The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, bringing both economic benefits and environmental challenges.
More and more travellers are looking for sustainable travel experiences that support the environment as well as regional and local culture and economy.
In this article, we take a look behind the scenes at how destinations can successfully position themselves for a green future, taking into account the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization).
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The role of the United Nations 2030 Agenda in tourism
The United Nations 2030 Agenda sets out 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and promoting prosperity for all.
The tourism industry has a direct impact on several of these goals, including sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11), responsible consumption and production (Goal 12) and climate action (Goal 13).
To this end, UNWTO has developed a framework for action that specifically targets the tourism sector and helps to advance the implementation of the SDGs in this sector. This framework supports tourism destinations in developing and implementing sustainable tourism strategies that build on the principles of the 2030 Agenda.
Key elements for sustainable tourism destinations
Innovative product development, marketing and advertising for sustainable economic success
Successful positioning of destinations for a green future also requires the development of innovative and sustainable products as well as targeted marketing and promotional activities. Destinations can become active in these areas by:
- Harnessing innovative powerto develop new sustainable products and services that meet the needs of environmentally conscious travellers.
- Revise existing offersto make them more sustainable, e.g. by integrating renewable energies, resource-efficient technologies or local and ethical products.
- Develop marketing and advertising strategiesthat put the sustainability and authenticity of the destination in the foreground and at the same time highlight its unique selling points.
- Use social media and influencer marketingto tell stories around sustainable travel experiences and raise awareness for environmental and social responsibility in tourism.
- Cooperation with partners from the tourism industry to jointly present a coherent and strong image of the destination as a sustainable destination.
Integration of sustainability into all aspects of tourism
To successfully position themselves for a green future, destinations should integrate sustainability into all aspects of tourism - from infrastructure planning and development to marketing strategies and offerings for travellers. A few, admittedly obvious, examples to illustrate the point:
- The promotion of environmentally friendly means of transport such as public transport, bicycle rental or electric vehicles.
- Supporting environmentally friendly accommodation and sustainable practices in the catering industry.
- The creation of ecotourism offers and nature experiences aimed at environmental protection and education.
- Working with local communities and businesses to create culturally authentic experiences and strengthen local economies.
Cooperation with local actors
Destinations should work closely with local actors such as governments, businesses, NGOs and civil society to achieve common sustainability goals.
Cooperation makes it possible to develop joint strategies, pool resources and promote the transfer of knowledge between the parties involved.
And most importantly - raise awareness of this cooperation(s).
Constant dripping wears the stone.
Transparent communication and reporting
It is important that destinations communicate transparently about their sustainability initiatives and goals and report regularly on progress and challenges. This builds trust with travellers and stakeholders and demonstrates the destination's commitment to sustainable development. Transparent communication can be achieved, for example, through:
- Sustainability reports that present progress and performance indicators in line with the SDGs.
- Informative and engaging web content that presents the destination's sustainability strategy and measures.
- Regular updates on social media, newsletters or press releases communicating sustainability successes, challenges and future plans.
Consideration of International Travel and Domestic Travel
An important aspect of positioning destinations for a green future is to consider the carbon footprint of tourists' travel. International travel, especially air travel, is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Destinations can take action in this area by:
- Educate and raise awareness of the environmental impact of travel.
- Promote alternatives to air travel, such as rail or bus travel.
- Develop more sustainable transport options in cooperation with transport operators.
- Support measures to reduce the carbon footprint of travel, for example through carbon offsetting or the promotion of technologies to reduce emissions.
Domestic Travels offer a great opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint of travellers while strengthening the local economy. Destinations can promote domestic tourism by:
- Create authentic and sustainable experiences for domestic travellers.
- Build regional partnerships and cooperation to jointly develop sustainable tourism products.
- Highlight the advantages of Domestic Travels in communication and marketing.
The share of domestic tourism varies extremely internationally. While countries like the USA have over 90 % of domestic tourism, destinations like Austria or Switzerland have just under 30 %. This means that destinations and approaches are completely different, so there is no such thing as an "off-the-peg" concept.
At the end of the day, what does this mean for you as a tourism destination?
Positioning tourism destinations for a green future is a crucial step to ensure both economic success and environmental protection.
By integrating sustainability into all aspects of tourism, working with local stakeholders and communicating and reporting transparently, destinations can successfully implement the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the UNWTO while creating an attractive offer for environmentally conscious travellers.
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Next steps towards a green future
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