 2025

Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility “The ocean is fundamental to life on our planet and to our future. The ocean is an important source of the planet’s biodiversity and plays a vital role in the climate system and water cycle. The ocean provides a range of ecosystem services, supplies us with

UN Ocean Conference 2022

The UN Ocean Conference 2022, co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal, came at a critical time as the world was strengthening its efforts to mobilize, create and drive solutions to realize the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

58th Session of the Commission for Social Development – CSocD58

22nd general assembly of the united nations world tourism organization, world tourism day 2017 official celebration.

This year’s World Tourism Day, held on 27 September, will be focused on Sustainable Tourism – a Tool for Development. Celebrated in line with the 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the Day will be dedicated to exploring the contribution of tourism to the Sustainable Deve

World Tourism Day 2016 Official Celebration

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  • January 2012 Future We Want (Para 130-131) Sustainable tourism is defined as a significant contributor “to the three dimensions of sustainable development” thanks to its close linkages to other sectors and its ability to create decent jobs and generate trade opportunities. Therefore, Member States recognize “the need to support sustainable tourism activities and relevant capacity-building that promote environmental awareness, conserve and protect the environment, respect wildlife, flora, biodiversity, ecosystems and cultural diversity, and improve the welfare and livelihoods of local communities” as well as to “encourage the promotion of investment in sustainable tourism, including eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which may include creating small and medium sized enterprises and facilitating access to finance, including through microcredit initiatives for the poor, indigenous peoples and local communities in areas with high eco-tourism potential”.
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  • January 1985 Tourism Bill of Rights and Tourist Code At the World Tourism Organization Sixth Assembly held in Sofia in 1985, the Tourism Bill of Rights and Tourist Code were adopted, setting out the rights and duties of tourists and host populations and formulating policies and action for implementation by states and the tourist industry.
  • January 1982 Acapulco Document Adopted in 1982, the Acapulco Document acknowledges the new dimension and role of tourism as a positive instrument towards the improvement of the quality of life for all peoples, as well as a significant force for peace and international understanding. The Acapulco Document also urges Member States to elaborate their policies, plans and programmes on tourism, in accordance with their national priorities and within the framework of the programme of work of the World Tourism Organization.
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Article contents

The role of tourism in sustainable development.

  • Robert B. Richardson Robert B. Richardson Community Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.013.387
  • Published online: 25 March 2021

Sustainable development is the foundational principle for enhancing human and economic development while maintaining the functional integrity of ecological and social systems that support regional economies. Tourism has played a critical role in sustainable development in many countries and regions around the world. In developing countries, tourism development has been used as an important strategy for increasing economic growth, alleviating poverty, creating jobs, and improving food security. Many developing countries are in regions that are characterized by high levels of biological diversity, natural resources, and cultural heritage sites that attract international tourists whose local purchases generate income and support employment and economic development. Tourism has been associated with the principles of sustainable development because of its potential to support environmental protection and livelihoods. However, the relationship between tourism and the environment is multifaceted, as some types of tourism have been associated with negative environmental impacts, many of which are borne by host communities.

The concept of sustainable tourism development emerged in contrast to mass tourism, which involves the participation of large numbers of people, often in structured or packaged tours. Mass tourism has been associated with economic leakage and dependence, along with negative environmental and social impacts. Sustainable tourism development has been promoted in various ways as a framing concept in contrast to these economic, environmental, and social impacts. Some literature has acknowledged a vagueness of the concept of sustainable tourism, which has been used to advocate for fundamentally different strategies for tourism development that may exacerbate existing conflicts between conservation and development paradigms. Tourism has played an important role in sustainable development in some countries through the development of alternative tourism models, including ecotourism, community-based tourism, pro-poor tourism, slow tourism, green tourism, and heritage tourism, among others that aim to enhance livelihoods, increase local economic growth, and provide for environmental protection. Although these models have been given significant attention among researchers, the extent of their implementation in tourism planning initiatives has been limited, superficial, or incomplete in many contexts.

The sustainability of tourism as a global system is disputed among scholars. Tourism is dependent on travel, and nearly all forms of transportation require the use of non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels for energy. The burning of fossil fuels for transportation generates emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change, which is fundamentally unsustainable. Tourism is also vulnerable to both localized and global shocks. Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to localized shocks include the impacts of natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and civil unrest. Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to global shocks include the impacts of climate change, economic crisis, global public health pandemics, oil price shocks, and acts of terrorism. It is clear that tourism has contributed significantly to economic development globally, but its role in sustainable development is uncertain, debatable, and potentially contradictory.

  • conservation
  • economic development
  • environmental impacts
  • sustainable development
  • sustainable tourism
  • tourism development


Sustainable development is the guiding principle for advancing human and economic development while maintaining the integrity of ecosystems and social systems on which the economy depends. It is also the foundation of the leading global framework for international cooperation—the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations, 2015 ). The concept of sustainable development is often associated with the publication of Our Common Future (World Commission on Environment and Development [WCED], 1987 , p. 29), which defined it as “paths of human progress that meet the needs and aspirations of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Concerns about the environmental implications of economic development in lower income countries had been central to debates about development studies since the 1970s (Adams, 2009 ). The principles of sustainable development have come to dominate the development discourse, and the concept has become the primary development paradigm since the 1990s.

Tourism has played an increasingly important role in sustainable development since the 1990s, both globally and in particular countries and regions. For decades, tourism has been promoted as a low-impact, non-extractive option for economic development, particularly for developing countries (Gössling, 2000 ). Many developing countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy through development of international tourism. Tourism development is increasingly viewed as an important tool in increasing economic growth, alleviating poverty, and improving food security. Tourism enables communities that are poor in material wealth, but rich in history and cultural heritage, to leverage their unique assets for economic development (Honey & Gilpin, 2009 ). More importantly, tourism offers an alternative to large-scale development projects, such as construction of dams, and to extractive industries such as mining and forestry, all of which contribute to emissions of pollutants and threaten biodiversity and the cultural values of Indigenous Peoples.

Environmental quality in destination areas is inextricably linked with tourism, as visiting natural areas and sightseeing are often the primary purpose of many leisure travels. Some forms of tourism, such as ecotourism, can contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of ecosystem functions in destination areas (Fennell, 2020 ; Gössling, 1999 ). Butler ( 1991 ) suggests that there is a kind of mutual dependence between tourism and the environment that should generate mutual benefits. Many developing countries are in regions that are characterized by high levels of species diversity, natural resources, and protected areas. Such ideas imply that tourism may be well aligned with the tenets of sustainable development.

However, the relationship between tourism and the environment is complex, as some forms of tourism have been associated with negative environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater use, land use, and food consumption (Butler, 1991 ; Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ; Hunter & Green, 1995 ; Vitousek et al., 1997 ). Assessments of the sustainability of tourism have highlighted several themes, including (a) parks, biodiversity, and conservation; (b) pollution and climate change; (c) prosperity, economic growth, and poverty alleviation; (d) peace, security, and safety; and (e) population stabilization and reduction (Buckley, 2012 ). From a global perspective, tourism contributes to (a) changes in land cover and land use; (b) energy use, (c) biotic exchange and extinction of wild species; (d) exchange and dispersion of diseases; and (e) changes in the perception and understanding of the environment (Gössling, 2002 ).

Research on tourism and the environment spans a wide range of social and natural science disciplines, and key contributions have been disseminated across many interdisciplinary fields, including biodiversity conservation, climate science, economics, and environmental science, among others (Buckley, 2011 ; Butler, 1991 ; Gössling, 2002 ; Lenzen et al., 2018 ). Given the global significance of the tourism sector and its environmental impacts, the role of tourism in sustainable development is an important topic of research in environmental science generally and in environmental economics and management specifically. Reviews of tourism research have highlighted future research priorities for sustainable development, including the role of tourism in the designation and expansion of protected areas; improvement in environmental accounting techniques that quantify environmental impacts; and the effects of individual perceptions of responsibility in addressing climate change (Buckley, 2012 ).

Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, and it has linkages with many of the prime sectors of the global economy (Fennell, 2020 ). As a global economic sector, tourism represents one of the largest generators of wealth, and it is an important agent of economic growth and development (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018 ). Tourism is a critical industry in many local and national economies, and it represents a large and growing share of world trade (Hunter, 1995 ). Global tourism has had an average annual increase of 6.6% over the past half century, with international tourist arrivals rising sharply from 25.2 million in 1950 to more than 950 million in 2010 . In 2019 , the number of international tourists reached 1.5 billion, up 4% from 2018 (Fennell, 2020 ; United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO], 2020 ). European countries are host to more than half of international tourists, but since 1990 , growth in international arrivals has risen faster than the global average, in both the Middle East and the Asia and Pacific region (UNWTO, 2020 ).

The growth in global tourism has been accompanied by an expansion of travel markets and a diversification of tourism destinations. In 1950 , the top five travel destinations were all countries in Europe and the Americas, and these destinations held 71% of the global travel market (Fennell, 2020 ). By 2002 , these countries represented only 35%, which underscores the emergence of newly accessible travel destinations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim, including numerous developing countries. Over the past 70 years, global tourism has grown significantly as an economic sector, and it has contributed to the economic development of dozens of nations.

Given the growth of international tourism and its emergence as one of the world’s largest export sectors, the question of its impact on economic growth for the host countries has been a topic of great interest in the tourism literature. Two hypotheses have emerged regarding the role of tourism in the economic growth process (Apergis & Payne, 2012 ). First, tourism-led growth hypothesis relies on the assumption that tourism is an engine of growth that generates spillovers and positive externalities through economic linkages that will impact the overall economy. Second, the economic-driven tourism growth hypothesis emphasizes policies oriented toward well-defined and enforceable property rights, stable political institutions, and adequate investment in both physical and human capital to facilitate the development of the tourism sector. Studies have concluded with support for both the tourism-led growth hypothesis (e.g., Durbarry, 2004 ; Katircioglu, 2010 ) and the economic-led growth hypothesis (e.g., Katircioglu, 2009 ; Oh, 2005 ), whereas other studies have found support for a bidirectional causality for tourism and economic growth (e.g., Apergis & Payne, 2012 ; Lee & Chang, 2008 ).

The growth of tourism has been marked by an increase in the competition for tourist expenditures, making it difficult for destinations to maintain their share of the international tourism market (Butler, 1991 ). Tourism development is cyclical and subject to short-term cycles and overconsumption of resources. Butler ( 1980 ) developed a tourist-area cycle of evolution that depicts the number of tourists rising sharply over time through periods of exploration, involvement, and development, before eventual consolidation and stagnation. When tourism growth exceeds the carrying capacity of the area, resource degradation can lead to the decline of tourism unless specific steps are taken to promote rejuvenation (Butler, 1980 , 1991 ).

The potential of tourism development as a tool to contribute to environmental conservation, economic growth, and poverty reduction is derived from several unique characteristics of the tourism system (UNWTO, 2002 ). First, tourism represents an opportunity for economic diversification, particularly in marginal areas with few other export options. Tourists are attracted to remote areas with high values of cultural, wildlife, and landscape assets. The cultural and natural heritage of developing countries is frequently based on such assets, and tourism represents an opportunity for income generation through the preservation of heritage values. Tourism is the only export sector where the consumer travels to the exporting country, which provides opportunities for lower-income households to become exporters through the sale of goods and services to foreign tourists. Tourism is also labor intensive; it provides small-scale employment opportunities, which also helps to promote gender equity. Finally, there are numerous indirect benefits of tourism for people living in poverty, including increased market access for remote areas through the development of roads, infrastructure, and communication networks. Nevertheless, travel is highly income elastic and carbon intensive, which has significant implications for the sustainability of the tourism sector (Lenzen et al., 2018 ).

