Governments are key players due to regulation roles in transport, communications and its influence on tourism estate planning, such as major tourism hubs, infrastructure, credit/financing and destination management/marketing. UNEP, as an intergovernmental organization, assists governments to produce effective policies and implementation programmes. From multilateral environmental agreements to national governments, through local authorities and regional organizations, UNEP's Tourism Programme provides support by developing principles and offering technical assistance to environmental and tourism administration as well as to other public stakeholders.
Addressing the main challenge of integrating sustainability in tourism development policies, a set of policy recommendations have been develop by UNEP in partnership with UNWTO to set an agenda for policy making. The recommendations are based on a list of 12 principles for sustainable tourism development. These principles were reached after an extensive research and consultation in international forums and can be used as a framework to develop policies for more sustainable tourism that recognize the two directions in which tourism policy can exert an influence:
- Minimizing the negative impacts of tourism on society and the environment; and
- Maximizing tourism's positive and creative contribution to local economies, the conservation of natural and cultural heritage, and the quality of life of hosts and visitors.
Twelve principles for sustainable tourism development
- Economic viability
Ensure the viability and competitiveness of tourism destinations and enterprises, so that they are able to continue to prosper and deliver benefits in the long term
- Local prosperity
Maximize the contribution of tourism to the prosperity of the host destination including the proportion of visitor spending that is retained locally
- Employment quality
Strengthen the number and quality of local jobs created and supported by tourism, including the level of pay, conditions of service and availability to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability or in other ways
- Social equity
Seek a widespread distribution of economic and social benefits from tourism throughout the recipient community, including improving opportunities, income and services available to the poor
- Visitor fulfilment
Provide a safe, satisfying and fulfilling experience for visitors, available to all without discrimination by gender, race, disability or in other ways
- Local control
Engage and empower local communities in planning and decision making about the management and future development of tourism in their area, in consultation with other stakeholders
- Community wellbeing
Maintain and strengthen the quality of life in local communities, including social structures and access to resources, amenities and life support systems, avoiding any form of social degradation or exploitation
- Cultural richness
Respect and enhance the historic heritage, authentic culture, traditions and distinctiveness of host communities
- Physical integrity
Maintain and enhance the quality of landscapes, both urban and rural, and avoid the physical and visual degradation of the environment
- Biological diversity
Support the conservation of natural areas, habitats and wildlife, and minimize damage to them
- Resrouce efficiency
Minimize the use of scarce and non-renewable resources in the development and operation of tourism facilities and services
- Environmental purity
Minimize the pollution of air, water and land and the generation of waste by tourism enterprises and visitors.
The order in which these twelve principles are listed does not imply any priority. Each one is equally important and many of the aims relate to a combination of environmental, economic and social issues and impacts.
Relevant projects, activities and publications