Travel and tourism can contribute in many ways to achieving the UN sustainable development goals. And we frequently find good examples in our interviews with sustainable tourism champions and changemakers.
Below the links to our pages on specific UN sustainable development goals, on which you will find info on how these relate to tourism, as well as links to examples of initiatives, businesses and ideas contributing towards achieving the respective sustainability goal.
Governments and social organizations have made significant strides in lifting millions out of extreme poverty globally. Often, the rural poor depend on surrounding natural resources for a living, and any form of environmental degradation has a direct impact on their livelihoods. Sustainable tourism organisations strive to include locals in the tourism value chain and in conservation, to lift these communities out of poverty.
Women make up half of the human population and yet, many continue to be mere spectators instead of being active participants in their country’s progress, especially in the developing world. Empowering tourism businesses and platforms help women to engage in work and to pursue business opportunities, to be financially independent and actively contribute to their community’s development.
Poverty and unemployment can drive people to extreme lengths, to meet basic needs. Sustainable tourism companies see this as an opportunity to help out by providing productive employment and training. By employing locals, social enterprises embrace people from impoverished communities and villagers and offer them economic opportunities which help to ensure the conservation of habitat and biodiversity.
Economic disparity within sections of society and also between countries is growing wider. A few corporations in the world control a majority stake in the tour and hotel booking business, leaving small and independent operators out of the game. Responsible businesses in tourism and destination champions actively work towards reducing such inequalities – by fostering collaboration and by ensuring a level playing field.
Overtourism and over-consumption of resources and spaces are a threat to the sustainable development of cities and other destinations. Sustainability champions find ways to manage and monitor tourism flows and to make sure it enhances the wellbeing of communities rather than threatening their social or environmental sustainability.
Conscious consumption is slowly being adopted but the scale at which natural resources are being consumed far outpaces the rate at which nature can replenish them. While there is consensus on reducing wastage of fossil fuels and water, the perils of food waste have mostly gone unnoticed. Smart tourism businesses and destinations actively promote and engage with activities aimed at efficient use of resources, including food, water or energy.
The drastic changes in climate are so often discussed that the term ‘climate emergency’ was chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year 2019. Though the world is yet to take any significant-enough steps to reverse the trend of a planet heading into climate havoc, sustainability champions and tourism leaders are working towards mitigating the climatic impact of economic and travel activities and finding innovative solutions to adapt to the changes which are already happening and negatively impacting communities and livelihoods.
From cooling the planet to being the source of nutrient-rich seafood for billions of people, without oceans, there would be no life on earth. Overfishing, oil spills, and plastic pollution are slowly degrading the quality and health of our oceans. To reverse this unabated degradation and exploitation of marine resources, sustainability stewarts work towards safeguarding this finite resource. Forward-looking tourism organizations and destinations are doing their bit to protect the ocean, for example by organising beach cleanups, reducing plastic pollution and conserving marine species.
Forests are the lungs of the planet, hosting a wide variety of plant and animal species, as well as providing livelihoods to people dependent on their resources. The world’s growing population has a direct impact on the deforestation of millions of hectares every year, pushing many species to the brink of extinction through habitat loss and drying river beds. Tourism sustainability champions actively work to conserve forests and to protect biodiversity through offering tours, financing conservation or setting up eco-resorts in fragile areas.
More about the UN sustainable development goals here