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close this bookSustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination (UNED-UK, 1999)
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2. How to develop partnerships
Open this folder and view contents3. The role of certification, incentives regulation
View the document4. Possible stakeholder action
View the document5. Possible actions for developed country governments
Open this folder and view contents6. Institutional action
View the document7. United Nations environment and development UK


A report on the workshop held on the 9th of February 1999 by
United Nations Environment and Development -UK(UNED-UK)
This workshop followed up a UK Government Consultation by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Department for International Development on October 13th 1998.
In preparation for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, being held in New York, April 1999

Chair: Felix Dodds, UNED-UK Co-ordinator
Rapporteur: Rosalie Gardiner, UNED-UK
Initial Paper by Harold Goodwin, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology

"Sustainable tourism is tourism and associated infrastructures that, both now and in the future: operate within natural capacities for the regeneration and future productivity of natural resources: recognise the contribution that people and communities, customs and lifestyles, make to the tourism experience; accept that these people must have an equitable share in the economic benefits of tourism; are guided by the wishes of local people and communities m the host areas"

WWF/Tourism Concern

"Sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. It is the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems."

World Tourism Organization

1. Introduction

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development will discuss tourism at its 7th Session in 1999. It will also hold a two day dialogue session where NGOs, trade unions, industry and local government will put forward their viewpoints on how tourism might be made more sustainable. This exchange with governments will inform the formal negotiating process. Tourism is a very heterogeneous industry but can be seen as an important driver to enable poverty elimination through the development of new employment opportunities and the enhancement of local economies. The development of 'pro-poor' economic development is seen as crucial to sustainable development.

There was a workshop on 'Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination' held in October 1998 by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and by the Department for International Development on October 13th 1998. A paper by Harold Goodwin of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology was used as the focus of a group discussion; the paper raised eight questions about tourism in developing countries:

· Can an adequate regulatory framework be established within which codes of ethical and sustainable trading, labelling and rating systems can have credibility and achieve change?

· How can these objectives be achieved given the dominance of the tourist originating countries?

· Can Northern governments, international aid agencies and NGO's and Southern governments work together to redress the balance?

· How can developing country governments and donors identify projects and destinations where local economic benefits are likely to be maximised through market access, local linkages, taxation and employment?

· How can best practice in local integrated tourism development be identified and then shared?

· How can local communities be empowered to participate m the management of destination areas?

· How can the international tourism industry, NGOs and governments assist in programmes to enhance local participation in the industry?

· What role can UK tour operators and NGOs play in developing these partnerships?

Subsequently it was agreed that these would be addressed under two broad headings and that they would have a destination focus. The two areas were:

(1) How can we develop partnerships for sustainable tourism?
(2) What roles do certification, incentives and regulation have?

The original paper was used to inform the UK Government and European Union co-ordination on sustainable tourism needs. It is based on a workshop held at UNED-UK on the 9th of February 1999. The report aims to provide input to the forthcoming UN Commission on Sustainable Development meeting in April 1999.

There were initial contributions from Sharon James of the UK Development Organization Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), Richard Dickinson of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and Toby Middleton (UNED-UK). The discussion began with comments on the current situation, where most organisations involved in tourism are aware of the need to meet issues of sustainability, such as tourist behaviour, education, local economies and environmental protection. What remains less clear is the mechanism by which changes can occur. Building links between interested parties will help to ascertain the existing position of tourism operations, uncover examples of good practice and areas where difficulties arise in the process of tourism development. Approximately 1/3rd of all tourism companies already provide some form of information about their commitment towards sustainability but that still leaves 2/3rds of organisations in the dark. There clearly needs to be a focussing of priority areas between different groups in terms defining action plans and time frames for more effective implementation. VSO, amongst other NGOs, feel that there is a need to redress the balance of sustainable activities to better reflect community issues as well as the existing environmental issues, and therefore better incorporate the principles of Agenda 21. Industry is really beginning to respond to the needs of environmental sustainability but there is discontinuity in terms of the incorporation of social and cultural areas. Also corporations need to continue to avoid merely fulfilling legislatory obligations but keep acting ahead of more formal frameworks, to maintain a more pro-active stance. The challenge is open for all patties toward more practical forms of action rather than simply continuing to debate over the issues.

