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Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting somewhere as a tourist and trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society, and economy. Tourism can involve primary transportation to the general location, local transportation, accommodations, entertainment, recreation, nourishment and shopping. It can be related to travel for leisure, business and what is called VFR (visiting friends and relatives). There is now broad consensus that tourism development should be sustainable; however, the question of how to achieve this remains an object of debate.
Without travel there is no tourism, so the concept of sustainable tourism is tightly linked to a concept of sustainable mobility. Two relevant considerations are tourism's reliance on fossil fuels and tourism's effect on climate change. 72 percent of tourism's CO2 emissions come from transportation, 24 percent from accommodations, and 4 percent from local activities. Aviation accounts for 55% of those transportation CO2 emissions (or 40% of tourism's total). However, when considering the impact of all greenhouse gas emissions, of condensation trails and induced cirrus clouds, aviation alone could account for up to 75% of tourism's climate impact.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) considers an annual increase in aviation fuel efficiency of 2 percent per year through 2050 to be realistic. However, both Airbus and Boeing expect the passenger-kilometers of air transport to increase by about 5 percent yearly through at least 2020, overwhelming any efficiency gains. By 2050, with other economic sectors having greatly reduced their CO2 emissions, tourism is likely to be generating 40 percent of global carbon emissions. The main cause is an increase in the average distance travelled by tourists, which for many years has been increasing at a faster rate than the number of trips taken. "Sustainable transportation is now established as the critical issue confronting a global tourism industry that is palpably unsustainable, and aviation lies at the heart of this issue."
Social & economic aspects
Global economists forecast continuing international tourism growth, the amount depending on the location. As one of the world's largest and fastest growing industries, this continuous growth will place great stress on remaining biologically diverse habitats and indigenous cultures, which are often used to support mass tourism. Tourists who promote sustainable tourism are sensitive to these dangers and seek to protect tourist destinations, and to protect tourism as an industry. Sustainable tourists can reduce the impact of tourism in many ways:
- informing themselves of the culture, politics, and economy of the communities visited
- anticipating and respecting local cultures, expectations and assumptions
- supporting the integrity of local cultures by favoring businesses which conserve cultural heritage and traditional values
- supporting local economies by purchasing local goods and participating with small, local businesses
- conserving resources by seeking out businesses that are environmentally conscious, and by using the least possible amount of non-renewable resources
Increasingly, destinations and tourism operations are endorsing and following "responsible tourism" as a pathway towards sustainable tourism. Responsible tourism and sustainable tourism have an identical goal, that of sustainable development. The pillars of responsible tourism are therefore the same as those of sustainable tourism – environmental integrity, social justice and economic development. The major difference between the two is that, in responsible tourism, individuals, organizations and businesses are asked to take responsibility for their actions and the impacts of their actions. This shift in emphasis has taken place because some stakeholders feel that insufficient progress towards realizing sustainable tourism has been made since the Earth Summit in Rio. This is partly because everyone has been expecting others to behave in a sustainable manner. The emphasis on responsibility in responsible tourism means that everyone involved in tourism – government, product and service owners and operators, transport operators, community services, NGOs and Community-based organization (CBOs), tourists, local communities, industry associations – are responsible for achieving the goals of responsible tourism.
Stakeholders of sustainable tourism play a role in continuing this form of tourism. This can include organizations as well as individuals, to be specific, ECOFIN. "A stakeholder in the tourism industry is deemed to be anyone who is impacted on by development positively or negatively, and as a result it reduces potential conflict between the tourists and host community by involving the latter in shaping the way in which tourism develops.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) serves as the international body for fostering increased knowledge and understanding of sustainable tourism practices, promoting the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles and building demand for sustainable travel. It has a number of programmes including the setting of international standards for accreditation agencies (the organisations that would inspect a tourism product, and certify them as a sustainable company).