Concerns about environmental issues appeared in tourism research just as global awareness of the environmental impacts of human activities was expanding. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm in 1972 , the same year as the publication of The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972 ), which highlighted the concerns about the implications of exponential economic and population growth in a world of finite resources. This was the same year that the famous Blue Marble photograph of Earth was taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft (Höhler, 2015 , p. 10), and the image captured the planet cloaked in the darkness of space and became a symbol of Earth’s fragility and vulnerability. As noted by Buckley ( 2012 ), tourism researchers turned their attention to social and environmental issues around the same time (Cohen, 1978 ; Farrell & McLellan, 1987 ; Turner & Ash, 1975 ; Young, 1973 ).

The notion of sustainable development is often associated with the publication of Our Common Future , the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Commission (WCED, 1987 ). The report characterized sustainable development in terms of meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (WCED, 1987 , p. 43). Four basic principles are fundamental to the concept of sustainability: (a) the idea of holistic planning and strategy making; (b) the importance of preserving essential ecological processes; (c) the need to protect both human heritage and biodiversity; and (d) the need to develop in such a way that productivity can be sustained over the long term for future generations (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ). In addition to achieving balance between economic growth and the conservation of natural resources, there should be a balance of fairness and opportunity between the nations of the world.

Although the modern concept of sustainable development emerged with the publication of Our Common Future , sustainable development has its roots in ideas about sustainable forest management that were developed in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries (Blewitt, 2015 ; Grober, 2007 ). Sustainable forest management is concerned with the stewardship and use of forests in a way that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, and regeneration capacity as well as their potential to fulfill society’s demands for forest products and benefits. Building on these ideas, Daly ( 1990 ) offered two operational principles of sustainable development. First, sustainable development implies that harvest rates should be no greater than rates of regeneration; this concept is known as maximum sustainable yield. Second, waste emission rates should not exceed the natural assimilative capacities of the ecosystems into which the wastes are emitted. Regenerative and assimilative capacities are characterized as natural capital, and a failure to maintain these capacities is not sustainable.

Shortly after the emergence of the concept of sustainable development in academic and policy discourse, tourism researchers began referring to the notion of sustainable tourism (May, 1991 ; Nash & Butler, 1990 ), which soon became the dominant paradigm of tourism development. The concept of sustainable tourism, as with the role of tourism in sustainable development, has been interpreted in different ways, and there is a lack of consensus concerning its meaning, objectives, and indicators (Sharpley, 2000 ). Growing interest in the subject inspired the creation of a new academic journal, Journal of Sustainable Tourism , which was launched in 1993 and has become a leading tourism journal. It is described as “an international journal that publishes research on tourism and sustainable development, including economic, social, cultural and political aspects.”

The notion of sustainable tourism development emerged in contrast to mass tourism, which is characterized by the participation of large numbers of people, often provided as structured or packaged tours. Mass tourism has risen sharply in the last half century. International arrivals alone have increased by an average annual rate of more than 25% since 1950 , and many of those trips involved mass tourism activities (Fennell, 2020 ; UNWTO, 2020 ). Some examples of mass tourism include beach resorts, cruise ship tourism, gaming casinos, golf resorts, group tours, ski resorts, theme parks, and wildlife safari tourism, among others. Little data exist regarding the volume of domestic mass tourism, but nevertheless mass tourism activities dominate the global tourism sector. Mass tourism has been shown to generate benefits to host countries, such as income and employment generation, although it has also been associated with economic leakage (where revenue generated by tourism is lost to other countries’ economies) and economic dependency (where developing countries are dependent on wealthier countries for tourists, imports, and foreign investment) (Cater, 1993 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Khan, 1997 ; Peeters, 2012 ). Mass tourism has been associated with numerous negative environmental impacts and social impacts (Cater, 1993 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Fennell, 2020 ; Ghimire, 2013 ; Gursoy et al., 2010 ; Liu, 2003 ; Peeters, 2012 ; Wheeller, 2007 ). Sustainable tourism development has been promoted in various ways as a framing concept in contrast to many of these economic, environmental, and social impacts.

Much of the early research on sustainable tourism focused on defining the concept, which has been the subject of vigorous debate (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ; Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Inskeep, 1991 ; Liu, 2003 ; Sharpley, 2000 ). Early definitions of sustainable tourism development seemed to fall in one of two categories (Sharpley, 2000 ). First, the “tourism-centric” paradigm of sustainable tourism development focuses on sustaining tourism as an economic activity (Hunter, 1995 ). Second, alternative paradigms have situated sustainable tourism in the context of wider sustainable development policies (Butler, 1991 ). One of the most comprehensive definitions of sustainable tourism echoes some of the language of the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development (WCED, 1987 ), emphasizing opportunities for the future while also integrating social and environmental concerns:

Sustainable tourism can be thought of as meeting the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. Sustainable tourism development is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that we can fulfill economic, social and aesthetic needs while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems. (Inskeep, 1991 , p. 461)

Hunter argued that over the short and long terms, sustainable tourism development should

“meet the needs and wants of the local host community in terms of improved living standards and quality of life;

satisfy the demands of tourists and the tourism industry, and continue to attract them in order to meet the first aim; and

safeguard the environmental resource base for tourism, encompassing natural, built and cultural components, in order to achieve both of the preceding aims.” (Hunter, 1995 , p. 156)

Numerous other definitions have been documented, and the term itself has been subject to widespread critique (Buckley, 2012 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Liu, 2003 ). Nevertheless, there have been numerous calls to move beyond debate about a definition and to consider how it may best be implemented in practice (Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Liu, 2003 ). Cater ( 1993 ) identified three key criteria for sustainable tourism: (a) meeting the needs of the host population in terms of improved living standards both in the short and long terms; (b) satisfying the demands of a growing number of tourists; and (c) safeguarding the natural environment in order to achieve both of the preceding aims.

Some literature has acknowledged a vagueness of the concept of sustainable tourism, which has been used to advocate for fundamentally different strategies for tourism development that may exacerbate existing conflicts between conservation and development paradigms (Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Liu, 2003 ; McKercher, 1993b ). Similar criticisms have been leveled at the concept of sustainable development, which has been described as an oxymoron with a wide range of meanings (Adams, 2009 ; Daly, 1990 ) and “defined in such a way as to be either morally repugnant or logically redundant” (Beckerman, 1994 , p. 192). Sharpley ( 2000 ) suggests that in the tourism literature, there has been “a consistent and fundamental failure to build a theoretical link between sustainable tourism and its parental paradigm,” sustainable development (p. 2). Hunter ( 1995 ) suggests that practical measures designed to operationalize sustainable tourism fail to address many of the critical issues that are central to the concept of sustainable development generally and may even actually counteract the fundamental requirements of sustainable development. He suggests that mainstream sustainable tourism development is concerned with protecting the immediate resource base that will sustain tourism development while ignoring concerns for the status of the wider tourism resource base, such as potential problems associated with air pollution, congestion, introduction of invasive species, and declining oil reserves. The dominant paradigm of sustainable tourism development has been described as introverted, tourism-centric, and in competition with other sectors for scarce resources (McKercher, 1993a ). Hunter ( 1995 , p. 156) proposes an alternative, “extraparochial” paradigm where sustainable tourism development is reconceptualized in terms of its contribution to overall sustainable development. Such a paradigm would reconsider the scope, scale, and sectoral context of tourism-related resource utilization issues.

“Sustainability,” “sustainable tourism,” and “sustainable development” are all well-established terms that have often been used loosely and interchangeably in the tourism literature (Liu, 2003 ). Nevertheless, the subject of sustainable tourism has been given considerable attention and has been the focus of numerous academic compilations and textbooks (Coccossis & Nijkamp, 1995 ; Hall & Lew, 1998 ; Stabler, 1997 ; Swarbrooke, 1999 ), and it calls for new approaches to sustainable tourism development (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ; Garrod & Fyall, 1998 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Sharpley, 2000 ). The notion of sustainable tourism has been reconceptualized in the literature by several authors who provided alternative frameworks for tourism development (Buckley, 2012 ; Gössling, 2002 ; Hunter, 1995 ; Liu, 2003 ; McKercher, 1993b ; Sharpley, 2000 ).

Early research in sustainable tourism focused on the local environmental impacts of tourism, including energy use, water use, food consumption, and change in land use (Buckley, 2012 ; Butler, 1991 ; Gössling, 2002 ; Hunter & Green, 1995 ). Subsequent research has emphasized the global environmental impacts of tourism, such as greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity losses (Gössling, 2002 ; Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ; Lenzen et al., 2018 ). Additional research has emphasized the impacts of environmental change on tourism itself, including the impacts of climate change on tourist behavior (Gössling et al., 2012 ; Richardson & Loomis, 2004 ; Scott et al., 2012 ; Viner, 2006 ). Countries that are dependent on tourism for economic growth may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (Richardson & Witkoswki, 2010 ).

The early focus on environmental issues in sustainable tourism has been broadened to include economic, social, and cultural issues as well as questions of power and equity in society (Bramwell & Lane, 1993 ; Sharpley, 2014 ), and some of these frameworks have integrated notions of social equity, prosperity, and cultural heritage values. Sustainable tourism is dependent on critical long-term considerations of the impacts; notions of equity; an appreciation of the importance of linkages (i.e., economic, social, and environmental); and the facilitation of cooperation and collaboration between different stakeholders (Elliott & Neirotti, 2008 ).

McKercher ( 1993b ) notes that tourism resources are typically part of the public domain or are intrinsically linked to the social fabric of the host community. As a result, many commonplace tourist activities such as sightseeing may be perceived as invasive by members of the host community. Many social impacts of tourism can be linked to the overuse of the resource base, increases in traffic congestion, rising land prices, urban sprawl, and changes in the social structure of host communities. Given the importance of tourist–resident interaction, sustainable tourism development depends in part on the support of the host community (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018 ).

Tourism planning involves the dual objectives of optimizing the well-being of local residents in host communities and minimizing the costs of tourism development (Sharpley, 2014 ). Tourism researchers have paid significant attention to examining the social impacts of tourism in general and to understanding host communities’ perceptions of tourism in particular. Studies of the social impacts of tourism development have examined the perceptions of local residents and the effects of tourism on social cohesion, traditional lifestyles, and the erosion of cultural heritage, particularly among Indigenous Peoples (Butler & Hinch, 2007 ; Deery et al., 2012 ; Mathieson & Wall, 1982 ; Sharpley, 2014 ; Whitford & Ruhanen, 2016 ).

Alternative Tourism and Sustainable Development

A wide body of published research is related to the role of tourism in sustainable development, and much of the literature involves case studies of particular types of tourism. Many such studies contrast types of alternative tourism with those of mass tourism, which has received sustained criticism for decades and is widely considered to be unsustainable (Cater, 1993 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Fennell, 2020 ; Gursoy et al., 2010 ; Liu, 2003 ; Peeters, 2012 ; Zapata et al., 2011 ). Still, some tourism researchers have taken issue with the conclusion that mass tourism is inherently unsustainable (Sharpley, 2000 ; Weaver, 2007 ), and some have argued for developing pathways to “sustainable mass tourism” as “the desired and impending outcome for most destinations” (Weaver, 2012 , p. 1030). In integrating an ethical component to mass tourism development, Weaver ( 2014 , p. 131) suggests that the desirable outcome is “enlightened mass tourism.” Such suggestions have been contested in the literature and criticized for dubious assumptions about emergent norms of sustainability and support for growth, which are widely seen as contradictory (Peeters, 2012 ; Wheeller, 2007 ).