Tourism is a fairly mature market for many nations and has close connection with other issues of sustainability, such as oceans and coastal zone management, indigenous communities etc. Hence the linkages between the key areas of sustainability for tourism are often more clearly apparent than other areas. However, the ties with development and environmental and social aspects are not always so transparent. Furthermore, there is the potential for local tourism companies to fail if a locality is wholly dependent on tourism as a means for development. Therefore tourism needs to act as more of a link/seed for diversification of industries and in support of capacity building, e.g. in terms of capital and technical resources.

At a recent tourism side-event at the UNEP Governing Council meeting, the demand for increased community and regional involvement in tourism development was highlighted. It was suggested that a greater need for industrial accountability, via tools such as benchmarking and the setting of time lines to create more quantitative goals and monitor the progress of implementation. The discussions at the side-event also raised the view that policies, in relation to sustainable tourism, will need to be more practicable within the industrial arena. It is also still unclear who will continue the debate at the interagency/UN level and highlight issues, such as financial leakages, community engagement and the role of the tourist in participatory processes at an international level.


It was agreed at the previous workshop that the discussion should be destination-focussed, thereby recognising that up to 60% of tourism is domestic tourism within a country (except Africa).

If the expectation is for partnerships to be developed between the host communities in the destinations and the tourist industry, then we need to recognise the imbalance of power that exists between the local community and a tourism developer. This needs to be addressed if there is to be effective partnership. Furthermore the diverse mix of groups and individuals that make up a community should also be recognised in regards to their differing needs and expectations.

2.1 Framework for policy development

The workshop clearly identified that there is a the lack of a development policy framework in many countries. Hence at the international level there needs to be the development of a clear policy framework on tourism issues, to allow the multitude of issues to be addressed more systematically. At the national level, governments need to develop and implement sustainable tourism strategies, which will be reported for review at Earth Summit III in 2002. Finally, at the local level, authorities need to support the local agenda 21 process and make tourism development an integral part of it, as well as develop and maintain links with the appropriate stakeholder groups. All parties should support the continuation of this implementation for the proceeding 3-5 year process.

The critical role of research in informing the policy dialogue on sustainable tourism was also considered a very important part of this process. Research would assist and inform au patties through: collection of data to monitor existing activities; gathering case studies of good practice; and activities to help develop new approaches for assessment and good practice in the future. Participatory research can also act as a starting point for empowerment and participation of stakeholders.

2.2 Empowerment of stakeholders

Tourism can bring income and jobs to a destination but may have both negative and positive impacts. The empowerment of local stakeholders, through activities such as education, training and capacity building, will help to enable them to take a stronger role in the planning, development, management, monitoring and evaluation of tourism development. This is crucial to the creation of a more sustainable approach to tourism. Accepting that tourism operations need to be profitable if they are going to be sustainable, there is a strong case for intervention at local levels in tourism destination areas to:

· enable local communities to have access to the tourism markets when they arrive;

· develop local industries to support tourism development;

· retain more revenue locally - therefore minimising leakage and maximising linkages;

· control the negative social and cultural impacts of the tourist whilst strengthen positive effects;

· ensure the maintenance of natural and cultural assets;

· control the rate of growth of a tourism development.

2.3 Role of local government

Local government will play a significant role in developing tourism policy frameworks. They should incorporate the views of the local community and provide a mechanism for capturing development gains through infra-structural improvement and economic linkages. In particular, local governments should be enabled to deal with land use planning and development issues, as well as with the provision of infrastructure. Also a planning process that addresses natural physical and Other carrying capacities is likely to be more sustainable. An appropriate model for this might well be the Local Agenda 21 process.

2.4 Role of transnational corporations (TNCs)

TNCs or multinationals have a key leadership role to play in the industry. They have a particular responsibility because of the scale of their developments and potentially considerable impacts such developments can bring. They need to encourage the establishment of partnerships between sending and hosting groups.

2.5 Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

SMEs make up around 90% of all tourism industries globally. Local communities need greater provision to be allowed to foster the growth of SMEs and tourism offers one approach for such development. To develop further SMEs will require greater inputs in terms of capital and skills e.g. marketing and technical expertise. National Tourism Boards need to engage with promoting SMEs using mechanisms such as micro-credit schemes to promote them further. The promotion of more market-mixed tourism developments, which target the smaller scale hotels would encourage the growth of a more indigenous ownership. This, in turn, would provide greater support for the local economy.

