Increased awareness of the issues surrounding climate change, deforestation, displacement of indigenous people and the preservation of natural resources has helped to contribute to the growth of sustainable tourism, and it is essential for those in the industry to gain an understanding of the concept. In this article, you can learn about what sustainable tourism actually means and why it matters, while also learning about some specific real-world examples.

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What is Sustainable Tourism?

Sustainable tourism refers to types of travel where the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism are factored in and where relevant adjustments are made to minimise these negative consequences. It considers the needs of travellers, but also the needs of host communities, local businesses and the natural world.

This could mean adopting more sustainable methods of transportation, staying in more environmentally friendly accommodation, eating locally and ethically sourced foods, and avoiding harmful activities. Sustainable tourism can be related to leisure, business or event travel, but also travel to visit friends and family too.

Video: Why Sustainable Tourism?


What is the Goal of Sustainable Tourism?

The ultimate goal of sustainable tourism is to reduce the impact of tourism on local communities and the environment. This means making optimal use of resources to avoid over-consumption, helping with the conservation of the natural world and making a conscious effort to respect local traditions and heritage, and contributing to their preservation.

A major objective linked to sustainable tourism is making the long-term future of travel more viable and this is achieved through education and behavioural changes. Additionally, sustainable tourism aims to provide economic and social benefits for local communities, resulting in more of a mutually beneficial ‘give and take’ relationship.

What is the Difference Between Responsible and Sustainable Tourism?

The concepts of sustainable tourism and responsible tourism are closely linked, to such an extent that they are often used interchangeably. However, there are some differences between the two ideas and it can be helpful to get to grips with what separates the two terms, as well as what unites them.

Sustainable tourism is heavily focused on the long-term sustainability of the tourism industry, so that current needs do not compromise the needs of future generations. Responsibility is shared between political leaders, tourism companies and other stakeholders. Responsible travel, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the ways individuals interact with the destinations they visit and the focus is generally on people making behavioural changes.

Why is Sustainable Tourism Important?

The concept of sustainable tourism is incredibly important because while travel can generate economic benefits for a local area and provide jobs for those in the industry, it can also have negative consequences, including over-use of resources, displacement of wildlife and damage to local culture, all while contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

As tourism is expected to continue to grow in the years ahead, current tourism habits are going to become unsustainable, because they are causing too much harm to the environment, local communities and the earth’s natural resources. This makes sustainable travel essential for the long-term viability of the tourism industry as a whole.

By prioritising sustainable tourism, governments, travel companies, airlines, hotels, restaurants and travellers can all help to ensure tourism is still possible in the years to come. When steps are taken to provide benefits for locals and minimise the harm caused by tourism, it becomes a force for good in the world.

Different Types of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is a broad umbrella term, which has several different sub-categories. Understanding the different types of sustainable tourism can be especially important for those involved in tourism marketing.


Ecotourism is the name given to responsible or green tourism to areas of natural beauty, with a particular focus on ecological conservation. The aim of ecotourism is to protect the natural environment, to find ways to benefit local communities – while respecting their culture – and to educate travellers about the importance of responsible travel. Energy efficiency, water conservation and protection of wildlife and indigenous people are all key.

Community Tourism

Community tourism occurs when a local community invites tourists to visit and provides accommodation for them. Crucially, this ensures that the local community always has control over their local tourism industry, making the key decisions and setting their own restrictions. In many cases, community tourism is based on creating realistic experiences of what life is like in developing areas, and unique or unusual accommodation is a regular feature.

Rural / Ethno Tourism

Rural tourism refers to travel that centres around rural areas, rather than urban areas. It includes everything from hiking and camping trips, to agritourism, where tourists may participate in farming activities and experience agricultural lifestyles. Ultimately, this kind of tourism focuses on natural features, such as forests, hills, mountains, fields and waterfalls, rather than cities, tourist hot spots and built-up areas.

Soft Tourism

Soft tourism is a form of travel that prioritises local experiences, education, respect for local culture and the avoidance of tourist hot spots. It can be contrasted with hard tourism, or mass tourism, which is large-scale and focused on popular tourist attractions and destinations. Companies that are operating in accordance with soft tourism principles will prioritise longer stays, jobs for locals, and measures to avoid over-crowding.

What Are the Advantages of Sustainable Tourism?

In general, sustainable tourism can be thought of as responsible travel, but it is important for businesses, tourism workers and tourists to gain an appreciation of some of the main advantages.

