Sustainable Tourism

Aerial view of a plane traveling over a lush rainforest that is properly managed for sustainable tourism.

A vast majority of travelers look for sustainable options when traveling. According to three different studies, 96% of travelers, 90% of consumers, and 87% of tourists look for sustainable traveling options to positively impact the place they are visiting. Therefore, sustainable tourism is an extremely important consideration for travelers.

What Is Sustainable Tourism?

The United Nations World Tourism Agency 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.” ISO 23405:2022—Tourism And Related Services – Sustainable Tourism – Principles, Vocabulary And Model specifies fundamental concepts, principles, and a model for sustainable tourism, and this standard’s definition mirrors that of the UN Nations with the addition that interested parties work closely together on the implementation of sustainability policies. In other words, sustainable tourism is an aspiration that attempts to maximize the positive impacts of tourism by generating income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems and biodiversity, thereby working toward the common goals of sustainable development. More broadly defined, sustainable tourism is an ethos to acknowledge the positive and negative impacts of tourism, and maximize the positive impacts while minimizing the negative.

What Are the Positive and Negative Impacts of Sustainable Tourism?

Positive Impacts of Tourism

  • Protecting the environment, natural resources, and wildlife
  • Providing socio-economic benefits (i.e., improved tax revenue and personal income, increased standards of living, and more employment opportunities) for communities who live in tourist destinations
  • Conserving cultural heritage and creating authentic tourist experiences.

Negative Impacts of Tourism

  • Causes economic tourism leakage (when tourism dollars leave the local economy and instead benefit multinational corporations, foreign companies, or countries)
  • Damages the natural environment, including the depletion of local natural resource, pollution, and waste problems
  • Contributes to more than 5% of greenhouse gases (transportation accounts for 90% of this)

Why Is Sustainable Tourism Important?

When responsibly planned and managed, tourism supports job creation, promotes inclusive social integration, protects local traditions and cultural heritage, conserves biodiversity, generates sustainable livelihoods, and improves human wellbeing.

What is a Management System for Sustainable Communities?

ISO 37101 – Sustainable Cities and Communities Package provides management system guidance, strategies, and programs for the implementation of smart sustainable communities. The standards in this package are largely applicable to the organizing bodies, decision-makers, executive officers, local governments, and managers who play a pivotal role in designing sustainable community models for implementation. This includes the following standards:

  • ISO 37100:2016—Sustainable Cities and Communities Vocabulary
  • ISO 37101:2016—Sustainable Development In Communities – Management System For Sustainable Development – Requirements With Guidance For Use
  • ISO 37104:2019—Transforming Our Cities – Guidance For Practical Local Implementation Of ISO 37101
  • ISO 37105:2019—Descriptive Framework For Cities And Communities
  • ISO 37106:2021—Guidance On Establishing Smart City Operating Models For Sustainable Communities
  • ISO 37120:2018—Indicators For City Services And Quality Of Life
  • ISO 37122:2019—Indicators for Smart Cities
  • ISO 37123:2019—Indicators for Resilient Cities
  • ISO/TS 37107:2019—Maturity Model For Smart Sustainable Communities

Community and city management relates to sustainable tourism in that it either impacts tourism positively or negatively, so it is imperative to implement a framework that leads to beneficial outcomes to the local region.

What Is a Framework for Sustainable Tourism?

A framework for sustainable tourism includes the integration of economic, social, cultural, and environmental accommodation establishments—all of which is specified in ISO 21401:2018—Tourism And Related Services – Sustainability Management System For Accommodation Establishments – Requirements. All actions working towards sustainable development should have a similar process of starting the goal in long-time, implementation of decision processes, development of practical solutions, identification and evaluation of emerging problems, analysis of occurring key facts and trends, and lastly the resulting basic data. With these steps, it is possible to devise a proper strategy, leading to introducing sustainability in the present state of tourism in chosen region. Examples of goals within a sustainable tourism framework include:

  1. Local prosperity from employment—increase the number of jobs to support tourist industries, which takes into consideration salary, quality of service, and the ability to work without regard to race, age, and physical condition.
  2. Social balance—ensure equitable distribution of profits from tourism, which can be used to increase local job opportunities and better provision of services for poor citizens.
  3. Cultural wealth—take measures (e.g., build a museum or offering tours of cultural sites) to preserve the historical and traditional local culture
  4. Clean environment—minimize the amount of waste generated by tourists and the emissions of pollutants to air, water, and soil.

A helpful framework tool is ISO 21101:2014 for Adventure Tourism Safety Management Requirements, which helps tourism operators develop, implement, and continually improve a safety management system for adventure tourism activities. The handbook ISO 21101 – Adventure Tourism – Safety Management Systems – A Practical Guide for SMEs provides step-by-step guidance and practical examples to help small and medium-sized adventure tourism operators follow this standard. Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, generating 10% of employment (1 in 10 jobs) globally. Constructing a proper framework to manage sustainability in the tourism industry is thereby quintessential for the economic, social, cultural, and environmental prosperity of the world for years to come.

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