It appears to be easier to hold SMEs more locally accountable than larger enterprises. More transparency with regard to the actions of larger multinational businesses is needed. Maintaining a long term commitment by travel companies to a tourism destinations in necessary.

2.6 Education and consumer advice

It is widely recognised that there is a need to engage stakeholders in a dialogue with the tourism industry about the impacts that they are having on the destination areas in which they are operating.

There is a lack of appreciation by many of the tourists regarding their impact on the environment, social and cultural heritage of their holiday destination. This can be reduced by the travel industry ensuring that more information is available for the consumers so that they might make informed choices and act more sustainably when they are on holiday.

The development of appropriate educational material within the travel industry should be done in close co-operation with the respective communities. This is in order to distribute information such as brochures, in-flight videos, to raise cultural awareness and understanding. Information can provide guidance on acceptable behaviour, such as the support of local produce. Without the provision of such information tourists have less opportunity to make informed decisions about their personal behaviour. Many tour operators already provide information about issues of health and safety so this could be easily incorporated into standard procedures. Also other groups, such as the media, NGOs and other groups have a role to play m raising the awareness of tourists, as well as host communities.

2.7 Capturing good practice

One of the key routes to progress is the collection and dissemination of examples of "good practice". At the seminar some very good examples of different approaches that are being taken around the world were put forward. The collection of these, and others, in a rigorous way would be beneficial to everyone (see e.g. project being completed by Tourism Concern, VSO and University of North London). What is required is practice that demonstrates under particular economic, ecological and social situations, tourism can contribute positively to sustainable development. Also example of "bad" practice can provide important lessons and raise new issues for consideration.

The development of agreed criteria for such "good practice" would be an important advancement, as would the agreement of a clearing house to house these examples.

There are some examples of good practice that the tourism industry has initiated dealing with the use of natural resources. Though important as a first step this needs to be built on to take into consideration the impacts on the local economy, cultural and social norms of the destination. Long term monitoring and evaluation of examples of good practice is needed


There were widely differing views in the October seminar about what role regulation should have in the tourism industry but it was thought that it might be a mix of regulation and voluntary codes.

3.1 Certification

The key strengths of certification is that it is voluntary and market driven. If certification is to be used within tourism there needs to be a clarification of exactly what is being certified, for example whether it should be applied to individual holidays or wider. Potentially, it could also apply to both destination and operating ends of the industry. Secondly, the aims of certification need to be clarified, it should be broadly aimed at simulating good practice as opposed to simply creating restrictions for businesses. There have been discussions for developing a tourism certification initiative and the potential future formation of a tourism stewardship council such as the Forest and Marine Stewardship Councils. Both councils have had problems in their development but they could offer key lessons for the tourism industry should a Tourism Stewardship Council be set up. Among the lessons learned were:

· identifying who the relevant stakeholders are;
· allowing enough time for consultation and development;
· resolve problems before a public launch;
· creating a wide enough constituency to ensure momentum.

Both councils developed gradually and grew "organically" in part out of public campaigns. At present there perhaps isn't the same momentum or public demand for a Tourism Stewardship Council.

The Green Globe initiative has potential to meet this role as it already reflects many of the aims that a multi-stakeholder group would want to see. Green Globe started as am industry-based voluntary code, is now being independently certified, therefore addressing one of the criticisms that NGOs raised about the initiative. The idea of bench-marking with ISO14001 was also thought to have a useful role and it is the aim of WTTC that Green Globe certification would eventually lead to this international standard.

The establishment of a TSC, including all stakeholders, would enable tourists to make informed choices on their holiday. But it would certainly require marketing and revenue, including corporate sector backing, as well as allowing for a participatory development process if it is to be truly effective. If Green Globe can become multi-stakeholder then there wouldn't need too be a TSC.

