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5 Reasons Why DMOs Should Care About Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable Tourism - a tool for development

Last year, 1.2 billion travelers crossed international borders – a staggering number that is projected to rise to 1.8 billion by 2030, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. With increased globalization, traveling to sought after destinations, discovering new cultures and enriching lives through travel is more accessible than ever, leading to an unprecedented boom in tourism and its beneficiary industries. With tourism now accounting for 10.2 percent of the world’s GDP and supporting 2.35 million jobs, as stated by the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism has evolved into much more than vacation culture, to a transformative force that uplifts communities and encourages multiculturalism.

Since 1980, UNWTO has celebrated World Tourism Day on September 27, with each year focused around a central world issue. Themes of previous World Tourism Days include peace, water accessibility, and world heritage — while this year features the all-encompassing theme of tourism sustainability.

At Development Counsellors International, we pride ourselves on fostering a “passion for places” which encourages responsible tourism practices to preserve destinations for visitors and locals alike. Here are five reasons why tourism sustainability matters:

1. Sustainable tourism puts money into the local economy and creates jobs

Tourism is a key driver of economic growth, as it is one of the fastest growing and most economically resilient activities. Traditional tourist-heavy areas rely on money into their businesses, including hotels, tours, dining and airfare. When a destination encourages its visitors to support the local economy as much as possible, the money from their visits helps maintain the natural land and culture of the area, while also employing and empowering locals. Tourism dollars can stimulate the development of new infrastructure and transport services, upgrade the skills of rural workers, and provide incentives and funds for natural, cultural and historical resources to be managed in a more sustainable manner — all initiatives that in turn make the destination a better place to live and visit.

2. Tourists receive more authentic experiences

When visitors are encouraged to spend their tourism dollars with locally run tour-guides and businesses, it gives them the opportunity to experience the authentic environment and culture of the people who live there. This first-hand glimpse and interaction with locals is immersive rather than disruptive.

3. Sustainability avoids displacement of locals makes a destination a better place to live and visit

When a destination emerges as a popular place for tourists, it can mean a great influx of economic prosperity to the area; unfortunately, the arrival of mass tourism can seriously disrupt thriving local communities as small businesses are forced to compete with well-established, multi-national companies; which escalates the cost of living. As locals compete with wealthy tourism developers for natural resources, the basic needs of locals are often ignored. When sustainable tourism practices are practiced, such as encouraging local businesses and limiting corporate sprawl in tourist destinations, the destination is primed for success and sustainability.

4. Sustainability helps preserve resources and renew the destination’s tourism infrastructure

An increase in tourism revenue can serve as a great catalyst for the development and revitalization of infrastructure. As tourist demands increase, more robust infrastructure is needed to serve visitors and the local community. In addition to advocating for increased infrastructure, destinations should push for more recycling bins, public transportation, eco-friendly buildings and protected areas. As stated in a 2014 report by NatureVest titled “Investing in Conservation”” in the next five years, private investors plan to deploy close to $5.6 billion in conservation impact investments, illustrating a need for destinations to think long-term on how to create and maintain sustainable developments that include the interests of everybody.

 5. Sustainability prepares a destination for the future

As travel continues to become more accessible, destinations must prepare for an increase in visitor arrivals by taking the steps necessary to promote sustainability. Sustainability continues to be a great issue in tourism, and for destinations to stay ahead, it is critical to incorporate sustainability in their marketing efforts, and implement sustainable tourism practices for the future.


Which destinations are sustainability superstars? See which destinations we’re commending this year for their sustainability initiatives —

Sustainability Mini Case Studies:


Iceland, a country known for its natural beauty, from its lagoons and waterfalls to its icy glaciers, saw nearly two million visitors in 2016, an unprecedented number for a country with a population of 334,252. In response to the increase in visitors Iceland’s tourism board released ‘Iceland Academy’ a series of short videos about Icelandic etiquette and Iceland’s eco-friendly initiatives.  The humorous videos are designed as “classes” and feature a set of quick questions at the end of each video. Viewers can then take a quiz after watching all of the videos to enter to win a free trip to Iceland! Check out the video series below.



Its tropical rainforests, breathtaking volcanic landscapes and crystal clear lagoons and beaches attracted over 139,000 visitors to the South Pacific islands of Samoa. Despite the influx of foreign visitors, the islands of Samoa continue to prioritize the authentic cultural traditions and values which still dominate every aspect of life on the islands. The Samoa Tourism Authority has partnered with the Foundation for a Sustainable Samoa to introduce initiatives to promote environmental protections across the islands, but also conservation efforts to preserve the island’s cultural heritage, improve community well-being and create career options for Samoan youth.

The Islands of Samoa

The Islands of Samoa

Vail, Colorado 

Currently working towards being the first accredited sustainable tourist destination in the U.S. by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Vail first embarked on the sustainability effort in 2013 as the city prepared for the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships. Working with Sustainable Travel International’s “Actively Green” initiative, Vail’s local businesses gained a deeper understanding of sustainability best practices. Now, more than 140 businesses have participated in sustainability trainings, and there are more than 50 certified businesses.

Actively Green Sustainable Business Certification from Walking Mountains Science Center on Vimeo.

Vancouver, Canada

As a host to over 500 annual events, welcoming hundreds of thousands of attendees, the Vancouver’s Convention and Exhibition Center (VCECE) generates significant economic activity for British Columbia while prioritizing environmental sustainability. Located on the pristine Vancouver waterfront with a stunning mountain backdrop, the building is not far from some of Canada’s most beautiful natural wonders, a setting that keeps environmental impact at the forefront of the venue’s initiatives. The convention center is the world’s first LEED Platinum Certified building, housing over 400,000 indigenous plants, a restored marine habitat, a natural light and ventilation system, and the largest non-industrial green roof in North America.

Image result for vancouver convention center


What is your DMO doing to encourage tourism sustainability? Tweet us at @aboutDCI using the hashtags #WTD2017 #IY2017 #TravelEnjoyRespect.

Written By

Hannah Khan

As a social media maven who loves to travel, Hannah uses her experience with social media and content curation to work on all things digital for DCI's tourism practice. Get in touch with Hannah by sending her an email at [email protected]

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