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Sustainable Tourism involves social responsibility, a strong commitment to nature and the integration of local people in any tourist operation or development. Sustainable tourism is defined by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), the Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Earth Council as:

Sustainable Tourism Development meets the needs of present tourists, host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems. Sustainable tourism products are products which are operated in harmony with the local environment, community and cultures so that these become the beneficiaries not the victims of tourism development.

Responsible Tourism, Soft Tourism, Minimum Impact Tourism and Alternative Tourism are terms with a similar meaning as Sustainable Tourism.They are, for the purpose of this module included in the term Sustainable Tourism.

Some factors can be seen as "drivers", pushing the tourism industry towards a sustainable development approach.

These are:

  • Increasing regulatory pressure
  • Growing awareness of cost savings from sensible resource consumption
  • Tourism professionals and operators recognise that environmental quality is essential for a competitive product
  • The awareness by governments and operators that the growth of tourism can have a negative impact on the environment
  • A growing awareness of communities about their potential to influence tourism policy


Samothraki, Greece, photo Tamara Ristić

Response to tourism sustainability so far
Concern for the sustainability of tourism is already well established in Europe. It is a subject that has received considerable attention from the European Commission, the European Parliament5, and the Economic and Social Committee.

Many national governments and local authorities across Europe have paid attention to sustainability issues in the development of their tourism strategies and actions. This process is likely to be further strengthened by the requirement that government strategies are subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment. Yet there is a feeling that such awareness is not necessarily translated into concrete practical actions and that some of the key challenges and opportunities presented by the sustainable development of tourism are not being met.