3.2 Voluntary codes

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development has, at its 6th Session in 1998, set up a process with industry (ICC, WBCSD), trade unions (ICFTU) and NGOs (CSD NGO Steering Committee) to look at the terms of reference by which voluntary codes could be reviewed. Also at the ? meeting in Toronto in March there will be further debate about how voluntary codes will be reviewed in the future. The UN and CSD secretariat will also feed into this process and code assessment and review. In the tourism industry the Green Globe initiative and the International Hotels Environmental Initiative are two examples of voluntary codes that should be reviewed by the process. If they are to become more widely adopted there needs to be clear evidence that these voluntary codes are making a real difference on the ground and that they are sending the right message to the tourist.

3.3 Incentives

The ability of big and small operators to utilise their supply chain to support sustainable tourism could be an important driver for change. This might require financial support for SME's to enable them to both change their own operational practices and also to understand the opportunities that they have in influencing the supply chain. The involvement of the community could also be an important marketing point.

The impact of media focussing on the health and safety programme of tourism is already having an impact. A similar approach for issues of sustainability might also result in a positive incentive for the industry to take action.

3.4 Regulation

There was disagreement about the need for new regulation at any level. On the one hand it was seen as necessary due to the differences in power of the relevant stakeholders. On the other hand it was seen as an obstacle which might deter investment. Finally it was pointed out that the development of voluntary codes often leads to regulation further down the road.

4. Possible stakeholder action

The role that different stakeholders will play in promoting and developing sustainable tourism m support of poverty elimination will be crucial. Some areas for stakeholder action have been identified:

· the Green Globe initiative should be further promoted;

· the feasibility of creating a Tourism Stewardship Council involving all stakeholders, including an independent certification process should be investigated;

· local governments, globally, should prepare guidance notes for the promotion of sustainable tourism and help to co-ordinate tourism development so that it reflects aims of the Local Agenda 21 process,

· the tourism industry, academia, public groups and government should develop educational material for the local stakeholders;

· the tourism industry should try, where appropriate, to locally source food, human resources, and other local resources to enable the local economy to benefit;

· training of tourism industry staff is necessary so that they can integrate sustainable tourism strategies within their work practices;

· to recognise the need to improve the status of women working within the tourism industry;

5. Possible actions for developed country governments

Developed Countries have a key role in ensuring that we are able to make tourism more sustainable. The policies that they enact at home give the right signals to the industry operating in their or abroad. We have drawn from the workshops some key recommendations.

Governments should:

· make greater linkage between tourism and overseas development aid and its use;

· further clarify departmental lines of responsibility for outgoing tourism in developed countries, including the identification of a Minister who has responsibility for outgoing tourism;

· encourage a more integrated approach in the use of tourism for local economic development, by involving other ministries alongside a tourism ministry. This will help ensure that other departments' policy matches, or is less likely to be in conflict with, tourism development policy;

· fund a range of initiatives to further examine the feasibility sustainable tourism. For example a series of pilot projects could be used to develop modes of "good practice";

· assist in the development of local public/private partnerships in a way that is appropriate to developing country destinations;

· assist in the development of appropriate policy and legislative frameworks, technical skills and methodologies in order to realise this shift in the management of the tourist development process;

· assist in training processes, which build local and national capacity to manage tourism at the local levels, help achieve sustainable tourism and contribute to poverty eradication;

· support public education programmes which encourage responsible tourism;

· build the political will to meet development targets through people's experience of tourism;

· utilise their position within the World Bank/IMF to ensure that they are implementing policies that support sustainable tourism.

· increase funding for local CBOs to enable them to engage in a proper dialogue on tourism;

Furthermore the European Union should:

· ensure that the work of the Commission takes account of the outcomes from CSD99;

· facilitate research grants which support research on sustainable tourism, methodologies, impacts and best practice analysis.


The UN Commission on Sustainable Development at it's 8th session in 1999 will have the opportunity to make some important recommendations for parts of the United Nations family. The second workshop in February 1999 discussed what roles these might be. The following are some suggestions.