The values and ulterior motives of governments often need to be taken into account when assessing the motives for sustainable tourism. One important factor to consider in any ecologically sensitive or remote area or an area new to tourism is that of carrying capacity. This is the capacity of tourists of visitors an area can sustainably tolerate without damaging the environment or culture of the surrounding area. This can be altered and revised in time and with changing perceptions and values. For example, originally the sustainable carrying capacity of the Galapagos Islands was set at 12,000 visitors per annum but was later changed by the Ecuadorian government to 50,000 for economic reasons and objectives.
Non-governmental organizations are one of the stakeholders in advocating sustainable tourism. Their roles can range from spearheading sustainable tourism practices to simply doing research. University research teams and scientists can be tapped to aid in the process of planning. Such solicitation of research can be observed in the planning of Cát Bà National Park in Vietnam.
Dive resort operators in Bunaken National Park, Indonesia, play a crucial role by developing exclusive zones for diving and fishing respectively, such that both tourists and locals can benefit from the venture.
Large conventions, meetings and other major organized events drive the travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Cities and convention centers compete to attract such commerce, commerce which has heavy impacts on resource use and the environment. Major sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, present special problems regarding environmental burdens and degradation. But burdens imposed by the regular convention industry can be vastly more significant.
Green conventions and events are a new but growing sector and marketing point within the convention and hospitality industry. More environmentally aware organizations, corporations and government agencies are now seeking more sustainable event practices, greener hotels, restaurants and convention venues, and more energy efficient or climate neutral travel and ground transportation. However, the convention trip not taken can be the most sustainable option: "With most international conferences having hundreds if not thousands of participants, and the bulk of these usually traveling by plane, conference travel is an area where significant reductions in air-travel-related GHG emissions could be made. ... This does not mean non-attendance" (Reay, 2004), since modern Internet communications are now ubiquitous and remote audio/visual participation. For example, by 2003 Access Grid technology had already successfully hosted several international conferences. A particular example is the large American Geophysical Union's annual meeting, which has used livestreaming for several years. This provides live streams and recordings of keynotes, named lectures and oral sessions, and provides opportunities to submit questions and interact with authors and peers. Following the live-stream, the recording of each session is posted on-line within 24 hours.
Some convention centers have begun to take direct action in reducing the impact of the conventions they host. One example is the Moscone Center in San Francisco, which has a very aggressive recycling program, a large solar power system, and other programs aimed at reducing impact and increasing efficiency.
Local communities benefit from sustainable tourism through economic development, job creation, and infrastructure development. Tourism revenues bring economic growth and prosperity to attractive tourist destinations which can raise the standard of living in destination communities. Sustainable tourism operators commit themselves to creating jobs for local community members. Increase in tourism revenue to an area acts as a driver for the development of increased infrastructure. As tourist demands increase in a destination, a more robust infrastructure is needed to support the needs of both the tourism industry and the local community. A 2009 study of rural operators throughout the province of British Columbia, Canada found "an overall strong 'pro-sustainability' attitude among respondents. Dominant barriers identified were lack of available money to invest, lack of incentive programs, other business priorities, and limited access to suppliers of sustainable products, with the most common recommendation being the need for incentive programs to encourage businesses to become more sustainable."
Sustainable tourism in Developing Nations
Expansion of Tourism in the LEDCs
The renewed emphasis on outward-orientated growth which accompanied the rise in neoliberal development strategies in the 1990s in the south also focused attention on international tourism as an import potential growth sector for many countries, particularly in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) as many of the world's most beautiful and 'untouched' places are located in the Third World.
Prior to the 1960s studies tended to assume that the extension of the tourism industry to LEDCs was a good thing. In the 1970s this changed as academics started to take a much more negative view on tourism's consequences, particularly criticising the industry as an effective contributor towards development. International tourism is a volatile industry with visitors quick to abandon destinations that were formerly popular because of threats to health or security.
Problems with sustainable tourism in Developing Nations
Displacement and Resettlement
One common issue with tourism in a place where there was none prior to First World companies arriving is that of the displacement and resettlement of local communities. The Maasai tribes in Tanzania have been a victim of this problem. After the second World War First World conservationists with the intent of making such areas accessible to tourists as well as preserving the areas natural beauty and ecology moved into the areas where the Maasai tribes lived. This was often achieved through the setting up of national parks and conservation areas (Monbiot 1994; Olerokonga, 1992:7).