Models of responsible or alternative tourism development include ecotourism, community-based tourism, pro-poor tourism, slow tourism, green tourism, and heritage tourism, among others. Most models of alternative tourism development emphasize themes that aim to counteract the perceived negative impacts of conventional or mass tourism. As such, the objectives of these models of tourism development tend to focus on minimizing environmental impacts, supporting biodiversity conservation, empowering local communities, alleviating poverty, and engendering pleasant relationships between tourists and residents.

Approaches to alternative tourism development tend to overlap with themes of responsible tourism, and the two terms are frequently used interchangeably. Responsible tourism has been characterized in terms of numerous elements, including

ensuring that communities are involved in and benefit from tourism;

respecting local, natural, and cultural environments;

involving the local community in planning and decision-making;

using local resources sustainably;

behaving in ways that are sensitive to the host culture;

maintaining and encouraging natural, economic, and cultural diversity; and

assessing environmental, social, and economic impacts as a prerequisite to tourism development (Spenceley, 2012 ).

Hetzer ( 1965 ) identified four fundamental principles or perquisites for a more responsible form of tourism: (a) minimum environmental impact; (b) minimum impact on and maximum respect for host cultures; (c) maximum economic benefits to the host country; and (d) maximum leisure satisfaction to participating tourists.

The history of ecotourism is closely connected with the emergence of sustainable development, as it was born out of a concern for the conservation of biodiversity. Ecotourism is a form of tourism that aims to minimize local environmental impacts while bringing benefits to protected areas and the people living around those lands (Honey, 2008 ). Ecotourism represents a small segment of nature-based tourism, which is understood as tourism based on the natural attractions of an area, such as scenic areas and wildlife (Gössling, 1999 ). The ecotourism movement gained momentum in the 1990s, primarily in developing countries in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, and nearly all countries are now engaged in some form of ecotourism. In some communities, ecotourism is the primary economic activity and source of income and economic development.

The term “ecotourism” was coined by Hector Ceballos-Lascuráin and defined by him as “tourism that consists in travelling to relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring, and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals” (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1987 , p. 13). In discussing ecotourism resources, he also made reference to “any existing cultural manifestations (both past and present) found in these areas” (Ceballos-Lascuráin, 1987 , p. 14). The basic precepts of ecotourism had been discussed long before the actual use of the term. Twenty years earlier, Hetzer ( 1965 ) referred to a form of tourism “based principally upon natural and archaeological resources such as caves, fossil sites (and) archaeological sites.” Thus, both natural resources and cultural resources were integrated into ecotourism frameworks from the earliest manifestations.

Costa Rica is well known for having successfully integrated ecotourism in its overall strategy for sustainable development, and numerous case studies of ecotourism in Costa Rica appear in the literature (Chase et al., 1998 ; Fennell & Eagles, 1990 ; Gray & Campbell, 2007 ; Hearne & Salinas, 2002 ). Ecotourism in Costa Rica has been seen as having supported the economic development of the country while promoting biodiversity conservation in its extensive network of protected areas. Chase et al. ( 1998 ) estimated the demand for ecotourism in a study of differential pricing of entrance fees at national parks in Costa Rica. The authors estimated elasticities associated with the own-price, cross-price, and income variables and found that the elasticities of demand were significantly different between three different national park sites. The results reveal the heterogeneity characterizing tourist behavior and park attractions and amenities. Hearne and Salinas ( 2002 ) used choice experiments to examine the preferences of domestic and foreign tourists in Costa Rica in an ecotourism site. Both sets of tourists demonstrated a preference for improved infrastructure, more information, and lower entrance fees. Foreign tourists demonstrated relatively stronger preferences for the inclusion of restrictions in the access to some trails.

Ecotourism has also been studied extensively in Kenya (Southgate, 2006 ), Malaysia (Lian Chan & Baum, 2007 ), Nepal (Baral et al., 2008 ), Peru (Stronza, 2007 ), and Taiwan (Lai & Nepal, 2006 ), among many other countries. Numerous case studies have demonstrated the potential for ecotourism to contribute to sustainable development by providing support for biodiversity conservation, local livelihoods, and regional development.

Community-Based Tourism

Community-based tourism (CBT) is a model of tourism development that emphasizes the development of local communities and allows for local residents to have substantial control over its development and management, and a major proportion of the benefits remain within the community. CBT emerged during the 1970s as a response to the negative impacts of the international mass tourism development model (Cater, 1993 ; Hall & Lew, 2009 ; Turner & Ash, 1975 ; Zapata et al., 2011 ).

Community-based tourism has been examined for its potential to contribute to poverty reduction. In a study of the viability of the CBT model to support socioeconomic development and poverty alleviation in Nicaragua, tourism was perceived by participants in the study to have an impact on employment creation in their communities (Zapata et al., 2011 ). Tourism was seen to have had positive impacts on strengthening local knowledge and skills, particularly on the integration of women to new roles in the labor market. One of the main perceived gains regarding the environment was the process of raising awareness regarding the conservation of natural resources. The small scale of CBT operations and low capacity to accommodate visitors was seen as a limitation of the model.

Spenceley ( 2012 ) compiled case studies of community-based tourism in countries in southern Africa, including Botswana, Madagascar, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In this volume, authors characterize community-based and nature-based tourism development projects in the region and demonstrate how community participation in planning and decision-making has generated benefits for local residents and supported conservation initiatives. They contend that responsible tourism practices are of particular importance in the region because of the rich biological diversity, abundant charismatic wildlife, and the critical need for local economic development and livelihood strategies.

In Kenya, CBT enterprises were not perceived to have made a significant impact on poverty reduction at an individual household level, in part because the model relied heavily on donor funding, reinforcing dependency and poverty (Manyara & Jones, 2007 ). The study identified several critical success factors for CBT enterprises, namely, awareness and sensitization, community empowerment, effective leadership, and community capacity building, which can inform appropriate tourism policy formulation in Kenya. The impacts of CBT on economic development and poverty reduction would be greatly enhanced if tourism initiatives were able to emphasize independence, address local community priorities, enhance community empowerment and transparency, discourage elitism, promote effective community leadership, and develop community capacity to operate their own enterprises more efficiently.

Pro-Poor Tourism

Pro-poor tourism is a model of tourism development that brings net benefits to people living in poverty (Ashley et al., 2001 ; Harrison, 2008 ). Although its theoretical foundations and development objectives overlap to some degree with those of community-based tourism and other models of AT, the key distinctive feature of pro-poor tourism is that it places poor people and poverty at the top of the agenda. By focusing on a very simple and incontrovertibly moral idea, namely, the net benefits of tourism to impoverished people, the concept has broad appeal to donors and international aid agencies. Harnessing the economic benefits of tourism for pro-poor growth means capitalizing on the advantages while reducing negative impacts to people living in poverty (Ashley et al., 2001 ). Pro-poor approaches to tourism development include increasing access of impoverished people to economic benefits; addressing negative social and environmental impacts associated with tourism; and focusing on policies, processes, and partnerships that seek to remove barriers to participation by people living in poverty. At the local level, pro-poor tourism can play a very significant role in livelihood security and poverty reduction (Ashley & Roe, 2002 ).

Rogerson ( 2011 ) argues that the growth of pro-poor tourism initiatives in South Africa suggests that the country has become a laboratory for the testing and evolution of new approaches toward sustainable development planning that potentially will have relevance for other countries in the developing world. A study of pro-poor tourism development initiatives in Laos identified a number of favorable conditions for pro-poor tourism development, including the fact that local people are open to tourism and motivated to participate (Suntikul et al., 2009 ). The authors also noted a lack of development in the linkages that could optimize the fulfilment of the pro-poor agenda, such as training or facilitation of local people’s participation in pro-poor tourism development at the grassroots level.

Critics of the model have argued that pro-poor tourism is based on an acceptance of the status quo of existing capitalism, that it is morally indiscriminate and theoretically imprecise, and that its practitioners are academically and commercially marginal (Harrison, 2008 ). As Chok et al. ( 2007 ) indicate, the focus “on poor people in the South reflects a strong anthropocentric view . . . and . . . environmental benefits are secondary to poor peoples’” benefits (p. 153).

Harrison ( 2008 ) argues that pro-poor tourism is not a distinctive approach to tourism as a development tool and that it may be easier to discuss what pro-poor tourism is not than what it is. He concludes that it is neither anticapitalist nor inconsistent with mainstream tourism on which it relies; it is neither a theory nor a model and is not a niche form of tourism. Further, he argues that it has no distinctive method and is not only about people living in poverty.

Slow Tourism

The concept of slow tourism has emerged as a model of sustainable tourism development, and as such, it lacks an exact definition. The concept of slow tourism traces its origin back to some institutionalized social movements such as “slow food” and “slow cities” that began in Italy in the 1990s and spread rapidly around the world (Fullagar et al., 2012 ; Oh et al., 2016 , p. 205). Advocates of slow tourism tend to emphasize slowness in terms of speed, mobility, and modes of transportation that generate less environmental pollution. They propose niche marketing for alternative forms of tourism that focus on quality upgrading rather than merely increasing the quantity of visitors via the established mass-tourism infrastructure (Conway & Timms, 2010 ).

In the context of the Caribbean region, slow tourism has been promoted as more culturally sensitive and authentic, as compared to the dominant mass tourism development model that is based on all-inclusive beach resorts dependent on foreign investment (Conway & Timms, 2010 ). Recognizing its value as an alternative marketing strategy, Conway and Timms ( 2010 ) make the case for rebranding alternative tourism in the Caribbean as a means of revitalizing the sector for the changing demands of tourists in the 21st century . They suggest that slow tourism is the antithesis of mass tourism, which “relies on increasing the quantity of tourists who move through the system with little regard to either the quality of the tourists’ experience or the benefits that accrue to the localities the tourist visits” (Conway & Timms, 2010 , p. 332). The authors draw on cases from Barbados, the Grenadines, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago to characterize models of slow tourism development in remote fishing villages and communities near nature preserves and sea turtle nesting sites.

Although there is a growing interest in the concept of slow tourism in the literature, there seems to be little agreement about the exact nature of slow tourism and whether it is a niche form of special interest tourism or whether it represents a more fundamental potential shift across the industry. Conway and Timms ( 2010 ) focus on the destination, advocating for slow tourism in terms of a promotional identity for an industry in need of rebranding. Caffyn ( 2012 , p. 77) discusses the implementation of slow tourism in terms of “encouraging visitors to make slower choices when planning and enjoying their holidays.” It is not clear whether slow tourism is a marketing strategy, a mindset, or a social movement, but the literature on slow tourism nearly always equates the term with sustainable tourism (Caffyn, 2012 ; Conway & Timms, 2010 ; Oh et al., 2016 ). Caffyn ( 2012 , p. 80) suggests that slow tourism could offer a “win–win,” which she describes as “a more sustainable form of tourism; keeping more of the economic benefits within the local community and destination; and delivering a more meaningful and satisfying experience.” Research on slow tourism is nascent, and thus the contribution of slow tourism to sustainable development is not well understood.

Impacts of Tourism Development

The role of tourism in sustainable development can be examined through an understanding of the economic, environmental, and social impacts of tourism. Tourism is a global phenomenon that involves travel, recreation, the consumption of food, overnight accommodations, entertainment, sightseeing, and other activities that simultaneously intersect the lives of local residents, businesses, and communities. The impacts of tourism involve benefits and costs to all groups, and some of these impacts cannot easily be measured. Nevertheless, they have been studied extensively in the literature, which provides some context for how these benefits and costs are distributed.

Economic Impacts of Tourism

The travel and tourism sector is one of the largest components of the global economy, and global tourism has increased exponentially since the end of the Second World War (UNWTO, 2020 ). The direct, indirect, and induced economic impact of global travel accounted for 8.9 trillion U.S. dollars in contribution to the global gross domestic product (GDP), or 10.3% of global GDP. The global travel and tourism sector supports approximately 330 million jobs, or 1 in 10 jobs around the world. From an economic perspective, tourism plays a significant role in sustainable development. In many developing countries, tourism has the potential to play a unique role in income generation and distribution relative to many other industries, in part because of its high multiplier effect and consumption of local goods and services. However, research on the economic impacts of tourism has shown that this potential has rarely been fully realized (Liu, 2003 ).

