Sustainable tourism definition

Sustainable tourism is tourism that follows the principles of sustainability, minimizing the impact on the environment and local culture, while contributing to generate income and employment for the local population.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as tourism that fully takes into account the current and future economic, social and environmental impacts to meet the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and the host communities.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is an international organization created in 1975 that aims to promote tourism. Formally linked to the United Nations since 1976, when it became an executive agency of UNDP. In 1977 an agreement was signed that formalized the collaboration with the United Nations, being a specialized agency of the United Nations system since 2003. It has its headquarters in Madrid (Spain) and has 156 member states.

According to UNWTO, the principles that define sustainable tourism are:

  • The natural and cultural resources are conserved for their continued use in the future, while they report benefits;
  • Tourism development is planned and managed in a way that does not cause serious environmental or socio-cultural problems;
  • The environmental quality is maintained and improved;
  • It seeks to maintain a high level of satisfaction of visitors and the destination retains its prestige and commercial potential; Y
  • The benefits of tourism are widely distributed throughout society.

These characteristics make sustainable tourism a strategic tool in local and national economic development. On the one hand, tourism is a great opportunity in some urban and rural areas, where there are no other alternatives for economic activity. At the same time, as part of the services sector, it offers more opportunities for the emergence of local companies (we must bear in mind that even in the most developed countries, this sector is mainly made up of SMEs). And despite being a sector that requires heavy investments in infrastructure and equipment, it also uses labor intensively, thus offering numerous job and business opportunities, without distinction for men, women and young people.

This trend of tourism called Sustainable Tourism is also supported by UNESCO, who argues that "The development of sustainable tourism must be ecologically sustainable in the long term, economically viable, as well as ethically and socially equitable" (BRESCE, 2009).