It has been claimed that Maasai activities did not threaten the wildlife and the First World knowledge was blurred by 'colonial disdain' and misunderstandings of savannah wildlife. As the Maasai have been displaced the area within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) has been modified to allow easier access for tourists by actions such as building campsites, tracks and the removal of stone objects such as stones for souvenirs.
This kind of 'sustainable tourism' is viewed by many as an oxymoron or metaphor since it seriously can't change anything. There likely is no way to make tourism sustainable but if all tourists cooperate it could possibly work in a viable world. It is a reality that many things done in the name of sustainability are actually masking the desire to allow extra profits. There is often alienation of local populations from the tourists.
"The environmental sustainability focuses on the overall viability and health of ecological systems. Natural resource degradation, pollution, and loss of biodiversity are detrimental because they increase vulnerability, undermine system health, and reduce resilience. This aspect of sustainability has been the most often discussed through the literature by numerous authors such as Hall, C. M. & Lew A.A. (1998), Hall, D. (2000), Weaver (2006), and many others."
Many coastal areas are experiencing particular pressure from growth in lifestyles and growing numbers of tourists. Coastal environments are limited in extent consisting of only a narrow strip along the edge of the ocean. Coastal areas are often the first environments to experience the detrimental impacts of tourism. A detailed study of the impact on coastal areas, with reference to western India can be an example.
The inevitable change is on the horizon as holiday destinations put more effort into sustainable tourism. Planning and management controls can reduce the impact on coastal environments and ensure that investment into tourism products supports sustainable coastal tourism.
Some studies have led to interesting conceptual models applicable for coastal tourism. The 'inverted funnel model' and the 'embedded model' (Jacob, S. 2008) can be metaphors for understanding the interplay of different stake-holders like government, local community, tourists and business community in developing tourist destinations.
Mount Everest attracts many tourist climbers wanting to summit the peak of the highest mountain in the world each year. Everest is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over the years, carelessness and excessive consumption of resources by mountaineers, as well as overgrazing by livestock, have damaged the habitats of snow leopards, lesser pandas, Tibetan bears, and scores of bird species. To counteract past abuses, various reforestation programs have been carried out by local communities and the Nepalese government.
Expeditions have removed supplies and equipment left by climbers on Everest’s slopes, including hundreds of oxygen containers. A large quantity of the litter of past climbers—tons of items such as tents, cans, crampons, and human waste—has been hauled down from the mountain and recycled or discarded. However, the bodies of most of the more than 260 climbers who have died on Everest (notably on its upper slopes) have not been removed, as they are unreachable or—for those that are accessible—their weight makes carrying them down extremely difficult. Notable in the cleanup endeavour have been the efforts of the Eco Everest Expeditions, the first of which was organized in 2008 to commemorate the death that January of Everest-climbing pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary. Those expeditions also have publicized ecological issues (in particular, concerns about the effects of climate change in the region through observations that the Khumbu Icefall has been melting).
Small Island tourism
Small Islands are especially affected and often depend on tourism, as this industry makes up anywhere from 40% to 75% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for various islands including Barbados, Aruba, Isle of Man, and Anguilla.
Mass tourism tends to put a strain on fragile island ecosystems and the natural resources it provides. Studies have shown that early practices of tourism were unsustainable and took a toll to environmental factors, hurting the natural landscapes that originally drew in the tourists. For example, in Barbados, beaches are the main attraction and have been eroded and destroyed over the years. This is due to inefficient political decisions and policies along with irresponsible tourist activity, such as reckless diving and waste disposal, damaging coastal and marine environments. Such practices also altered physical features of the landscape and caused a loss in biodiversity, leading to the disruption of ecosystems. Many other islands faced environmental damage such as Isle of Man and Samoa.