Numerous studies have examined the impact of tourism expenditure on GDP, income, employment, and public sector revenue. Narayan ( 2004 ) used a computable general equilibrium model to estimate the economic impact of tourism growth on the economy of Fiji. Tourism is Fiji’s largest industry, with average annual growth of 10–12%; and as a middle-income country, tourism is critical to Fiji’s economic development. The findings indicate that an increase in tourism expenditures was associated with an increase in GDP, an improvement in the country’s balance of payments, and an increase in real consumption and national welfare. Evidence suggests that the benefits of tourism expansion outweigh any export effects caused by an appreciation of the exchange rate and an increase in domestic prices and wages.

Seetanah ( 2011 ) examined the potential contribution of tourism to economic growth and development using panel data of 19 island economies around the world from 1990 to 2007 and revealed that tourism development is an important factor in explaining economic performance in the selected island economies. The results have policy implications for improving economic growth by harnessing the contribution of the tourism sector. Pratt ( 2015 ) modeled the economic impact of tourism for seven small island developing states in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. In most states, the transportation sector was found to have above-average linkages to other sectors of the economy. The results revealed some advantages of economies of scale for maximizing the economic contribution of tourism.

Apergis and Payne ( 2012 ) examined the causal relationship between tourism and economic growth for a panel of nine Caribbean countries. The panel of Caribbean countries includes Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. The authors use a panel error correction model to reveal bidirectional causality between tourism and economic growth in both the short run and the long run. The presence of bidirectional causality reiterates the importance of the tourism sector in the generation of foreign exchange income and in financing the production of goods and services within these countries. Likewise, stable political institutions and adequate government policies to ensure the appropriate investment in physical and human capital will enhance economic growth. In turn, stable economic growth will provide the resources needed to develop the tourism infrastructure for the success of the countries’ tourism sector. Thus, policy makers should be cognizant of the interdependent relationship between tourism and economic growth in the design and implementation of economic policy. The mixed nature of these results suggest that the relationship between tourism and economic growth depends largely on the social and economic context as well as the role of tourism in the economy.

The economic benefits and costs of tourism are frequently distributed unevenly. An analysis of the impact of wildlife conservation policies in Zambia on household welfare found that households located near national parks earn higher levels of income from wage employment and self-employment than other rural households in the country, but they were also more likely to suffer crop losses related to wildlife conflicts (Richardson et al., 2012 ). The findings suggest that tourism development and wildlife conservation can contribute to pro-poor development, but they may be sustainable only if human–wildlife conflicts are minimized or compensated.

Environmental Impacts of Tourism

The environmental impacts of tourism are significant, ranging from local effects to contributions to global environmental change (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). Tourism is both dependent on water resources and a factor in global and local freshwater use. Tourists consume water for drinking, when showering and using the toilet, when participating in activities such as winter ski tourism (i.e., snowmaking), and when using swimming pools and spas. Fresh water is also needed to maintain hotel gardens and golf courses, and water use is embedded in tourism infrastructure development (e.g., accommodations, laundry, dining) and in food and fuel production. Direct water consumption in tourism is estimated to be approximately 350 liters (L) per guest night for accommodation; when indirect water use from food, energy, and transport are considered, total water use in tourism is estimated to be approximately 6,575 L per guest night, or 27,800 L per person per trip (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). In addition, tourism contributes to the pollution of oceans as well as lakes, rivers, and other freshwater systems (Gössling, 2002 ; Gössling et al., 2011 ).

The clearing and conversion of land is central for tourism development, and in many cases, the land used for tourism includes roads, airports, railways, accommodations, trails, pedestrian walks, shopping areas, parking areas, campgrounds, vacation homes, golf courses, marinas, ski resorts, and indirect land use for food production, disposal of solid wastes, and the treatment of wastewater (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). Global land use for accommodation is estimated to be approximately 42 m 2 per bed. Total global land use for tourism is estimated to be nearly 62,000 km 2 , or 11.7 m 2 per tourist; more than half of this estimate is represented by land use for traffic infrastructure.

Tourism and hospitality have direct and indirect links to nearly all aspects of food production, preparation, and consumption because of the quantities of food consumed in tourism contexts (Gössling et al., 2011 ). Food production has significant implications for sustainable development, given the growing global demand for food. The implications include land conversion, losses to biodiversity, changes in nutrient cycling, and contributions to greenhouse emissions that are associated with global climate change (Vitousek et al., 1997 ). Global food use for tourism is estimated to be approximately 39.4 megatons 1 (Mt), about 38% than the amount of food consumed at home. This equates to approximately 1,800 grams (g) of food consumed per tourist per day.

Although tourism has been promoted as a low-impact, nonextractive option for economic development, (Gössling, 2000 ), assessments reveal that such pursuits have a significant carbon footprint, as tourism is significantly more carbon intensive than other potential areas of economic development (Lenzen et al., 2018 ). Tourism is dependent on energy, and virtually all energy use in the tourism sector is derived from fossil fuels, which contribute to global greenhouse emissions that are associated with global climate change. Energy use for tourism has been estimated to be approximately 3,575 megajoules 2 (MJ) per trip, including energy for travel and accommodations (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). A previous estimate of global carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions from tourism provided values of 1.12 gigatons 3 (Gt) of CO 2 , amounting to about 3% of global CO 2 -equivalent (CO 2 e) emissions (Gössling & Peeters, 2015 ). However, these analyses do not cover the supply chains underpinning tourism and do not therefore represent true carbon footprints. A more complete analysis of the emissions from energy consumption necessary to sustain the tourism sector would include food and beverages, infrastructure construction and maintenance, retail, and financial services. Between 2009 and 2013 , tourism’s global carbon footprint is estimated to have increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO 2 e, four times more than previously estimated, accounting for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Lenzen et al., 2018 ). The majority of this footprint is exerted by and within high-income countries. The rising global demand for tourism is outstripping efforts at decarbonization of tourism operations and as a result is accelerating global carbon emissions.

Social Impacts of Tourism

The social impacts of tourism have been widely studied, with an emphasis on residents’ perceptions in the host community (Sharpley, 2014 ). Case studies include research conducted in Australia (Faulkner & Tideswell, 1997 ; Gursoy et al., 2010 ; Tovar & Lockwood, 2008 ), Belize (Diedrich & Garcia-Buades, 2008 ), China (Gu & Ryan, 2008 ), Fiji (King et al., 1993 ), Greece (Haralambopoulos & Pizam, 1996 ; Tsartas, 1992 ), Hungary (Rátz, 2000 ), Thailand (Huttasin, 2008 ), Turkey (Kuvan & Akan, 2005 ), the United Kingdom (Brunt & Courtney, 1999 ; Haley et al., 2005 ), and the United States (Andereck et al., 2005 ; Milman & Pizam, 1988 ), among others. The social impacts of tourism are difficult to measure, and most published studies are mainly concerned with the social impacts on the host communities rather than the impacts on the tourists themselves.

Studies of residents’ perceptions of tourism are typically conducted using household surveys. In most cases, residents recognize the economic dependence on tourism for income, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that working in or owning a business in tourism or a related industry is associated with more positive perceptions of tourism (Andereck et al., 2007 ). The perceived nature of negative effects is complex and often conveys a dislike of crowding, traffic congestion, and higher prices for basic needs (Deery et al., 2012 ). When the number of tourists far exceeds that of the resident population, negative attitudes toward tourism may manifest (Diedrich & Garcia-Buades, 2008 ). However, residents who recognize negative impacts may not necessarily oppose tourism development (King et al., 1993 ).

In some regions, little is known about the social and cultural impacts of tourism despite its dominance as an economic sector. Tourism is a rapidly growing sector in Cuba, and it is projected to grow at rates that exceed the average projected growth rates for the Caribbean and the world overall (Salinas et al., 2018 ). Still, even though there has been rapid tourism development in Cuba, there has been little research related to the environmental and sociocultural impacts of this tourism growth (Rutty & Richardson, 2019 ).

In some international tourism contexts, studies have found that residents are generally resentful toward tourism because it fuels inequality and exacerbates racist attitudes and discrimination (Cabezas, 2004 ; Jamal & Camargo, 2014 ; Mbaiwa, 2005 ). Other studies revealed similar narratives and recorded statements of exclusion and socioeconomic stratification (Sanchez & Adams, 2008 ). Local residents often must navigate the gaps in the racialized, gendered, and sexualized structures imposed by the global tourism industry and host-country governments (Cabezas, 2004 ).

However, during times of economic crisis, residents may develop a more permissive view as their perceptions of the costs of tourism development decrease (Garau-Vadell et al., 2018 ). This increased positive attitude is not based on an increase in the perception of positive impacts of tourism, but rather on a decrease in the perception of the negative impacts.

There is a growing body of research on Indigenous and Aboriginal tourism that emphasizes justice issues such as human rights and self-empowerment, control, and participation of traditional owners in comanagement of destinations (Jamal & Camargo, 2014 ; Ryan & Huyton, 2000 ; Whyte, 2010 ).

Sustainability of Tourism

A process or system is said to be sustainable to the extent that it is robust, resilient, and adaptive (Anderies et al., 2013 ). By most measures, the global tourism system does not meet these criteria for sustainability. Tourism is not robust in that it cannot resist threats and perturbations, such as economic shocks, public health pandemics, war, and other disruptions. Tourism is not resilient in that it does not easily recover from failures, such as natural disasters or civil unrest. Furthermore, tourism is not adaptive in that it is often unable to change in response to external conditions. One example that underscores the failure to meet all three criteria is the dependence of tourism on fossil fuels for transportation and energy, which are key inputs for tourism development. This dependence itself is not sustainable (Wheeller, 2007 ), and thus the sustainability of tourism is questionable.

Liu ( 2003 ) notes that research related to the role of tourism in sustainable development has emphasized supply-side concepts such as sustaining tourism resources and ignored the demand side, which is particularly vulnerable to social and economic shocks. Tourism is vulnerable to both localized and global shocks. Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to localized shocks include disaster vulnerability in coastal Thailand (Calgaro & Lloyd, 2008 ), bushfires in northeast Victoria in Australia (Cioccio & Michael, 2007 ), forest fires in British Columbia, Canada (Hystad & Keller, 2008 ); and outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom (Miller & Ritchie, 2003 ).

Like most other economic sectors, tourism is vulnerable to the impacts of earthquakes, particularly in areas where tourism infrastructure may not be resilient to such shocks. Numerous studies have examined the impacts of earthquake events on tourism, including studies of the aftermath of the 1997 earthquake in central Italy (Mazzocchi & Montini, 2001 ), the 1999 earthquake in Taiwan (Huan et al., 2004 ; Huang & Min, 2002 ), and the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake in western Sichuan, China (Yang et al., 2011 ), among others.

Tourism is vulnerable to extreme weather events. Regional economic strength has been found to be associated with lower vulnerability to natural disasters. Kim and Marcoullier ( 2015 ) examined the vulnerability and resilience of 10 tourism-based regional economies that included U.S. national parks or protected seashores situated on the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean coastline that were affected by several hurricanes over a 26-year period. Regions with stronger economic characteristics prior to natural disasters were found to have lower disaster losses than regions with weaker economies.