1. It Looks Out for Wildlife

An important component of sustainable tourism is the conservation of wildlife and this ranks among the most significant benefits associated with the practice. When decisions are made with the needs of local wildlife in mind, it prevents natural habitats from being destroyed and allows animals to thrive. Crucially, sustainable tourism also allows wild animals to stay in the wild, rather than having them in captivity and used as a tourist attraction.

2. It Protects the Environment

Another key benefit of sustainable tourism is the focus on protecting the environment. Sustainable hotels and other forms of accommodation will use eco-friendly materials and take steps to limit the amount of waste they produce or the amount of resources they use. Sustainable transportation could involve hiring a bicycle, rather than using a car. Sustainable restaurants, meanwhile, will source food locally and may offer more vegetarian and vegan options.

3. It Supports Local People

When tourists make the conscious decision to turn to sustainable tourism companies, and when governments take steps to help those companies too, they are all contributing to the wellbeing of local people. Sustainable tourism can provide jobs for the local area, funding for local projects, and stimulation for the local economy. By contrast, mass tourism, with no focus on sustainability, is often more exploitative and can inadvertently harm local culture and indigenous people.

4. It Can Change Attitudes

There are significant educational components associated with ideas like sustainable and environmental tourism, and these can help tourists to adjust their attitudes and behaviours over the longer term. This is important because the greater demand there is for sustainable tourism, the more pressure will be placed on businesses and governments to deliver what customers are looking for and, in the process, this can lead to positive and lasting change.

5. It Has a Long-Term Focus

Ultimately, sustainable tourism has a much more long-term focus than other forms of tourism, which prioritise the needs of today at the expense of future generations and their requirements. A major advantage of sustainable travel is the fact that it brings together businesses, tourists and governments, intending to adopt strategies that look out for the long-term future of the tourism industry, local communities, tourists, and the planet as a whole.

9 Examples of Sustainable Tourism

Now that you are equipped with an understanding of what sustainable tourism is, it is worth taking a closer look at nine specific examples of sustainable tourism in action within the real world.

1. Feynan Ecolodge – Jordan

Feynan Ecolodge is located in Dana Biosphere Nature Reserve, Jordan, and has developed a reputation as one of the best examples of sustainable tourism in the world. The accommodation operates in partnership with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and is solar-powered, greatly reducing the overall carbon footprint. As a result, guests can stay in the lodge knowing that they are doing their part to protect the environment.

2. Sustainable Tourism in Bhutan

Bhutan in South Asia is one of the most unique tourist destinations in the world and the entire country operates a “high value, low impact” model, in order to maximise economic benefits while minimising any negative impact. To enforce this, the country has strict entry requirements and charges a daily tariff. Some of the money generated from this policy then goes to conservation efforts and investment in the country’s infrastructure, culture, and public services.

3. Luxury Sustainable Safari Tours

Safari tours have the potential to be exploitative, but a number of tour operators are now operating more ethical and sustainable safari tours, which give back to the local area. One example of this is the tour company andBeyond, which offers luxury safari tours in Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and various other locations. The company installs electrical micro-grids to make energy consumption more sustainable, while also investing in local land, animals and people.

4. Sustainable Hostel in South Africa

Mdumbi Backpackers is a hostel that is specifically aimed at those with an interest in sustainable tourism. Situated in South Africa, the accommodation serves as an ideal base for hiking, whale watching and various other activities. However, crucially, the hostel has adopted a number of eco-friendly practices, including a more sustainable waste management system, the use of solar power, and an ownership model that allows local employees to own shares.

5. Sustainable Transport On the Water

Transportation is a major focus area for sustainable tourism in general, but water-based transport has arguably lagged behind other methods and often still relies heavily on fossil fuels. Fortunately, this is starting to change and companies like Soel Yachts and Naval DC have created more sustainable water transport in the form of solar-powered, electric vessels, which are carbon neutral. As this trend continues, water transport should become increasingly sustainable.

6. Solar Driven Six Senses Resort in Fiji

The Six Senses Resort in Fiji is a five-star luxury resort, which operates in accordance with sustainable tourism principles. For instance, the resort is entirely powered by solar energy and it includes its own rain capture and water filtration facilities, helping to reduce the use of plastic bottles. Additionally, the Six Senses Resort promotes recycling and re-use of materials and supports a number of causes that help the local community.

7. BomBom Water Project – Príncipe

Finally, the BomBom Water Project is operated by the Bom Bom resort on the island of Príncipe, off the west coast of Africa. The luxury resort introduced a recycling scheme, where 50 used water bottles would be replaced by a refillable, stainless steel bottle. The resort claims the project led to the removal of 300,000 used plastic water bottles from the island, and the resort also contributed to a number of water purification fountains too.

