Sustaining tourism

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What do they all mean?

There are many definitions, sustainable, responsible, eco, voluntourism, geotourism etc… below are a few definitions to guide you.

Sustainable tourism

“Sustainable tourism development requires theinformed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.

Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them. “

World Tourism Organization, 2004

Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism is like sustainable tourism, however as often the word sustainability is often overused and not understood, responsible tourism has been adopted as a term used by industry

Responsible tourism is any form of tourism that can be consumed in a more responsible way.

“Responsible tourism is tourism which:

  • minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts

  • generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities

  • improves working conditions and access to the industry

  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances

  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity

  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaninful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues

  • provides access for physically challenged people

  • is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence

Cape Town Declaration, 2002


Ecotourism is a form of sustainable tourism – all forms of tourism can become more sustainable but not all forms of tourism can be ecotourism

“Ecotourism is environmentally responsible travel and visitation to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy, study and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features – both past and present), that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations”

(Ceballos-Lascurain, 1993).
(The official definition adopted by the IUCN in 1996)


Geotourism is very similar to sustainable tourism and is a definition brought about by National Geographic Traveller…
the concept is the same but they focus on the ‘sense of place’ in an area rather than the industry’s efforts.