Tourism is extremely sensitive to oil spills, whatever their origin, and the volume of oil released need not be large to generate significant economic losses (Cirer-Costa, 2015 ). Studies of the vulnerability of tourism to the localized shock of an oil spill include research on the impacts of oil spills in Alaska (Coddington, 2015 ), Brazil (Ribeiro et al., 2020 ), Spain (Castanedo et al., 2009 ), affected regions in the United States along the Gulf of Mexico (Pennington-Gray et al., 2011 ; Ritchie et al., 2013 ), and the Republic of Korea (Cheong, 2012 ), among others. Future research on the vulnerability of tourist destinations to oil spills should also incorporate freshwater environments, such as lakes, rivers, and streams, where the rupture of oil pipelines is more frequent.

Significant attention has been paid to assessing the vulnerability of tourist destinations to acts of terrorism and the impacts of terrorist attacks on regional tourist economies (Liu & Pratt, 2017 ). Such studies include analyses of the impacts of terrorist attacks on three European countries, Greece, Italy, and Austria (Enders et al., 1992 ); the impact of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States (Goodrich, 2002 ); terrorism and tourism in Nepal (Bhattarai et al., 2005 ); vulnerability of tourism livelihoods in Bali (Baker & Coulter, 2007 ); the impact of terrorism on tourist preferences for destinations in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands (Arana & León, 2008 ); the 2011 massacres in Olso and Utøya, Norway (Wolff & Larsen, 2014 ); terrorism and political violence in Tunisia (Lanouar & Goaied, 2019 ); and the impact of terrorism on European tourism (Corbet et al., 2019 ), among others. Pizam and Fleischer ( 2002 ) studied the impact of acts of terrorism on tourism demand in Israel between May 1991 and May 2001 , and they confirmed that the frequency of acts of terrorism had caused a larger decline in international tourist arrivals than the severity of these acts. Most of these are ex post studies, and future assessments of the underlying conditions of destinations could reveal a deeper understanding of the vulnerability of tourism to terrorism.

Tourism is vulnerable to economic crisis, both local economic shocks (Okumus & Karamustafa, 2005 ; Stylidis & Terzidou, 2014 ) and global economic crisis (Papatheodorou et al., 2010 ; Smeral, 2010 ). Okumus and Karamustafa ( 2005 ) evaluated the impact of the February 2001 economic crisis in Turkey on tourism, and they found that the tourism industry was poorly prepared for the economic crisis despite having suffered previous impacts related to the Gulf War in the early 1990s, terrorism in Turkey in the 1990s, the civil war in former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, an internal economic crisis in 1994 , and two earthquakes in the northwest region of Turkey in 1999 . In a study of the attitudes and perceptions of citizens of Greece, Stylidis and Terzidou ( 2014 ) found that economic crisis is associated with increased support for tourism development, particularly out of self-interest. Economic crisis diminishes residents’ concern for environmental issues. In a study of the behavior of European tourists amid an economic crisis, Eugenio-Martin and Campos-Soria ( 2014 ) found that the probability of households cutting back on travel expenditures depends largely on the climate and economic conditions of tourists’ home countries, and households that do reduce travel spending engage in tourism closer to home.

Becken and Lennox ( 2012 ) studied the implications of a long-term increase in oil prices for tourism in New Zealand, and they estimate that a doubling of oil prices is associated with a 1.7% decrease in real gross national disposable income and a 9% reduction in the real value of tourism exports. Chatziantoniou et al. ( 2013 ) investigated the relationship among oil price shocks, tourism variables, and economic indicators in four European Mediterranean countries and found that aggregate demand oil price shocks generated a lagged effect on tourism-generated income and economic growth. Kisswani et al. ( 2020 ) examined the asymmetric effect of oil prices on tourism receipts and the sensitive susceptibility of tourism to oil price changes using nonlinear analysis. The findings document a long-run asymmetrical effect for most countries, after incorporating the structural breaks, suggesting that governments and tourism businesses and organizations should interpret oil price fluctuations cautiously.

Finally, the sustainability of tourism has been shown to be vulnerable to the outbreak of infectious diseases, including the impact of the Ebola virus on tourism in sub-Saharan Africa (Maphanga & Henama, 2019 ; Novelli et al., 2018 ) and in the United States (Cahyanto et al., 2016 ). The literature also includes studies of the impact of swine flu on tourism demand in Brunei (Haque & Haque, 2018 ), Mexico (Monterrubio, 2010 ), and the United Kingdom (Page et al., 2012 ), among others. In addition, rapid assessments of the impacts of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 have documented severe disruptions and cessations of tourism because of unprecedented global travel restrictions and widespread restrictions on public gatherings (Gössling et al., 2020 ; Qiu et al., 2020 ; Sharma & Nicolau, 2020 ). Hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and car rentals have all experienced a significant decrease globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shock to the industry is significant enough to warrant concerns about the long-term outlook (Sharma & Nicolau, 2020 ). Qiu et al. ( 2020 ) estimated the social costs of the pandemic to tourism in three cities in China (Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Wuhan), and they found that most respondents were willing to pay for risk reduction and action in responding to the pandemic crisis; there was no significant difference between residents’ willingness to pay in the three cities. Some research has emphasized how lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic can prepare global tourism for an economic transformation that is needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change (Brouder, 2020 ; Prideaux et al., 2020 ).

It is clear that tourism has contributed significantly to economic development globally, but its role in sustainable development is uncertain, contested, and potentially paradoxical. This is due, in part, to the contested nature of sustainable development itself. Tourism has been promoted as a low-impact, nonextractive option for economic development, particularly for developing countries (Gössling, 2000 ), and many countries have managed to increase their participation in the global economy through development of international tourism. Tourism development has been viewed as an important sector for investment to enhance economic growth, poverty alleviation, and food security, and the sector provides an alternative opportunity to large-scale development projects and extractive industries that contribute to emissions of pollutants and threaten biodiversity and cultural values. However, global evidence from research on the economic impacts of tourism has shown that this potential has rarely been realized (Liu, 2003 ).

The role of tourism in sustainable development has been studied extensively and with a variety of perspectives, including the conceptualization of alternative or responsible forms of tourism and the examination of economic, environmental, and social impacts of tourism development. The research has generally concluded that tourism development has contributed to sustainable development in some cases where it is demonstrated to have provided support for biodiversity conservation initiatives and livelihood development strategies. As an economic sector, tourism is considered to be labor intensive, providing opportunities for poor households to enhance their livelihood through the sale of goods and services to foreign tourists.

Nature-based tourism approaches such as ecotourism and community-based tourism have been successful at attracting tourists to parks and protected areas, and their spending provides financial support for biodiversity conservation, livelihoods, and economic growth in developing countries. Nevertheless, studies of the impacts of tourism development have documented negative environmental impacts locally in terms of land use, food and water consumption, and congestion, and globally in terms of the contribution of tourism to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases related to transportation and other tourist activities. Studies of the social impacts of tourism have documented experiences of discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, race, sex, and national identity.

The sustainability of tourism as an economic sector has been examined in terms of its vulnerability to civil conflict, economic shocks, natural disasters, and public health pandemics. Most studies conclude that tourism may have positive impacts for regional development and environmental conservation, but there is evidence that tourism inherently generates negative environmental impacts, primarily through pollutions stemming from transportation. The regional benefits of tourism development must be considered alongside the global impacts of increased transportation and tourism participation. Global tourism has also been shown to be vulnerable to economic crises, oil price shocks, and global outbreaks of infectious diseases. Given that tourism is dependent on energy, the movement of people, and the consumption of resources, virtually all tourism activities have significant economic, environmental, and sustainable impacts. As such, the role of tourism in sustainable development is highly questionable. Future research on the role of tourism in sustainable development should focus on reducing the negative impacts of tourism development, both regionally and globally.

Further Reading

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1. One megatonne (Mt) is equal to 1 million (10 6 ) metric tons.

2. One megajoule (MJ) is equal to 1 million (10 6 ) joules, or approximately the kinetic energy of a 1-megagram (tonne) vehicle moving at 161 km/h.

3. One gigatonne (Gt) is equal to 1 billion (10 9 ) metric tons.

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sustainable tourism importance


Sustainability is a concept that has been gaining social and political recognition, not least due to the coordinated launch of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, and now with the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Established in 2015 and promoted by the United Nations, the SDGs are key to ensuring an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable world.

The 2030 Agenda is the reference framework for all UN agencies, programs and funds, and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is responsible for ensuring international tourism plays its part in its achievement.

The following guidelines have been established:

  • The principle of sustainability refers not just to the environmental impact of tourism but also to its social and economic impacts.
  • To protect and preserve the natural spaces and biological ecosystems of destinations.
  • To respect the traditions and cultures of host countries and develop intercultural tolerance.
  • To ensure economic activities that reduce poverty in the host country.

These guidelines are only the first link in a whole chain that is concerned with and advocates sustainable tourism.

These guidelines mean that as tourism restarts, the sector is ready to grow back stronger and better for people, planet and prosperity.

National Geographic content straight to your inbox—sign up for our popular newsletters here

For travelers, sustainability is the word—but there are many definitions of it

Most people want to support sustainable tourism, even though the concept remains fuzzy.

The word “overtourism” is a relatively new term—but its novelty has not diminished the portent of its meaning: “An excessive number of tourist visits to a popular destination or attraction, resulting in damage to the local environment and historical sites and in poorer quality of life for residents,” according to the Oxford Dictionary . 

As travel recovers from pandemic lows, travelers are once again experiencing the consequences of overtourism at enticing, but crowded, destinations. The UN World Tourism Organization, along with public and private sector partners, marks September 27 as World Tourism Day and uses this platform to discuss tourism’s social, political, economic, and environmental impacts.

This day highlights the importance of sustainable tourism —a framework for engaging travelers and the travel industry at large in supporting goals that include protecting the environment, addressing climate change, minimizing plastic consumption , and expanding economic development in communities affected by tourism.

Getting the facts

A National Geographic survey of 3,500 adults in the U.S. reveals strong support for sustainability. That’s the good news—but the challenge will be helping travelers take meaningful actions. According to the survey—which was conducted in 2019—while 42 percent of U.S. travelers would be willing to prioritize sustainable travel in the future, only 15 percent of these travelers are sufficiently familiar with what sustainable travel actually means. 

( Learn about how to turn overtourism into sustainable global tourism .)

In the National Geographic survey, consumers most familiar with sustainable travel are young: 50 percent are 18 to 34 years old. Among travelers who understand the sustainable travel concept, 56 percent acknowledge travel has an impact on local communities and that it’s important to protect natural sites and cultural places.

The survey has informed National Geographic’s experiential travel and media businesses and sparked conversations for creating solutions around sustainability. Our travel content focuses on environmentally friendly practices, protecting cultural and natural heritage, providing social and economic benefits for local communities, and inspiring travelers to become conservation ambassadors. In short, we see every National Geographic traveler as a curious explorer who seeks to build an ethic of conserving all that makes a destination unique.

Building better practices

National Geographic Expeditions operates hundreds of trips each year, spanning all seven continents and more than 80 destinations. Rooted in the National Geographic Society ’s legacy of exploration, the company supports the Society's mission to inspire people to care about the planet by providing meaningful opportunities to explore it. Proceeds from all travel programs support the Society’s efforts to increase global understanding through exploration, education and scientific research.

National Geographic Expeditions offers a range of group travel experiences, including land expeditions, cruises, and active adventures, many of which take place around eco-lodges that are rigorously vetted for their sustainability practices. 

These independent lodges incorporate innovative sustainability practices into their everyday operations, including supporting natural and cultural heritage, sourcing products regionally, and giving back to the local community.

For example, South Africa’s Grootbos Lodge launched a foundation to support the Masakhane Community Farm and Training Centre. Through this program, the lodge has given plots of land to local people who have completed the training, increasing their income and access to local, healthy foods; so far the program has benefitted more than 138 community members.

