Tag Archives: tourism and the global goals

About Tourism and the SDGs

This section briefly outlines the SDGs in relation to tourism, particularly within the context of the South Pacific. You will find a range of information, resources and examples here regarding the interplay of tourism and the SDGs. This might help to inspire your conference contribution.

The SDGs

In 2015 the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) expired and the global community gathered to once more to create and agree on a global sustainable development agenda that outlines and structures sustainable development until 2030.

We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind.” (UN Resolution A/Res/70/1)

With these words, the 70th session of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. In contrast to the MDGs, the SDGs are a set of comprehensive goals and targets that apply to all countries equally. For example, New Zealand and Australia are just as responsible for their progress towards ending poverty, ensuring gender equality or combating environmental pollution than any Small Island Development State (SIDS) in the South Pacific.

The SDGs understand sustainable development as a globally integrated challenge.


The SGDs acknowledge the importance of tourism and directly refer to tourism in three goals: Goal 8 on economic growth (Target 8.9), Goal 12 on responsible consumption and production (Target 12.b), and Goal 14 on life below water (Target 14.7) (UNWTO 2018). However, a number of other stakeholders, NGOs and watchdog groups emphasise that tourism is a cross-cutting theme that needs to be recognised within the context of all of the goals.

The travel and tourism industry

The travel and tourism industry is one of the largest industries in the world, directly or indirectly responsible for 1 in 10 jobs and generating 10.4 percent of global GDP (WTTC 2018). It has, therefore, a decisive role to play in the progressive realisation of the 2030 Agenda. Many island nations in the South Pacific have tourism as an economic mainstay. The World Travel and Tourism Council ranks Oceania as the region where travel and tourism has the second highest GDP-contribution in relative terms. However, tourism is a double-edged sword: where it supports economic development, it might also pose challenges to equitable wealth distribution, environmental protection, equal access to resources or the host communities’ co-determination and participation (see pictures below).

tourism and the sdgs

Burning of a resort’s trash in the remote Yasawa islands, Fiji (Source: G. Laeis, 2017)

tourism and the sdgs

Beach sign in the Yasawa islands asking people not to enter the beach when cruise ship passengers are present. (Picture: G. Laeis, 2017)

Initiatives addressing tourism as a cross-cutting issue for sustainable development

Following the call for understanding tourism as a cross-cutting issue in sustainable development, the Responsible Tourism Institute has created the Biosphere Responsible Tourism Seal, a comprehensive tourism certification scheme which “has adapted the principles emanating from the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to the reality of the Tourist Agents at a global level. Such adaptation will promote the dissemination of the SDGs, facilitating their adoption at all levels established by the UN: governments, civil society and the private sector.

So far, the seal has been awarded to a number of tourism operators in central and northern America and Europe. In the southern hemisphere, the Easter Island Eco Lodge has been certified.

In 2017 over 30 representatives from civil society, watchdog groups and academics from 19 countries met on the occasion of the ITB in Berlin to discuss Agenda 2030 from a tourism-critical civil society perspective. The Transforming Tourism Project looks specifically how tourism can be harnessed to play a vital role in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Project has since published a comprehensive Compendium of how all 17 SDGs relate to tourism issues, which provides an excellent starting point to critically think about the various roles and issues of today’s global tourism. Furthermore, the Transforming Tourism report by Bread for the World highlights a number of SDG and targets as “indispensable in order to make tourism sustainable”:

  • Strength small-scale food producers through access to markets (2.3)
  • Achieve gender equality (5)
  • Protect labour rights (8.8)
  • Reduce inequality within and among countries (10)
  • Sustainable management of natural resources (1 2.2)
  • Adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability information into reporting cycles (1 2.6)
  • Provide education for sustainable development (12.8)
  • Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning (13.2) and strengthen resilience (13.1)
  • End abuse,  exploitation,  and  all  forms  of  violence against children (16.2)
  • Ensure participatory decision-making (16 .7)
  • Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development (17) Bread for the World 2016: 7)

In April 2018 a workshop and conference was hosted in Gambia by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism – West Africa and members of the Transforming Tourism Project to discuss the issues around monitoring the SDGs in tourism

Measuring sustainability in tourism

Griffith University’s Institute for Tourism in collaboration with the University of Surrey has created a Global Sustainability Dashboard. The measurement tool draws on the SDGs, but also on other initiatives and programmes.

To track the potential of tourism to reduce poverty, the Dashboard measures the share of international global tourism expenditure in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. Whilst the proportion is relatively small at 6%, it has been increasing steadily over the last twenty years. Monitoring key tourism trends is important for making informed decisions on policies, investment, management and marketing.” (Griffith University)

The following sustainability themes are part of the Dashboard: Poverty Alleviation (SDG1), Equality of Travel (SDG10), Carbon Emissions (SDG13), Sustainable Production (SDG6, SDG7, SDG12), Protected Areas, (SDG12, SDG14), Gender Equity (SDG5), and Security (SDG16).

This infographic shows a visualisation of the dashboard:

Sustainable Tourism

Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard 2016

Sustainable tourism in the Pacific

To facilitate a sustainability agenda more broadly and collaboratively amongst South Pacific island states, the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance (PSTA) was formed in collaboration with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) in 2015. PSTA engages South Pacific businesses, NGOs and governments to make tourism, one of the region’s key economic drivers, more socially inclusive, culturally supportive and environmentally friendly. Currently, Fiji and Samoa are taking part in this initiative. PSTA has received a grant through the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns (10YFP) from the UN Environment Programme.

The PSTA aims to

  • “Collaborate with local stakeholders to identify the barriers to sustainable consumption and production within the destination
  • Train 100 hotel managers on sustainable tourism best practices such as sourcing goods locally, using resources more efficiently and utilizing a supply chain that is more inclusive of local people and cultures
  • Raise awareness among hotel managers on the financial and economic benefits of incorporating sustainability practices into their business operations
  • Equip 100 hotels with a Sustainability Management System (SMS) – a digital tool to monitor energy-use, waste-reduction, water consumption, and sustainable sourcing”

From Sustainable Tourism to Tourism for Sustainable Development

Sustainable tourism should no longer be a side-line product of the global tourism industry. Neither niche products, such as ‘green tourism’, ‘community tourism’ or ‘nature-based tourism’, nor well-meaning CSR initiatives adequately address the pressing global challenges ahead. The introduction of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs call for a more critical assessment of how the entire tourism industry impacts our environment and societies. Even though tourism is directly referred to in only three SDGs, the information above highlights how it has an important role to play in all aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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