However, visitors are attracted to the less industrial scene of these islands, and according to a survey by Canavan, over 80% of the people enjoyed the natural landscape when they visited, many commenting that they wanted to protect and save the wildlife in the area. Many tourists have turned to practices of sustainable and eco tourism in attempt to save the nature they enjoy in these locations, while some political entities try to enforce this in attempt to keep tourism in their island afloat.
Sustainable tourism as part of a development strategy
Third World countries are especially interested in international tourism, and many believe it brings countries a large selection of economic benefits including employment opportunities, small business development, and increased in payments of foreign exchange. Many assume that more money is gained through developing luxury goods and services in spite of the fact that this increases a countries dependency on imported products, foreign investments and expatriate skills. This classic 'trickle down' financial strategy rarely makes its way down to brings its benefits down to small businesses.
It has been said that the economic benefits of large-scale tourism are not doubted but that the backpacker or budget traveller sector is often neglected as a potential growth sector by Third World governments. This sector brings significant non-economic benefits which could help to empower and educate the communities involved in this sector. "Aiming 'low' builds upon the skills of the local population, promotes self-reliance, and develops the confidence of community members in dealing with outsiders, all signs of empowerment" and all of which aid in the overall development of a nation.
Improvements to Sustainable Tourism in the Third World
Management of Sustainable Tourism
There has been the promotion of sustainable tourism practices surrounding the management of tourist locations by locals or the community. This form of tourism is based on the premise that the people living next to a resource are the ones best suited to protecting it. This means that the tourism activities and businesses are developed and operated by local community members, and certainly with their consent and support. Sustainable tourism typically involves the conservation of resources that are capitalized upon for tourism purposes. Locals run the businesses and are responsible for promoting the conservation messages to protect their environment.
Community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) associates the success of the sustainability of the ecotourism location to the management practices of the communities who are directly or indirectly dependent on the location for their livelihoods. A salient feature of CBST is that local knowledge is usually utilized alongside wide general frameworks of ecotourism business models. This allows the participation of locals at the management level and typically allows a more intimate understanding of the environment.
The use of local knowledge also means an easier entry level into a tourism industry for locals whose jobs or livelihoods are affected by the use of their environment as tourism locations. Environmentally sustainable development crucially depends on the presence of local support for a project. It has also been noted that in order for success projects must provide direct benefits for the local community.
However, recent research has found that economic linkages generated by CBST may only be sporadic, and that the linkages with agriculture are negatively affected by seasonality and by the small scale of the cultivated areas. This means that CBST may only have small-scale positive effects for these communities.
It has also been said that partnerships between governments and tourism agencies with smaller communities are not particularly effective because of the disparity in aims between the two groups, i.e. true sustainability versus mass tourism for maximum profit. In Honduras, such a divergence can be demonstrated where consultants from the World Bank and officials from the Institute of tourism wanted to set up a selection of 5-star hotels near various ecotourism destinations. But another operating approach in the region by USAID and APROECOH (an ecotourism association) promotes community-based efforts which have trained many local Hondurans. Mader concluded that the Grassroot organisations were more successful in Honduras.
Confusion surrounding Governmental Management of Sustainable Tourism
There has been some discussion regarding the told of inter-governmental organisations and the development of sustainable tourism practices in the third world. In Mowforth and Munt's book 'Tourism and Sustainability: New Tourism in the Third World, they criticised a document that was written by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the World Tourism Organisation and the Earth Council, which was included in Agenda 21. It was entitled 'Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry: Towards Environmentally Sustainable Development'. Mowforth and Munt commented on the language used to describe the environment and local culture in such documents because the preservation of the environment and local culture are the two main objectives when practising sustainable tourism. They pointed out that some of the key words used were 'core asset', 'core product', 'product quality' and 'preserve'. They argued that the treatment of the environment as a marketable product was clear and that such documents provide a good list of advice for Third World governments regarding sustainable tourism but do not actually provide the resources to incorporate them into the development of their tourism industries.
It is arguments such as these that postulate that there is a gap between the advice given by non-governmental or inter-governmental organisations to Third World governments and what can actually be brought to realisation. These arguments try and persuade readers that documents like the one released by the WTTC that the development of sustainable tourism actually 'bypasses the interests of local people'.