As a media brand, National Geographic encourages travelers to seek out and support properties that embrace a mission to help protect people and the environment. Not only do these accommodations make direct and meaningful impacts in their own communities, but staying at one helps educate travelers in effective ways to preserve and protect the places they visit.

Supporting sustainability

The travel industry is crucially dependent on the health of local communities, environments, and cultures. As many experts note, we need to invest in the resiliency of places affected by overtourism and climate change to achieve sustainable tourism.

( Should some of the world’s endangered places be off-limits to tourists ?)

National Geographic’s coverage stresses the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and encourages travelers to step off the beaten path and linger longer, respect cultural differences and invest in communities, reconnect with nature and support organizations that are protecting the planet. Here are 12 ways to travel sustainably , reported by our staff editors.

Storytelling can help by highlighting problems brought on by tourism and surfacing practices and technologies to mitigate negative impacts. A key goal of our storytelling mission at National Geographic Travel is to dig deeper into the topic of sustainable tourism and provide resources, practical tips, and destination advice for travelers who seek to explore the world in all its beauty—while leaving behind a lighter footprint.

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The World Tourism Organization (UN Tourism), a United Nations specialized agency, is the leading international organization in the field of tourism.

Go to Tourism for SDGs Platform    

UN Tourism is responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism geared towards the achievement of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UN Tourism offers leadership and support to the tourism sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide,  advocating for responsible tourism and promoting tourism as a driving force towards economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.

With a current membership of 159 countries, UN Tourism encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics in Tourism, in order to maximize tourism´s socio-economic contribution while minimizing its possible negative impacts.

UNWTO 2030 Tourism Roadmap for Inclusive Growth

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  • A/70/472 - Sustainable development: report of the Second Committee [Arabic] [Chinese] [English] [French] [Russian] [Spanish]
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  • A/RES/70/196 - Sustainable tourism and sustainable development in Central America [Arabic] [Chinese] [English] [French] [Russian] [Spanish]
  • A/RES/70/200 - Global Code of Ethics for Tourism [Arabic] [Chinese] [English] [French] [Russian] [Spanish]
  • Compendium of Best Practices in Sustainable Tourism

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The importance of sustainable tourism

Typically, when people think of sustainable tourism they consider how it impacts the environment. But, it also takes into account the current and future economic, social and environmental impact of its activities .

In order to have sustainability fully incorporated into tourism there is a lot to consider, from laws and regulations to the local people and demand from tourists. That is why, it is important to not only look at sustainable tourism from the perspective of the tourism provider but also from that of an individual tourist. Every cog in the machine is crucial to ensure that sustainable tourism thrives.

The benefits of sustainable tourism

There are many strong benefits to be gained from committing to sustainable tourism, the three main umbrella points being: helping the creating environment, it’s economic advantages for the destination, and providing support to local communities. Not only this but creating tourism that is sustainable has the advantage of creating sustainable mobility, meaning that the activities can continue and are more future-proofed.

Supporting the environment is key to sustainability in tourism. In order to do this issues such as waste, contamination and the use of non-organic products as well as over-tourism must be considered when providing an experience to tourists.

As previously discussed, local communities also benefit from this type of tourism, as being a part of the decision-making process for tourism development ensures that they are protected from inflation, their culture is safeguarded and they benefit from the income streams that are brought to the area by tourism.

It can help the area prosper and continue to protect itself within tourism. It is clear, that this then becomes a positive cycle – with benefits for everyone involved in the process.

Why is sustainability so important?

From the previous section it is clear that this is crucial to the continued development of the tourism industry. Some places have had the issue of over-tourism; where many tourists go to one destination creating the need for more accommodation and attractions. This then leads to natural areas and resources being rerouted for the tourist which means local wildlife suffers and locals are competing for resources. Therefore, tourism that is sustainable helps in preventing this cycle is crucial for the development of the industry to continue and thrive.

Sustainable tourism has been a growing trend, coming to the forefront in 2017 when the UN declared it the year of sustainable tourism for development. And today, with the benefits of less tourism becoming clearer as the coronavirus continues to delay tourism .

How can you ensure sustainable tourism is achieved?

There are many ways to ensure that you are a sustainable tourist and that you provide tourism that is sustainable within your area many of which are two sides of the same coin. For example, taking more environmentally friendly transportation and becoming a part of the ‘ slow travel ’ trend can be considered by the individual tourist and promoted by tourism operators. The same can be said for waste and the choices made around it. As a tourist, choosing organic options in shops and reducing the plastic you buy can help make tourism more sustainable, and those within the tourism industry can choose to use locally purified water and provide more organic and recyclable options for visitors. Contributing to the local economy is also key to ensuring sustainable tourism, by buying and providing souvenirs from locals the cultural heritage and economy is supported by both sides of the tourism industry.

For practical ways to ensure you are providing a sustainable tourism experience read ‘ Going Green: Case Study of the Europe Hotel and Resort, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland ’ . Sustainable tourism is incredibly important for the continued development of the tourism industry. If you found this blog interesting you may also enjoy ‘ Building a Sustainable Events Industry in Ireland: Industry Insights on Green Skills and Best Practice ’, ‘ Interview with Sophie van den Top – sustainability among Tour Operators and Travel Agents ’ and ‘ The Next Tourism Generation project and Overtourism – case of Italy ’.

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sustainability • ethics • climate • waste • renewables • ecology • poverty • equality

Why Sustainable Tourism is Important

We all know that sustainability is not a choice and that we must change a lot to be able to preserve the world’s unique cultures, natural landscapes and attractions for future generations.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the sustainable tourism definition, learn more about the different types of sustainable development in the travel industry, and discuss why sustainable tourism is important.

By the team at Apus Peru, Rainforest Alliance Verified travel specialists.

Table of Contents

The Issue: Why is Sustainable Tourism Important?

Life is all about experiences. And unlike material things, each experience stays with us no matter where we go. Traveling can not only be a meaningful break from our hectic pace of daily life, but also allows us to discover new places and learn from other cultures and traditions.

Nowadays, more people are traveling than ever before, and 53% of global travelers want to travel more sustainably in the future to reduce the negative impact on local cultures and the environment. Tourism is one of the most significant sectors affecting a country’s economy, but what is sustainable tourism and why is it important?

When tourism activity increases, it can bring many sustainable tourism benefits to the travel destination by creating thousands of jobs, developing the infrastructure of a country, and planting a sense of cultural exchange between the local communities and foreigners. Unfortunately, as tourism increases without implementing a concept of sustainable tourism, negative impacts also increase. 

What is Sustainable Tourism?

What does sustainable tourism mean? According to the UNWTO sustainable tourism definition , it describes a tourism in which the needs of today are not placed before the needs of tomorrow. Since travel experiences contain a wide range of different activities and industries, all sectors and stakeholders need to collaborate in order for it to be successful.

The main goal of sustainable tourism is to make the best use of natural resources while having a positive impact on the conservation of natural heritage and biodiversity, the economy and rural communities. This means that a truly responsible tourism should provide more benefits than negative impacts , considering the needs of both visitors and residents of a destination, and resulting in a mutual “give and take” relationship.

Sustainable Tourism Principles

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) established three sustainable tourism principles with the purpose of creating a long-term balance between the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic aspects of sustainable tourism development. The following three principles formulated by the UNWTO are an applicable guideline for all types of tourism providers and segments:

  • Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity .
  • Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
  • Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

A successful application of responsible tourism is only possible with the full participation of all relevant touristic actors and a well-organized sustainable tourism management.

The 3 Pillars of Sustainable Tourism

Thinking about what sustainable tourism means, people mostly link it with the preservation of the environment. But that’s only one part of the global sustainable tourism criteria. When you dive into a responsible lifestyle, you will probably come across the three pillars of sustainable tourism, also called the triangle of sustainability.

This model consists of three different aspects: environment, society, and economy. Together the three pillars are meant to work in connection to one another with true sustainability occurring.

The environmental pillar of sustainable tourism

Natural landscapes are one of the main cores of many tourist attractions.

What would a trip to Peru look like without hiking along the high Andes Mountains, visiting famous Machu Picchu, and admiring its unique flora and fauna?

Could you imagine South America without the Amazon rainforest, its biodiverse National Parks, lakes and beautiful beaches?

To ensure that future generations will be able to explore these incredible natural treasures, we must preserve our environment. Not only for future tourists, but also for the vitality of the travel destination itself.

The social pillar of sustainable tourism

The social aspect is another significant sustainable tourism indicator and refers to human capital. The living conditions of locals must be treated with the same priority as the development of tourism. Only when the citizens’ quality of life is improved and the support of locals is guaranteed in areas like education, security, labor conditions and leisure, tourism can develop sustainably.

Every provider in this sector, such as hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and other travel businesses, need to provide fair working conditions for their employees. Ideally, they should also support the local economy by investing in rural projects and education. The sustainable tourism definition implies that local people should never suffer from touristic activities, for example by destroying their heritage or having less fresh water.

The economic pillar of sustainable tourism

Economic sustainability refers to the responsible use of resources and financial profitability of a company. The pursuit of a company’s profit can never influence negatively the other two pillars of sustainable tourism development. While maximizing profits, each business must take into account the social and environmental impacts. Since companies become more aware of the significance of responsible travel, they consider social and local values while establishing their financing strategies. The integration of local institutions is important, so each service benefits sustainable tourism and supports the local economy, creating new jobs and improving the infrastructure.

Types of Sustainable Tourism

To sum up, sustainable tourism is composed of three main principles: socio-cultural justice, economic development , and environmental integrity. However, there are various types of sustainable tourism that are closely linked, to such an extent that they are often mistakenly mixed up. For example, the expression “eco sustainable tourism” implies two slightly different concepts that can be separated into two terms. It can be helpful to learn more about the aspects that these ideas have in common, as well as distinguish them. Most of these tourism concepts oppose the commercial forms of mass tourism that are more likely to increase environmental damage, cultural loss, negative economic impacts, and overtourism. 

Differences Between Sustainable, Eco & Responsible Tourism

Sustainable tourism can be considered a broad umbrella term with several layers, focusing on different aspects of responsible development. As a matter of fact, the sustainable tourism meaning refers to numerous types, such as green tourism, soft tourism, rural tourism, agro-tourism, ecotourism , sustainable tourism, and many more. However, in the tourism sector you can find two main subcategories, which will be explained below: eco tourism and responsible tourism. 

Ecotourism is a niche segment that focuses on tourism in natural regions. According to the UNWTO’s definition , it implies all touristic activities in which the major motivation of visitors is the appreciation of natural environments and cultures. The travel experience itself focuses on experiencing and learning more about nature.

Eco tourism and sustainable tourism both focus on the minimization of negative impacts of the destination’s natural environment, culture and economy, but ecotourism also contains the additional purpose of actively supporting the maintenance of environmental areas and wellbeing of the host communities, involving ecological conservation, interpretation and education. Besides, ecotourism tends to be operated by specialized and locally-oriented companies, providing their services for smaller target groups.

Responsible tourism and sustainable tourism have the same goal. The major difference between both concepts is that, in responsible tourism , the behavior of each individual must take responsibility for sustainable development. Everybody involved in tourism must stand up for the impact of their actions – not only the individual tourist, but also each touristic organization, business, product owner, operator, industrial association and the government. A responsible individual makes decisions based on what is best for the natural environment and host communities in the long term, making sure to contribute to a positive impact during the trip.

A Look Back at Why Sustainable Tourism is Important

The history of sustainable tourism goes back to the early 1990s. For the first time, the debate about negative impacts caused by tourism gained more attention, implying the need for intervention to protect people, economic systems and the environment. Even though the negative effects of tourism were recognized, there were only a few tourism management initiatives, and the need to change the nature of tourism did not seem to be urgent.

