Most Inspiring Sustainable Tourism Champions to Follow in 2023

Published 08/02/2023
2023 sustainable tourism champions

Which tourism businesses and destinations have inspired our panel of sustainable tourism experts with their innovative and creative ways of working towards regenerative tourism and implementing sustainability practices into their strategies and management?

The panel’s answers show that we are at different levels of recovery right now. For some businesses, economic survival – the essential for sustainability – is still a priority, while others have taken big steps towards building back better.

While the recovery phase is surely a rocky one, we thought to share positive news on organizations and locations showing the way forward, for you to take inspiration from.

Here’s what our panel of sustainable tourism specialists shared (highlighted respondents are available as consultants or speakers).

Jonathon Day, sustainable tourism expert panel memberJonathon Day

Speaker profile

Two of the organizations to watch in 2023:

  • Indiana Dunes
  • Oregon Coast Visitors Association

Raj Gyawali, sustainable tourism expert panel member

Raj Gyawali

Speaker profile

Post-pandemic, several destinations have promised to take sustainability seriously, but all of them are making only small movements now that tourism is back in force.

  • However, several of the Scandinavian countries which have the financial bandwidth to follow up in earnest are layering in processes to ensure the promotion of sustainability. This is a welcome sign as these leaders will create a mechanism that can be replicated by authorities globally – basically by the governments. Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are big movers in this arena.
  • Slovenia is also getting louder and louder with its principles and practices behind Slovenia Green, and while the actions on the ground might not have mainstreamed, it is making big waves.
  • Rwanda is a big mover in Africa, which has to put government resources and will behind sustainable travel. While the government is as usual, confused and unable to balance its need to grow the economy with its need to do it sustainably. The will to achieve sustainable practices in tourism will create opportunities and slowly become mainstream.

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith

Speaker profile

Tivat, Montenegro – held the inaugural Tivat Tourism Think Tank to connect local and regional Balkans grassroots operations with regenerative thinking from around the world, to inspire a bottom-up, action-oriented approach.

Albert Salman

In 2022 I have been impressed by the sustainability performance of four mountain destinations:

  • In the Alps: Wagrain-Kleinarl (Austria) and Eggental (South Tyrol, Italy)
  • In the Rocky Mountains: Vail and Breckenridge (both in Colorado)

All four were certified by Green Destinations in the GSTC-Accredited program. Both the public and private sector level performance was amazing.

Gavin Bate

I have not personally had any experience lately with regenerative tourism projects but I am aware of ventures around the world that are happening.

For example, Basata Eco-Lodge in south Sinai, Egypt. The sad truth is that the promotion around these ventures is tiny in comparison to the world of tourism out there.

Marcus Cotton

  • Rare India and Secret Retreats hotel groups 
  • Gangtey Lodge Bhutan for its unstuffy approach

Masaru Takayama

  • Certification organizations are now talking on a platform for cross-learning, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) will also be exploring ways to develop standards for the attractions and MICE, which is a movement to be welcomed.

Natalia Naranjo Ramos

  • Valencia, Spain – The path they are heading up is a good way to lead sustainability in destinations.
  • Nature Colombia – A women-led business in Colombia, creating new routes for bird-watching and the integration of women-led initiatives in the territories to visit. Gender equality is a way to achieve sustainability.

Richard Butler

  • Ryanair – sensible forward planning. 
  • Fiji – although not as successful as they hoped and still highly vulnerable.
  • Venice – if they implement the proposed controls and management schemes supposedly coming on stream in the near future.

Steve Noakes

  • Australia – It’s been pleasing to see the number of destinations in Australia taking action and joining the ECO Destination Certification program offered by Ecotourism Australia. It’s not just regions saying they’re sustainable; it’s independently assessed, verified and audited.
  • New Zealand
  • Norway

Which tourism business or destination has impressed you recently for its determination, innovation or creativity in making its operations more sustainable and tourism as a whole more equitable?

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