There are many definitions and understandings of responsible tourism. According to the Center for Responsible Tourism, responsible tourism can be defined as, "tourism that maximizes the benefits to local communities, minimizes negative social or environmental impacts, and helps local people conserve fragile cultures and habitats or species." Responsible tourism incorporates not only responsibility with the physical environment, but also an incorporation of awareness for the economic and social interactions whereas, sustainable tourism focuses more on the environmental impacts. Responsible tourism is regarded as a behaviour. It is more than a form of tourism as it represents an approach to engaging with tourism, be that as a tourist, a business, locals at a destination or any other tourism stakeholder. It emphasizes that all stakeholders are responsible for the kind of tourism they develop or engage in. This ensures that the tourism service providers and purchasers or consumers are held accountable. Whilst different groups will see responsibility in different ways, the shared understanding is that responsible tourism should entail an improvement in tourism. Tourism should become ‘better’ as a result of the responsible tourism approach
Within the notion of betterment resides the acknowledgement that conflicting interests need to be balanced. However, the objective is to create better places for people to live in and to visit. Importantly, there is no blueprint for responsible tourism: what is deemed responsible may differ depending on places and cultures. Responsible Tourism is an aspiration that can be realized in different ways in different originating markets and in the diverse destinations of the world (Goodwin, 2016).
The concept of responsible tourism emerged following the environmental awareness that rose out of the 1960s and 70s amidst a growing phenomenon of “mass tourism”. The European Travel Commission in 1973 and a multilateral initiative to instate environmentally sound tourism and development was advanced. The United Nations specialized agency called the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), highlights the link between tourism and development in aims of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Given the dramatic increase in tourism, the report strongly promotes responsible tourism. Sustainable tourism is a part of Sustainable Development Goal 12 and is measured with Target 12.b "Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products".  UNWTO is the custodian agency for this target.
Given the local based approach of Responsible Tourism, it can also incorporate local populations into the decision making and tourism planning process. While further research is needed to understand the impacts of responsible tourism, a study conducted in 2017 found that well-managed responsible tourism practices were beneficial to local communities.
Focusing in particular on businesses, according to the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism (2014), it will have the following characteristics:
- minimises negative economic, environmental, and social impacts
- generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities, improves working conditions and access to the industry
- involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
- makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, to the maintenance of the world’s diversity
- provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
- provides access for people with disabilities and
- is culturally sensitive, engenders respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence.
While widely acclaimed, responsible tourism has also been critiqued. Studies have shown that the degree to which individuals engage in responsible tourism is contingent upon their engagement socially. Meaning, tourist behaviors will fluctuate depending on the range of social engagement that each tourist chooses take part in. A study regarding responsible tourists behavior concludes that it is not only a personal behavior of tourists that shape outcomes, but also a reflection of mechanisms put in place by governments. Other research has put into question the promise that tourism even responsible tourism is inline with UN Sustainable Development Goals given the difficulties in measuring such impact. Some argue that actually detracts attention from the wider issues surrounding tourism that are in need of regulation, such as number of visitors and environmental impact.
Humane tourism is part of the movement of responsible tourism. The idea is to empower local communities through travel related businesses around the world, first and foremost in developing countries. The idea of humane travel or humane tourism is to connect travelers from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand seeking new adventures and authentic experiences directly, to local businesses in the specific locations they wish to visit – thus, giving economic advantages to local businesses and giving travelers authentic and truly unique travel experiences. Humane travel or humane tourism focuses on the people, the local community. The idea is to enable travelers to experience the world through the eyes of its local people while contributing directly to those people, ensuring that tourist dollars benefit the local community directly.
Humane tourism is about giving opportunity to the local people, empower them, enable them to enjoy the fruits of tourism directly. The Internet is changing tourism. More and more travelers are planning their travels and vacations via the net. The Internet enables people to cut off commissions. The traveler can search for new destinations to visit, talk or read about other people experience, and buy the services directly. The Internet platform can encourage local people to start new businesses and that already existing small businesses will begin to promote themselves through the net and receive the economic advantages of this directly in their communities. The world is now in a new tourism age, with globalization and the Internet playing a key role.