Today we know that sustainable tourism for development is essentially needed, and the travel industry is dependent on management of socio-cultural compatibility, the environmental and economic constraints. As the tourism sector is expected to grow continuously, present tourism habits are going to become unsustainable. This makes sustainable tourism marketing an essential asset for the maintenance of tourism.

By prioritizing sustainable travel, governments, travel businesses, airlines, hotels, touristic institutions and tourists can make a change and ensure tourism is still possible in the future. Only when we actively provide benefits and minimize the negative impacts caused by touristic activity, will it become a force for good in the world. Sustainable tourism statistics clearly show that responsible travel must no longer be a niche part of tourism. Eco tourism and sustainable tourism has become increasingly popular throughout the years, and 83% of international travelers believe in the importance of sustainable tourism.

What are the Benefits of Sustainable Tourism?

Learning more about the positive impacts for each actor of the tourism industry helps to find an answer to this complex question. While tourism can harm natural environments, cultures and local communities, it can also provide significant benefits. The sustainable tourism approach has the purpose of maximizing the positives and minimising the negatives, while preserving opportunities for the future.

Very often there are great disagreements between host communities and tour companies due to their conflicting opinions and goals. However, the implementation of a sustainable tourism model creates a dialogue between both parties, building a more beneficial relationship. So, why is sustainable tourism important? And what are the benefits of responsible travel for each touristic actor?

Benefits for Local Communities

One of the greatest economic aspects of sustainable tourism activities is the creation of fair working conditions for local employees. Minimum wages with an adequate level ensure a decent standard of living for local workers and their families, and equitable labor rights ensure health protection and safety for them. In addition to improving the economy of the host country, it also enables an enhanced infrastructure and increased standard of living for locals.

Due to the growing impact of sustainable tourism, travel companies invest in rural projects and collaborations, protecting ecosystems, preventing deforestation, helping conserve energy and water, and much more. Besides, conscious travelers are willing to pay more to support responsible and green tourism, which contributes to the execution of these projects as well. Also, the travel industry can be an incentive to improve education with the implementation of an effective sustainable tourism framework.

Besides, tourism can be a source of cultural preservation and maintenance of traditions. Due to the increased awareness of responsible development, travelers are more interested in learning and getting to know the authentic life of host communities. Thereby local residents identify themselves with their own culture and sustain their cultural heritage, showcasing their traditions and sharing their history.

This phenomenon also leads to encouraging sustainable wildlife interactions and conservation. Community-led tours teach visitors about the ecosystems and wildlife, which raises global awareness about the significance of regional environmental preservation.

Benefits for Tourism Companies

Sustainable tourism companies profit from responsible development as well. Sustainable destinations attract a different type of traveler, who is aware of climate change and wants his or her visit to be a positive impact in the world. This target group is constantly growing and willing to pay a higher price for an authentic and conscious travel experience.

Even though tourism companies must invest a lot in a greener way of travel, they benefit from these sustainable tourism trends. That’s because conscious travelers are less price sensitive and spend around 50% more money during their stay than standard visitors. Besides, they tend to take longer holidays with fewer flights to reduce carbon emissions. This means that sustainability has the advantage of being a competitive differentiator – instead of offering similar services at a similar price, the added value brings greater income, too.

All in all, with sustainable tourism development, tourism companies can establish mutually beneficial relationships with host communities. The happier local workers and communities are, the better is the quality of their provided services, which has a positive impact on the visitor’s experience as paying client.

Benefits for The Individual Traveler

Sustainability is no longer a trend, but a lifestyle embraced by more and more people. Travelers seek to learn more about how to travel sustainably and want to have an authentic experience off-the-beaten-track.

Instead of just exploring touristic highlights, visitors are becoming more conscious of their actions, avoiding mass tourism and appreciating the time they have to the fullest. This change of travel style has a huge positive impact on sustainable tourism.

The quality of the travelers’ experience has been enhancing enormously due to the constantly growing demand for sustainable tourism products. The idea of traveling has changed incredibly – instead of visiting a country for a limited period of time, the individual has the chance to explore a place from the perspective of locals, and at the same time contribute to a better world for future generations.

Sustainable Travel in Peru

Traveling responsibly is a major concern in almost every part of the world. In Peru, one of the most diverse countries worldwide, and with the second largest land area of Amazon rainforest on the planet, the number of sustainable tourism organizations is constantly growing.

There are plenty of sustainable tourism examples in Peru that can offer a life-enriching experience for visitors, as well as an opportunity to help foster positive social, economic and environmental benefits.

Ecotourism in the Amazon Rainforest

Deforestation is the main threat of Peru’s ecosystem, which also shows us why sustainable tourism is important. Farming, logging, mining, oil extraction, and illegal coca farming are negative consequences caused by the travel industry. Mass tourism leads to environmental mishaps like water shortages and mudslides, and affects the Indigenous communities in a negative way.

Regarding the development of sustainable tourism history, the Peruvian Government has been making great progress the last few years, by setting up Natural Park Reserves, such as the Pacaya-Saimiri National Reserve, Tambopata National Reserve, and Manu Biosphere Reserve. 

The Ministry of Environment enforces tourist restrictions and ensures better education about ecotourism in the Amazon for both locals and travelers in order to promote preservation and conservation of these natural environments. With the implementation of responsible management and local projects, the sustainable tourism industry can conserve these areas and bring benefits to the residents of these local communities.

Pachamama as Sustainable Tourism Example

To the Andean communities, Mother Nature (pachamama) and the mountains (apus) are very powerful, which is why they must be nurtured and cared for as well. Locals respect their natural environment and perform traditional ceremonies to show gratitude with the purpose of maintaining balance between nature and human beings, applying the principle of giving and receiving.

Today, many sustainable tourism companies in Peru want to share this spirit of pachamama and offer authentic travel experiences that create a positive impact in this world. Responsible and conscious travelers seek to learn more about the ancient principles of Andean cosmology that they can apply to their own life. Getting back to your roots, living in balance with yourself and your environment is part of a new lifestyle and a trend in sustainable tourism.

Apus Peru: Adventure Travel Specialists

Apus Peru: Adventure Travel Specialists  is a sustainable tourism company specialized in unique outdoor activities and adventure travel.

Founded in 2005, Apus Peru decided to actively make a change and contribute to a greener tourism, committing to keep the three pillars of sustainability in balance by giving back to local communities and investing in community development projects . Apus Peru was also the first trekking operator in Peru to receive independent verification of its sustainability practices by the  Rainforest Alliance .

Unlike so many tour operators, Apus Peru has implemented a sustainable tourism policy that insists on the payment of fair wages and benefits to the locals with whom they work. Apus Peru also donates USD $20.00 per passenger to  Threads of Peru , a social enterprise dedicated to sustaining Andean weaving traditions and providing economic opportunities to Indigenous artisans, constituting about 15% of Threads of Peru’s annual budget.

Challenges for Sustainability in the Tourism Industry

Why is sustainable tourism important?

Worldwide tourism accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a significant proportion. And a study published by Nature Climate Change shows that the global tourism industry is rapidly expanding.

This makes the sector a bigger polluter than the construction industry and shows that we urgently need to apply a sustainable tourism concept to make a change. But how to achieve sustainable tourism?

It seems to be almost impossible to convert theory into praxis – we have heard enough ideas about sustainable tourism planning but not enough proven advice on how all these models work in real life. For travel to be greener, a lot more must be done than just defining a theoretical approach on how to keep these 3 pillars of sustainable tourism in balance.

Governments and travel institutions need better communication and effective implementation of a sustainable tourism plan at international, national and regional level. Our current travel behavior is unsustainable despite the progress and positive development – managing sustainable tourism is not an easy task at all.

Is Sustainable Travel Possible?

Coming back to the question of why sustainable tourism is important, it is obvious that tourism, as a resource-dependent industry, needs to take responsibility in order to be available for future generations.

One of the greatest sustainable tourism challenges is the successful implementation of theory, which can only be managed with continuous monitoring of tourism impacts, strong political leadership and efficient coordination between all touristic stakeholders. There are no one-size fits all solutions, as the application of sustainable tourism models always vary, depending on the diverse features of sustainable tourism destinations. 

It is certain that we cannot achieve complete sustainability, but we can certainly try to constantly improve, step by step, increasing our positive impact on this planet. Adopting a sustainable tourism strategy is an essential action for tourism to succeed, and there are so many opportunities for it to develop and grow into something more beneficial for visitors, locals and the whole world.

Everybody has the power to become more responsible and make their contribution to positive change.

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Why the Future of Sustainable Tourism Might be Rural

S ustainable tourism is becoming not only a much-needed trend within the global travel and tourism industry, but also a necessity. From hotels taking steps to measure and reduce their energy, waste and plastics consumption to tour operators becoming certified B corporations , there’s no shortage of opportunities the industry is taking to become better for everyone. 

Yet as the industry continues becoming more thoughtful about its impact on the world, there’s one growing method to combat overtourism, encourage completion of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and support local economies and traditional ways of life: rural tourism.

Rural tourism, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) new publication, “ Tourism and Rural Development: A Policy Perspective, ” is defined as “a type of tourism activity in which the visitor’s experience is related to a wide spectrum of products linked to nature activities, agriculture, ways of life and rural cultures…Rural tourism activities take place in non-urban settings with the following characteristics: 1. low population density, 2. landscapes and land use planning where agriculture and forestry prevail, and 3. Social structures and traditional ways of life.”

Why might rural tourism become a disrupting force for good in the industry? 

Supporting the Common Good

Rural tourism can help support rural communities in a few ways, but especially so by encouraging community-based tourism and creating economic opportunities in areas that currently experience “employment droughts,” a systemic lack of jobs that lead many people to move into cities for better employment opportunities. 

“People in rural areas are twice as likely to be in informal employment as those in urban areas. By 2050, the percentage of people living in rural areas will be less than half of 1950. The labor force participation rates for women are significantly lower than for men in rural areas,” said Sandra Carvão, Chief of Market Intelligence and Competitiveness at the World Tourism Organization. 

“...Tourism can help rural development as a proven tool for economic diversification and benefits sharing throughout the value chain and as a major employment engine with a multiplier effect on other sectors that contribute to rural development,” she continued. “Tourism in rural areas can particularly benefit traditionally disadvantaged groups such as women, youth and Indigenous Peoples.” 

But how would an increase in tourism in rural areas help the people who live there? 

It’s simple: more tourism means more job opportunities for both men and women and, on the local scale, to create community-based tourism initiatives that ensure they retain the power and agency over the industry.Community-based tourism is a way for rural communities to directly own and manage the tourism industry in their region. One great example of this is the UNWTO’s Best Tourism Village of Puqueldón, Chile , in which the community operates sixteen lodges for travelers and offers immersion experiences like the Native Potato Route, in which travelers can learn about the importance of the root vegetable from the women who cultivate it. 

Generating more job opportunities and revenue streams for rural communities also allows for greater development in areas where there has traditionally been a lack of resources, such as education or conservation. 

Combatting Overtourism

In cities and destinations across the globe, overtourism can take a detrimental toll on the local population and environment.

We’ve all read the headlines about Venice’s efforts to combat overtourism in the popular Italian city. Yet it’s not just an issue in Venice: Portugal recently passed a law limiting the number of homes that foreigners can purchase to turn into vacation rentals, after the trend began pricing out the local population. 

And in 2018, Thailand’s famous Maya Bay closed after its ecosystem collapsed from the 5,000 tourists that visited the destination each day. The destination reopened in 2022 following the planting of new coral and infrastructure upgrades, but with a largely reduced daily capacity limit to ease the stress tourism had placed on local wildlife. 

