How Tourism Can Contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals

Travel and tourism 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 are the links to our pages on specific UN sustainable development goals, where 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.

Goal 1: Eradicate Poverty

Governments and social organizations have made significant strides in lifting millions from 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 organizations strive to include locals in the tourism value chain and conservation to lift these communities from poverty.


Goal 5: Empower Women

Women make up half of the human population and yet, many continue to be mere spectators than 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.

UNSDG 5 Empower Women

Goal 8: Equal and Fair Economic Opportunities

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 to help in habitat protection and biodiversity conservation.

UNSDG 8 Equal and Fair Economic Opportunities

Goal 10: Reduce Inequality

Economic disparity within sections of society and also between countries is growing wider. A few global corporations 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.


Goal 11: Build Sustainable Human Settlements

Overtourism and over-consumption of resources and spaces threaten the sustainable development of cities and other destinations. Sustainability champions find ways to manage and monitor tourism flows to improve the well-being of communities rather than threaten their social or environmental sustainability.

UNSDG 11 Build Sustainable Human Settlements

Goal 12: Achieve Resource Efficiency

Conscious consumption is slowly being adopted but the scale at which natural resources are consumed far outpaces the rate at which nature can replenish them. While there is consensus on reducing the wastage of fossil fuels and water, the perils of food waste have mostly gone unnoticed. Smart tourism businesses and destinations actively promote the efficient use of resources, including food, water, or energy.

UNSDG 12 Achieve Resource Efficiency

Goal 13: Fight Climate Change

Climate change and its impacts have entered the everyday lexicon, in fact, the term ‘climate emergency’ was chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year in 2019. Though the world is yet to make significant strides to reverse 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 already happening and negatively impacting communities and livelihoods.

UNSDG 13 Fight Climate Change

Goal 14: Protect the Ocean and Marine Life

Oceans play a critical role in keeping the planet cool. 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 change makers work towards safeguarding this finite resource. Forward-looking tourism organizations and destinations are doing their bit to protect the ocean, for example, by organizing beach cleanups, reducing plastic pollution, and conserving marine species.

UNSDG 14 Protect the Ocean and Marine Life

Goal 15: Conserve Forests and Protect Biodiversity

Forests are the lungs of the planet. The world’s growing population is shrinking forest cover, pushing many species to the brink of extinction through habitat loss and drying river beds. Tourism sustainability champions actively work to conserve forests and protect biodiversity through offering tours, financing conservation, or setting up eco-resorts in fragile areas.

UNSDG 15 Conserve Forests and Protect Biodiversity

More about the UN sustainable development goals here