6.1 The UN commission on sustainable development should:

· invite countries to integrate tourism into their sustainable development strategies for the 2002 review (Earth Summit III);

· ask the review of voluntary initiatives to take on a review of the tourism voluntary codes and report this to Earth Summit III in 2002 as part of that review process;

· ask the Inter-Agency Committee of Sustainable Development (IACSD) to review the role of all agencies and programs involved in tourism to increase co-operation and identify gaps;

· consider how to tackle critical issues, such as local economic leakages, multi-stakeholder participation, consumer education, resource use, protected areas, as well as the need for capacity building of stakeholders so that they can contribute more effectively to identifying and seeking solutions for such issues;

· instruct DESA in co-operation with other relevant UN Agencies (including WTO, UNEP, UNDP), Convention Secretariats, as well as stakeholder groups, to review and develop indicators of sustainable tourism as part of their work on producing indicators on each of the chapters of Agenda 21;

· ask the Conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention to report annually to the CSD on the developments related to tourism and biodiversity;

· ask governments to sign and implement the Manila Declaration on the Social Impact of Tourism;

· ask WTTC to develop a multi-stakeholder process for Green Globe.

· encourage the World Bank, as a key stakeholder, to take an active role of supporting, co-ordinating and disseminating the on-going implementation of sustainable tourism efforts;

· raise the profile of tourism within World Bank and other UN agencies.

6.2 The United Nations environment programme should:

· develop a framework for "good practice" through their Industry Office work (and the Habitat/UNEP Sustainable Cities Programme) with industry associations at all levels (including WTTC, IHEI, ABTA, Association of Independent Tour Operators), trade unions (ICFTU), local authorities (ICLEI) and NGOs (the CSD NGO Steering Committee). The Office should then develop a database which is accessible by governments and stakeholders alike;

· provide more resources for the implementation of the framework;

· develop guidance notes, with UNCHS and relevant stakeholder groups, for the promotion of tourism within the local agenda 21 process internationally;

· provide guidance for the roles of stakeholders including a plan of action and time frames.

6.3 The United Nations regional commissions could:

· be asked to prepare a report for the CSD in Kiev, 2002, on the development of sustainable tourism activities within their region;

· work with UNEP/WTO to develop regional agreements and partnerships to address tourism sustainability.

6.4 United Nations development programme should:

· share the work it is doing on a guidelines for "good practice";

· utilise the UNDP country offices to bring together UN Agencies, bi-lateral donors and other stakeholders to work together on sustainable tourism - in particular utilising the work of the gender development programme in advising this process.

7. United Nations environment and development UK

UNED-UK has as its primary objective "the promotion of global environmental protection and sustainable development, particularly through support of the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, and all other relevant UN and inter-governmental institutions". Such commitments have been most fully expressed in Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration, both agreed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Since that Summit, the UN has made the necessary arrangements for a high level Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which has taken Agenda 21 as its rubric. The CSD is thus the UN body which co-ordinates and promotes internationally the work which UNED-UK has set itself, whilst Agenda 21 constitutes the most comprehensive expression to date of sustainable development and environmental protection as urgent issues for the world to address before the millennium.

UNED-UK continues to have close relationships with both UNDP and UNEP, and will foster these links over the coming year.

We aim to carry out the support of UN institutions and processes, as detailed above, through the following means:

· dissemination of information;
· UN events in the UK;
· arranging for visits from UNDP, UNEP, and UNCSD representatives.

Other objectives include:

· helping to mobilize the UK political process, particularly through national and local government, the voluntary sector and the commercial and industrial sector, in order to promote sustainable development in the work of the UN institutions both nationally and internationally,

· facilitating input from the membership of UNED-UK to the policy-making processes of UNEP, UNDP, UNCSD, and other inter-governmental institutions;

· contributing to the preparation and implementation of a national strategy for Agenda 21 and to support the work of UNCSD including its reviews of national strategies;

· encouraging other activities that result in a multi-sectoral approach to the promotion of environmental protection and sustainable development.

UNED-UK Reports for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development 7th Session, 1999

Gender & Tourism

Minu Hemmati and the Gender & Tourism Team

Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination

Rosalie Gardiner & Felix Dodds

Codes of Practice in Tourism

Rosalie Gardiner

Gender and Sustainable Consumption

Shalini Grover, Claire Flenley & Minu Hemmati

Sustainable Development and the Media

Monica Brett

Earth Summit III Millennium Papers

Derek Osborn

Web Site Developments to be presented

Roadmap to 2002: by Toby Middleton
Stakeholder Toolkit for Women: by Minu Hemmati
both at

c/o United Nations Association
3 Whitehall Court,
London SW1A 2EL
Tel: 44 (0) 171 839 1784 or 930 2931
Fax: 44 (0) 171 930 5893