8. Atlantis Submarines – Hawaii

Atlantis Submarines is a passenger submarine company, providing dive tours in Hawaii. The company has locations on three different Hawaiian islands and provides those with an interest in ecotourism with an opportunity to participate in an experience that meets sustainable tourism principles. For example, the submarines used by Atlantis Submarines are battery powered, meaning they do not release greenhouse gases or cause pollution within the water. This battery-powered approach also makes them significantly quieter than other submarines, which is great for protecting the natural ecosystem within Hawaii’s waters.

9. Self-Sustainable ‘Azurmendi’ Restaurant – Spain

Azurmendi is a restaurant in Bilbao, Spain, which has been awarded three Michelin stars, highlighting the overall quality of its food. However, what makes this restaurant truly special is its approach to sustainability, which ensures that visitors to the region can enjoy the food while engaging in sustainable tourism practices. Examples of the steps that are taken to promote sustainability include using geothermal and solar energy to power the restaurant and using the restaurant’s own vegetable garden to grow vegetables for use in the restaurant’s menu. Furthermore, much of the organic waste from the restaurant is turned into compost, which is used by local farmers.

Key Trends in the Tourism Industry

Sustainable tourism is one of the main trends in the industry today, but there are a number of other trends that you need to be aware of too. From the renewed focus on local customers to the rise of voice search, keeping up with the latest trends can help those in the tourism industry to gain a competitive edge and satisfy customers.

To explore these trends and many more in greater depth, and to find out what has actually influenced each of them, check out the “Tourism Trends: The Latest Opportunities for The Tourism Industry” article.

Slow Travel as a Form of Sustainable Tourism

One of the emerging sustainable tourism trends is slow travel, which is an approach to tourism based on sustainability, an appreciation of the culture and characteristics of the local area, and the enjoyment of fulfilling travel experiences. It contrasts with mass travel, and the idea of packed itineraries and a rush to visit as many attractions as possible.

You can find out more about slow tourism and how it is defined, read about examples of slow tourism, and understand its relationship with sustainable travel by reading “Slow Tourism: What It Is, Its Importance, and Examples”.

Understanding Destination Marketing

The concept of sustainable tourism can easily tie in with the idea of destination marketing too. Essentially, this is where marketers for hotels and other travel companies aim to attract tourists to a particular location by promoting the local attractions, features and activities on offer, in order to make it a more appealing proposition.

You can explore the topic of destination marketing further and gain an understanding of how it can relate to the concept of sustainable tourism by reading the “Destination Marketing Strategies to Attract More Visitors” article.

Tourism Management: Everything You Need to Know

Understanding sustainable traveland the benefits it can provide for both travellers and the industry as a whole is especially important for those who are involved in travel management. This includes general managers, sales managers, marketing managers, hotel managers, guest relations managers and a whole host of other roles.

To dive deeper into the topic of tourism management, including definitions, a list of the management roles available, and the qualifications needed, read the “Tourism Management: All You Need to Know About Tourism” post.

Find Courses in Sustainable Tourism

One of the best ways to learn more about sustainable travel and to gain relevant qualifications that can help you to land a role in this sector of the industry is to look into the various courses that are available. This may include distance learning courses or courses that require physical attendance, depending on your preferences.

To explore the topic of tourism courses in full, and to access links to some of the best websites for actually finding a course to enrol in, read the “Tourism Course: A Complete Overview of Courses & Tourism Educators” article.

Find Jobs in Sustainable Tourism

In the end, sustainable tourism is concerned with making the tourism industry itself more sustainable, so that it has a bright future and can continue to provide jobs. One of the reasons the industry is so valuable is because it offers roles within hospitality, airlines, the cruise industry, travel agencies and more.

You can find out more about the tourism jobs available, and identify the best job boards to help you in your search for a vacancy by checking out the “Tourism Jobs: The Best Tourism Industry Job Boards for Your Career” post.

Understanding the Value of Sustainable Tourism

For sustainable tourism to be possible, businesses and other key stakeholders involved in the local tourism trade need to make a conscious effort to build, maintain and manage a sustainable industry. This process is referred to as sustainable tourism development, and it is a shared responsibility, with a view to minimising harm or negative consequences.

Read the “Benefits of Sustainable Tourism Development” post to explore the topic of sustainable travel further, to learn about the value of sustainable tourism development, and to read about some of the main advantages.

Sustainable tourism is the term used to describe tourism that is intended to minimise the negative impact on the environment and local communities while making the industry itself more viable in the longer term. Responsibility for this lies not only with tourists themselves but also with tourism companies and local governments too.

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