World Tourism Day highlights need for sustainable destination strategies


Every year on September 27, World Tourism Day seeks to spread awareness about the importance of tourism and its impact on the environment, communities and more.

This year’s theme is “Tourism and Green Investments,” highlighting the ever-growing urgency to align tourism objectives with climate initiatives and how the travel and tourism industry must invest accordingly. The best part? Travelers are on board.

Currently, 87% of travelers are focused on sustainability and want to do good in the communities in which they’re traveling. In honor of World Tourism Day, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) can showcase their commitment to providing sustainable tourism and experiences. With the right sustainability strategies, DMOs can not only attract travelers with similar values, they can also ensure their destination can remain open and ready to welcome travelers for decades to come.


As people all around the world continue to prioritize the environment, destinations can deploy programs and messaging to preserve their natural resources and communicate expectations to tourists.

How is it possible to protect natural resources? By promoting lesser-known areas, or under-tourism. Destinations can consider crowd restrictions, like Venice’s entry fee and Bhutan’s permit requiring all tourists to use a registered guide, to hedge against large crowds that can destroy an ecosystem. While the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly difficult on the travel industry, there was a silver lining.

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According to a study conducted in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, when tourism ceased during the pandemic, fish density increased by 143% and harvested species by 215%. In addition, fish diversity increased.

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The European Travel Commission offers a number of research-based resources to help travelers understand their impact on the environment as well as how they can practice sustainability wherever they go. Being mindful of over-tourism and promoting consistent sustainability messaging will not only attract environmentally conscious travelers, destinations can preserve the environment for future travelers.

Destination Greater Victoria is a Biosphere Certified destination, which is a “guarantee of environmental, economic, and socio-cultural balance that meets the needs of modern travelers.” The Biosphere Certification is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the World Charter for Sustainable Tourism +20 and the COP21 Paris Agreement.

Not only do these certifications give travelers peace of mind about Greater Victoria’s sustainability commitment, but the destination also lists a variety of sustainability attractions, accommodations, dining and transportation so they can better plan their stay.


Building a sustainable travel program isn’t just environmental; sustainability is also about preserving and respecting local cultures and customers. And the best way to learn what matters most to a destination is to garner input from locals and work with residents to ensure the place they call home is preserved.

First, interview local experts and find out what matters to the community. Then work with residents and offer educational resources to help them promote the same messaging as hotels, attractions and more. They’re the first line of defense and they, in turn, can spread the sustainability message to tourists. With the help of locals, destinations can educate travelers about customs and cultures, which can help them respect traditions.

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Discover Puerto Rico offers a number of sustainable ways that travelers can explore all the island has to offer. From wellness retreats to slow travel, to volunteer opportunities and guided tours, Puerto Rico focuses on making a difference at a local level. Travelers can enjoy a locally led guided experience or “meet community models of socio-economic transformation based on the green and solidarity economy.”

In addition, the country focuses on the “Blue-Flag Program, an international award given to beaches, marinas and tourist boats that comply with strict criteria … [including] cleanliness, security, information centers and appropriate environmental management.”


Travelers can spend their money where their values are – and destination marketers can focus on specific initiatives, such as transportation, minimizing waste and resource usage, and improving tourism jobs and inclusivity – to help direct them.

By using intent data to reach them during the research stage and promoting those initiatives on social and in campaigns, destinations can attract travelers who also share those values. Then, once they book, marketers can use booking data to continue to market sustainable activities and ideas to them so they can have a sustainable stay.

But the opportunities don’t stop there. Destination marketers can partner with local hotels and attractions to ensure that these initiatives are broadcast once they arrive and use in-destination data to find out what’s piquing their interest so they can promote and recommend sustainable options, such as stores and restaurants.

Explore Asheville is working on multiple levels to attract sustainable-minded travelers. The destination’s motto, Encourage Safe and Responsible Travel, is stitched into all aspects of the area.

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From corporate social responsibility to events and sustainability messaging, Asheville offers a number of resources for both businesses and travelers to become more sustainable or explore community activities and cultural events. Known as a Climate City, several of Asheville’s businesses have committed to finding solutions to combat climate change.

This World Tourism Day, destinations can work to deliver the experiences travelers want while aligning with something bigger – which will ultimately protect the planet, our environment and local culture and communities. By targeting sustainable travelers and rolling out their sustainability commitment across all parts of the destination, destination marketers can preserve the environment, culture and economy for years to come.

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