Sustainable Tourism and Responsible Travel: Hot Topics in 2020

Published 28/01/2020
Sustainable tourism - hot topics in 2020

Sustainable tourism - hot topics in 2020

Tourism is a dynamic industry and in this fast-paced world with the effects of climate change already in play, what topics should professionals be pondering about in 2020?  

We asked our panel of sustainable tourism specialists. Below the answers (highlighted respondents are part of our list of recommended consultants or speakers).

Our key takeaways:

  • Climate change and its implications for travel and tourism is the number one sustainability concern and topic in 2020.
  • Overtourism and how to strike a balance between environmental, social and economic sustainability of destinations is another topic to focus on in 2020.

Albert Salman


Key questions we will have to address in 2020:

  • Can tourism destinations or businesses really be considered sustainable – and become certified – if they make no major effort to reduce the carbon footprint from their source markets?
  • In which certification should a carbon footprint reduction (or compensation) be considered: in destination certification, in accommodation certification, or in tour operator certification? Or in all of them?
  • Are the current mainstream carbon offsetting programs effective against the climate crisis? And do they help to make flying sustainable?
  • Big travel corporations are increasingly attracted by tourism sustainability, e.g. by joining GSTC or Travalyst. What should we expect from them, to make travel sustainable?
  • Is overtourism reversible – in practice?

Brian Mullis, sustainable tourism expert panel memberBrian Mullis

InterviewSpeaker profile
  • Policies for creating a positive, enabling environment for tourism
  • Demand-based sustainable destination development 
  • Accessing funding for development assistance with limited donor development capacity 
  • Increasing destination resilience and climate adaptation 
  • Addressing flying shame through community-owned and managed conservation areas

Dagmar Lund-Durlacher

  • How to make tourism more inclusive and accessible
  • Tourism and climate change – adaptation, mitigation strategies
  • How to address the SDG in tourism – implementation practices etc.

Gianna Moscardo

  • Slow tourism
  • Using tourism to communicate and support sustainability at home
  • Degrowth
  • Improving education and training to support sustainability in tourism 
  • Sustainable tourism and the well-being of destination communities

Jonathan Tourtellot


Long-term growth of tourism isn’t likely to stop, and short-term coping tactics won’t work forever. How does travel need to change to avoid overtourism?

Sustainability efforts have traditionally skipped over or touched only lightly on such topics as destination aesthetics, dark skies, destination identity and distinctiveness, architectural preservation, and others. Should they get more attention, and how?

Jonathon Day Placemark SolutionsJonathon Day

InterviewSpeaker profile
  • Sustainable tourism in urban settings
  • CSR and its contribution to sustainable tourism
  • Changing consumer behavior
  • Leaders addressing specific issues, such as climate change, human trafficking etc.

Kelly Bricker, sustainable tourism expert panel memberKelly Bricker

InterviewSpeaker profile

Topics I’d like to see addressed in 2020:

  • Cases in addressing climate change
  • Carbon offsets, are they making a difference?
  • Sustainability resources for parks and protected areas
  • Dark sky conservation, preservation, and tourism

Kirsi Hyvaerinen

Kirsi Hyvaerinen

InterviewSpeaker profile
  • Sustainability and digitalisation – best opportunities how to bring these together
  • Sustainability and marketing (thinking about the gap between acceptance and action)
  • Pitfalls on way to more sustainability, as business, as destinations

Masaru Takayama

  • How can adventure tourism and ecotourism co-exist? For example, a sacred community waterfall being used for birding or shower climbing
  • Overcoming seasonality in tourism (temperate and extremely cold climate destinations face fluctuations in visitor arrival numbers)
  • Carbon calculators and offsetting options (which are the best in terms of ROI, for tour operators)
  • Overview of sustainable tourism and ecotourism schools

Natalia Naranjo

  • Community-based tourism
  • Climate change solutions
  • Good practices in sustainable tourism

Peter Richards


Resources to understand the links between climate change and tourism; areas where different stakeholders can make a difference; and simple, sharable tools.

Philippe Moreau


How to make sustainability more engaging so that every traveller and stakeholder can really make a difference.

Raj Gyawali, sustainable tourism expert panel memberRaj Gyawali

InterviewSpeaker profile
  • Transformative journeys around the world
  • Examples of sustainable practices from around the world
  • Digital marketing of sustainability
  • Greenhushing and how to deal with it
  • Top sustainable trips in the world

Ronald Sanabria

  • Sustainable food procurement of hotels and restaurants: how to do it
  • Food waste in tourism
  • Climate change and the role of tourism

Vicky Smith

Vicky Smith

InterviewSpeaker profile
  • Funding for start-ups (whether online, product, aviation)
  • Getting customers to actively purchase sustainable tourism/consumer psychology

Vik Nair


1) How to find the right balance between environmental sustainability versus economic sustainability? 

In many small island destinations, economic sustainability is important for their survival but that is done at the expense of environmental degradation in the long term. Hence, there is a dilemma of survival versus protecting Mother Nature.

2) How can the tourism industry respond to the global challenges arising from climate change and environmental degradation?

The challenges and new approaches to the management of climate change in tourism are critical for this industry to play a more critical role to safeguard Mother Nature.

3) Overtourism versus undertourism: How do we determine the right number?

The issue of finding the right number of tourists, especially for fragile destinations, is becoming a problem in many small island destinations. Tourism is the main contributor to GDP for many small island nations. Undertourism would result in immense economic impact, whereas overtourism will result in massive environmental impact.

Willy Legrand

  • Sustainable tourism and SDG 8: Quantifying the social impacts of sustainable tourism (partly linked to the panel session on the link between sustainable tourism and jobs, and the panel on “How to Measure Destination Sustainability Success”)
  • Transforming a mature tourism destination towards more sustainability: opportunities, challenges and recommendations
  • Travelling less, but travelling better? Transforming the way we travel towards more sustainability: chances and dangers

More about the sustainable tourism expert panel here – including previous sessions and answers to some of the most pressing issues linked to making tourism more sustainable.

Do you have a topic in mind that you think needs to be highlighted in 2020? Get in touch!