One of UNEP's Tourism Programme strategic focus is to "encourage demand for sustainable tourism products and services". A critical point in that perspective is indeed to identify players and implement the possible tools and instruments that could contribute to the mobilization of a real and substantive demand for environmentally friendly tourism products. In this sense, tourism cannot truly become more sustainable unless consumers (tourists) consistently favour more sustainable destinations and activities in their purchasing decisions. This is because, generally, the industry is driven by market opportunity. Consumers play a direct and indirect role in supporting environmental conservation goals and linking tourism to poverty alleviation. Tourists' demand for more 'sustainable' tourism services and facilities can influence the performance of the private sector. Tourists can also directly prevent impact by avoiding certain behaviours that greatly impact on the environment, and in particular sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs, and coastal and mountain areas.
There are some encouraging signs in terms of market response, with a majority of tourists being concerned about the quality of the environment in destinations where this may affect their own enjoyment, and an increasing awareness among tourists of the impacts of tourism on local environments and communities. Some surveys have even found that half of the tourists questioned would be prepared to pay more in order to benefit the environments and communities in the places that they visit. However, the amount that tourist are willing to pay is only 1% of the package, 5£ in a holiday of 500£ (MORI package consumer research, 2002).
There is clearly a gap to fill, and local and national strategies to reach out consumers are needed to stimulate responsibility in the travelling public, for example in relation to climate change, and impacts of loss of biodiversity. Challenges to address include turning concern into reality with respect to holiday choices and behaviour, through effective promotions, information and price signals, and also making sure that the industry is alert to new motivations such as cultural heritage and nature based tourism, rather than assuming that most tourists are uninterested in issues of environmental quality and impact.
The Green Passport Campaign is an initiative firmly rooted in the move to accelerate a global shift towards sustainable consumption and production. The Campaign builds on the need to improve the tourism sector's efforts to communicate with tourists on sustainable tourism through campaigns on sustainability issues. The intention is to unlock the positive power of demand by raising tourists' awareness of their potential to contribute to sustainable development by making responsible holiday choices. The Green Passport website has been developed in English, French, Greek, German, Portuguese and will be soon available in Spanish and Chinese. Its hardcopy version was launched in English and Spanish. Brazil was chosen to be the first destination to implement the 'Green Passport' on the national level. Other national Green Passport travel guides have been implemented in South Africa, Costa Rica, Ecuador and French Overseas Territories. The Campaign is available for national adaptation and dissemination by new partners. Please contact us for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org