The new travelers have traveled the world, they have seen the classic sites. Staying at a Western hotel is not attractive enough, and they are excited by the prospect of experiencing the authentic local way of life: to go fishing with a local fisherman, to eat the fish with his family, to sleep in a typical village house. These tourists or travelers, are happy to know that while doing so they promote the economic well-being of those same people they spend time with.
Humane tourism is part of Responsible tourism. The concept of Responsible Tourism originated in the work of Jost Krippendorf in The Holiday Makers called for “rebellious tourists and rebellious locals” to create new forms of tourism. His vision was “to develop and promote new forms of tourism, which will bring the greatest possible benefit to all the participants – travelers, the host population and the tourist business, without causing intolerable ecological and social damage.” As one can see he already talked, back in the 80s about benefits for the host population and used the term human tourism. Humane travel focuses on that host local population.
The Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, agreed in 2002, that Responsible Tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” The declaration focused on "places" but did mention the local population.
From the Rio summit or earth summit on 1992 until the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in 1999, the main focus of the tourism industry was the earth, the planet, the places, "green" or "eco" tourism. Now there is a trend to include the local population. This trend or branch of responsible tourism is called humane tourism or humane travel.
As with the view of responsible tourism, responsible hospitality is essentially about creating better places for people to live in, and better places for people to visit. This does not mean all forms of hospitality are also forms of tourism although hospitality is the largest sector of the tourism industry. As such we should not be surprised at overlaps between responsible hospitality and responsible tourism. In the instance where place of permanent residence is also the place where the hospitality service is consumed, if for example a meal is consumed in a local restaurant, this does not obviate the requirement to improve the place of residence. As such, the essence of Responsible Hospitality is not contingent upon touristic forms of hospitality.
While Friedman (1962) famously argued that, admittedly within legal parameters, the sole responsibility of business was to generate profit for shareholders the idea that businesses’ responsibility extends beyond this has existed for decades and is most frequently encountered in the concept of corporate social responsibility. There are numerous ways businesses can and do engage in activities that are not intended to benefit shareholders and management, at least not in the short term. However, often acts of corporate social responsibility are undertaken because of the perceived benefit to business. Usually in hospitality this relates to the cost reductions associated with improved energy efficiency but may also relate to, for example, the rise in ethical consumerism and the view that being seen to be a responsible business is beneficial to revenue growth.
As per the Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, responsible hospitality is culturally sensitive. Instead of then calling for the unachievable, responsible hospitality simply makes the case for more responsible forms of hospitality, hospitality that benefits locals first, and visitors second. Certainly, all forms of hospitality can be improved and managed so that negative impacts are minimized whilst striving for a maximization of positive impacts on the environment.
Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has mentioned that some of the hospitality management/ culinary training institutes in India will no longer make it mandatory for students to engage in non-vegetarian cooking. The student will be given an option to choose vegetarian cooking. IHMCTAN Ahmedabad, IHMCTAN Bhopal and IHMCTAN Jaipur are the hospitality training institutes that offer a vegetarian choice, and this practice will be extended to all IHMCTANs.
Fundamental research was presented in the book «Sustainable tourism development: theory, methodology, business realities» (Ukrainian: «Сталий розвиток туризму: теорія, методологія, реалії бізнесу»)) by Ukrainian scientist Professor Tetiana Tkachenko in 2006 уear (with corrections and additions in 2009). The results are used to prepare students in Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics, specialties: tourism, hotel and restaurant business, tourism management, management of hotel and restaurant business, international tourism business and international hotel business.
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|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Responsible travel.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sustainable tourism.|
- The Global Development Research Center
- United Nations Environment Programme
- UNEP Tourism - United Nations Environment Programme, Tourism
- International Centre for Responsible Tourism
- Linking Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Tourism at World Heritage Sites
- UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development
- African Fair Tourism & Trade Organisation
- Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism
- UNESCO chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage Sites