By encouraging rural tourism, travelers will be interested in visiting less-visited destinations. The UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages offer unique — and more responsible — alternatives to the world’s most popular destinations. 

Fostering Sustainability

Lastly, growing rural tourism across the globe can also foster sustainability on a local scale. 

This can happen in a few different ways. Communities located within or around beautiful natural resources, biodiverse regions of the world or already established parks or reserves are encouraged by travelers’ interest in visiting them. In this way, tourism has a symbiotic relationship with preservation initiatives. 

“...Our Best Tourism Village Batu Puteh in Malaysia is a fine example of community-participation being indispensable to rural tourism,” said Carvão. “In the protected forest reserve around the village, a group of youth from the Batu Puteh community are involved in conserving and promoting the ecosystem and local culture, including language and traditional knowledge, music and dance.”Another, broader example, of rural tourism enhancing sustainability is in Rwanda , which has gained international recognition for its effort. The country has not only expanded its protected areas, but encourages the communities near protected areas to participate and value conserving its rich biodiversity, including its famous gorilla population. Additionally, the expansion of these parks has grown employment opportunities for locals as park rangers and guides. 

Tourism in rural areas can also support their sustainable development in sectors like infrastructure. Communities can use funds generated by tourism to fund renewable energy projects, for example, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. 

But Will The People Come? 

We think yes, but not all travelers will hop on board. 

Issues of accessibility and infrastructure will always deter travelers who are daunted by transiting between one destination to another in a foreign country, or who desire their familiar creature comforts. 

Likely, it’ll be the adventurous travelers, the ones more interested in immersive travel experiences unlike any other and those who feel like they’ve already seen it all and want something off the beaten path who will help build this important travel sector. 

“An increasing number of people are seeking sustainable, authentic, unique travel experiences and local lifestyles,” said Carvão. “They want to experience natural, unspoiled landscapes and stay in authentic accommodation as they seek to travel with a purpose and meet local people. This is beneficial for our rural communities as they can provide travelers with these experiences, which in turn create new jobs, improve livelihoods and help fight depopulation in rural areas.”   

The UNWTO now offers a list of recognized destinations, called Best Tourism Villages , where communities are already participating in rural tourism initiatives. Travelers can search the website to find villages from Spain to Malaysia and beyond, and read about what they offer the discerning traveler who chooses to visit. 

Tour operators are the ones leaning into rural travel more so than most other travel sectors. Companies like Intrepid Travel and G Adventures have created their entire ethos around travel that does good for local communities, and many of their tours offer a combination of popular destinations mixed with more unique, community-centric or rural-based tourism offerings, ranging from sharing a traditional meal with locals in Egypt to supporting a women’s pottery initiative in Mexico. 

Rural tourism is not just an antidote to overtourism: it’s sustainable, immersive, community-based tourism at its best, and we can’t wait for travelers to experience it for themselves. 

The people of Batu Puteh, Malaysia combine conservation efforts with tourism.

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     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, at the opening ceremony of a Hong Kong tourism promotion event in Moscow this evening (August 31) (English only): Ladies and gentlemen,      Good evening.      I am delighted to be here in Moscow and to have this opportunity to speak to so many Russian friends from the travel industry.      Tourism is one of our most important industries, so allow me to share with you some of the joys of visiting Hong Kong.      Located on the southeast tip of China, Hong Kong sits right at the heart of East Asia. It is a financial, business and aviation hub for the entire region.      We call Hong Kong, Asia's World City. It is one of the safest places in the world with a vibrant culture and international outlook combined with a sophisticated and diverse society.  Throughout Hong Kong's history, our Chinese heritage has been blended with Western influences, giving rise to a melting pot of cultures.      This is demonstrated in many aspects of our daily life as well as our architecture, leisure pursuits and, of course, our year-round festivals.      Festive Hong Kong Week celebrates the wide variety of festivals that enhance the Hong Kong experience for our visitors.      We embrace traditional Chinese festivals such as Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. We also have our own homegrown festivities including the world-famous Bun Festival on our beautiful outlying island of Cheung Chau. And, being an international city, we mark important dates around the world such as Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving.      You can see the cubes on display right behind me showcasing our wide spectrum of festivities.      Naturally, festivals are just part of the Hong Kong experience. Hong Kong is known around the world as a "shoppers' paradise", and for good reasons.      A huge variety of products and wide range of high-end brands line our shopping districts. And with competitive prices and no sales tax, shoppers find that their spending money goes a bit further than they might have expected.      Together with shopping, dining out is part of the Hong Kong way of life. There is something for every taste and in every price range from traditional teahouses to Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants. And with zero duties on wine imports to Hong Kong, you won't have any problem matching your chosen dishes with your favourite wine.      Let's not forget about our young visitors.      We have two major theme parks. Ocean Park is a popular wildlife park with some thrilling rides while Hong Kong Disneyland presents a fairytale day out for the kids. There are also great beaches, memorable cable car rides, theatres and museums all within easy reach from the city centre.        Ladies and gentlemen, I have covered some of the main attractions that helped to attract almost 30 million visitors to Hong Kong last year.      Looking to the future, a major investment in our tourism industry is a world-class cruise terminal, which is currently under construction. When the first berth opens in mid-2013, the terminal will be able to handle the largest cruise ships and provide even more tourism opportunities.      I am encouraged by the growing number of travellers between Hong Kong and Russia in both directions since we introduced visa-free travel in July last year.      Since then, the number of Russian visitors to Hong Kong has almost doubled compared to the previous 12 months. In response to this trend, two Hong Kong-based airlines have launched new direct passenger services between Moscow and Hong Kong.      Whether you are travelling for business or pleasure, or with family or friends, there is something for everyone in Hong Kong. And the Moscow office of our Hong Kong Tourism Board is a great source of travel information. You may also like to check out its Russian website.      Another great way to learn more about Hong Kong and our culture before you travel is through our celebrated film industry. Starting this Thursday, Hong Kong will be staging its first ever film festival in Russia at Moscow's 35mm Cinema. "Echoes Of The Rainbow" which won a Crystal Bear award at this year's Berlin Film Festival, will be among the films shown from September 2 to 7. I watched it in Hong Kong. It's a good one. If you want to know about what life was like in Hong Kong in the less well-off 1960s, that's a movie you should not miss.      Last but not least, I would like to thank you for the warm hospitality we have received in Moscow. I look forward to closer ties between the travel sectors of Russia and Hong Kong and to welcoming even more Russian friends to Asia's world city.      Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, August 31, 2010 Issued at HKT 22:48 NNNN

  • CE starts his visit to Moscow (with photos/video)

Why is tourism planning important?


Why is Tourism Planning Important?

Tourism planning plays a crucial role in the development and sustainability of the tourism industry. It involves the process of identifying and analyzing the tourism potential of a destination, setting goals and objectives, and implementing strategies to achieve these goals. Effective tourism planning ensures that destinations can maximize the benefits of tourism while minimizing its negative impacts. Here are several reasons why tourism planning is important:

1. Sustainable Development: Tourism planning ensures that development in the tourism sector is sustainable, balancing the economic, social, and environmental impacts. It aims to promote responsible tourism practices that will benefit both visitors and the host community, while preserving natural resources and cultural heritage.

2. Economic Growth: Tourism can be a significant contributor to a destination’s economy. Proper planning helps to identify and develop tourism products and services that can attract visitors and generate revenue. This, in turn, creates job opportunities, stimulates local businesses, and boosts the overall economy.

3. Infrastructure and Facilities: Tourism planning helps to identify the infrastructure and facilities needed to support tourism activities. This includes transportation, accommodation, recreational facilities, and other amenities. By planning ahead, destinations can ensure that they have adequate infrastructure to cater to the needs of visitors.

4. Preservation of Cultural Heritage: Tourism planning takes into account the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of a destination. It involves developing strategies to protect historical sites, traditions, and customs, ensuring that they are not compromised by the influx of tourists.

5. Environmental Protection: Tourism can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. Proper planning helps to mitigate these impacts by encouraging sustainable practices, such as eco-friendly accommodations, waste management systems, and conservation of natural resources.

6. Marketing and Promotion: Tourism planning includes strategies for marketing and promoting a destination to attract visitors. This involves identifying target markets, creating effective marketing campaigns, and utilizing various marketing channels to showcase the unique attractions and experiences that a destination has to offer.

7. Community Engagement: Effective tourism planning involves engaging the local community in the decision-making process. It encourages collaboration and participation from local stakeholders, ensuring that their voices are heard, and their interests are considered in the development and management of tourism.

8. Risk Management: Tourism planning also addresses potential risks and challenges that may arise in the tourism industry. This includes identifying and mitigating risks related to safety, security, health, natural disasters, and other emergencies, to ensure the well-being of both visitors and the host community.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tourism Planning

1. What is the role of stakeholders in tourism planning? Stakeholders, including the local community, government agencies, tourism operators, and non-governmental organizations, play a vital role in tourism planning. They provide valuable input, expertise, and resources to ensure that planning decisions consider the interests and needs of all parties involved.

2. How does tourism planning contribute to economic growth? Tourism planning helps to identify and develop tourism products and services that attract visitors and generate revenue. This creates job opportunities, stimulates local businesses, and boosts the economy through increased tourism expenditure.

3. What are some sustainable practices in tourism planning? Sustainable practices in tourism planning include promoting responsible tourism, conserving natural resources, protecting cultural heritage, and involving the local community. This ensures that tourism development is done in a way that preserves the environment and benefits the host community.

4. How does tourism planning address environmental impacts? Tourism planning addresses environmental impacts by promoting sustainable practices, such as eco-friendly accommodations, waste management systems, and conservation of natural resources. It aims to minimize negative impacts on the environment and preserve the natural beauty of a destination.

5. What is the importance of community engagement in tourism planning? Community engagement ensures that the local community is actively involved in decision-making processes related to tourism development. Their input helps to create a sense of ownership, preserve local culture, and ensure that tourism benefits are shared equitably among community members.

6. How does tourism planning help in promoting cultural heritage? Tourism planning takes into account the importance of preserving cultural heritage. It includes strategies to protect historical sites, traditions, and customs, ensuring that they are not compromised by the influx of tourists. Tourism planning also promotes cultural experiences that showcase the unique aspects of a destination’s heritage.

7. What are the potential risks and challenges in tourism planning? Potential risks and challenges in tourism planning include safety and security concerns, health risks, natural disasters, and other emergencies. Effective planning addresses these risks by implementing appropriate measures to ensure the well-being and safety of visitors and the host community.

8. How does tourism planning contribute to destination marketing? Tourism planning includes strategies for marketing and promoting a destination to attract visitors. This involves identifying target markets, creating effective marketing campaigns, and utilizing various marketing channels to showcase the unique attractions and experiences that a destination has to offer.

9. How does tourism planning support sustainable development goals? Tourism planning aligns with sustainable development goals by balancing economic growth, social inclusivity, and environmental sustainability. It aims to create a positive impact on the local community and environment while ensuring the long-term viability of the tourism industry.

10. Can tourism planning help in mitigating overtourism? Yes, tourism planning can help in mitigating overtourism by implementing measures to manage visitor flows, diversifying tourism products, promoting off-peak seasons, and engaging in sustainable tourism practices that distribute tourist activities more evenly throughout a destination.

11. What are the key components of a tourism plan? A tourism plan typically includes an assessment of the destination’s tourism potential, goal setting, market analysis, development strategies, marketing and promotion plans, infrastructure and facilities development, community engagement strategies, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

12. How does tourism planning impact the quality of visitor experiences? Tourism planning ensures that the necessary infrastructure, facilities, and services are in place to enhance the quality of visitor experiences. By identifying and addressing the specific needs and preferences of visitors, tourism planning helps to ensure that visitors have enjoyable and memorable experiences in a destination.

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