Sustainable tourism industry attempts to make traveling a low impact activity on the environment and the local culture, while helping income and employment generation and the conservation of local ecosystems. It is a form of responsible travel that is both ecologically and culturally sensitive. Sustainable tourism aims to conserve the resources and increase the value of local culture and tradition. And it is not just the locals who are keen to promote ecotourism but also the vistors. A recent survey revealed that nine out of ten respondents are keen to opt for an environmentally and culturally sensitive travel and would like to choose tourism products that show concern about tourism's impact on local culture, while protecting the natural environment. - Visa International Asia Travel Intentions Survey.2007
Tourism is the largest as well as the fastest growing industry in the world, employing 260 million people and generating 10.7% of the world’s GDP.
 Principles of Sustainable Tourism
As the number of tourists increase and the importance of tourism grows, it becomes imperative that tourism, like other sectors, be planned and managed suitably. There are a few things that need to be followed to ensure sustainable development of tourism in the area.
- Enlist the help of local communities.
- All tourist spots should initiate sustainable devlopment of tourism.
- Tourism should benefit the local community monetarily and otherwise.
- Link local business to tourism.
- Set up codes, ethics and fair guidelines for developmental activities.
- Set up training and education programme to encourage and better manage heritage and natural resources.
- Take care to preserve the local flora and fauna.
- Encourage construction of eco resorts.
- Areas which attract tourist for safaris and treks should initiate efforts to promote eco safaris and sustainable trekking.
- Fair trade in tourism is a key aspect of sustainable tourism. Fair trade tourism ensures that the benefits go to those whose land, natural resources, labor, knowledge and culture are used for tourism activities.
 How is sustainable tourism different from ecotourism?
Ecotourism basically deals with nature based tourism, and is aimed “to conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local people”. On the other hand, sustainable tourism includes all segments of tourism, and has the same function to perform as ecotourism – to conserve the resources and increase the local cultural and traditional value. Though the goals of ecotourism and sustainable tourism are much similar, the latter is broader and conceals within itself very many aspects and categories of tourism.
 Objective of sustainable tourism
- Maintains the importance of local culture and tradition -- This form of tourism does not undertake activities that might adversely impact the character of the place in terms of architecture, cuisine, heritage, aesthetics, and ecology. The money generated through tourism activities is in turn used to preserve and enhance the local assets.
- It is informative -- Sustainable tourism educates the traveler about their destination, informs them of ways they can preserve the local heritage and ecology even as they enjoy themselves. Locals are taught that their present surroundings and culture are what attract the outsiders and it would pay to maintain these.
- Involves local residents - The tourism industry learns about the local culture and practices. It uses their knowledge to presrve the ecology and culture of the place . It also employs and trains local people, buys local supplies, and use local services.
- Conserve the resources of destinations -- It educates the travelers and the tourism related businesses in the locality about ways to minimize pollution, waste, energy consumption, water usage, landscaping chemicals, and unnecessary nighttime lighting.
- Respects local culture and tradition -- Foreign visitors learn about and observe local etiquette, including using at least a few courtesy words in the local language. Residents learn how to deal with foreign expectations that may differ from their own.
- It does not abuse the place - All stakeholders - local tourist bodies, businesses, ancillary businesses and residents get together to anticipate development pressures and enforce rules and regulations to prevent the "loved to death" syndrome. Businesses cooperate to sustain natural habitats, heritage sites, scenic appeal, and local culture.
- Strives for quality and not quantity -- Communities measure tourism success not by sheer numbers of visitors, but by length of stay, money spent, and quality of experience.
- It aims enriching holiday experiences -- Vistors not only see new places and try new things, they learn a lot through their experiences.
 Did you know?
- According to World Tourism Organisation data, the Mediterranean area is the world’s leading tourist attraction with about 180 million visitors per year.
- Over 842 million people traveled internationally in 2007 and this is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2010.
- 58% of the worlds coral reefs are at risk.
- Travel and tourism is expected to represent 3.6% of total global GDP.
- By 2050 climate change could have directly led to the extinction of 30% of species, the death of 90% of coral reefs and the loss of half the Amazon rainforest.
- A species of animal or plant life disappears at a rate of one every three minutes.
- Since 1970 a third of the natural world has been destroyed by human activity
- The average tourist receipt is over US$700 per person
- Worldwide the World Tourism Organisation currently records more than 600 million cross-border tourism and business trips with at least one overnight stay. On top of this there is an estimated 2,000 million or more trips within countries' internal borders.
 Eco tourism certification
Certification is popular subject in tourism and sustainability. Some in the industry say it doesn't address the critical mass while others say it is the only way to stop greenwashing.
Some certification schemes which are well known in the industry include:
- VISIT initiative - initiative to link up european ecolabels
- ECEAT - European program for green farm holidays
- Green Tourism Business Scheme - Scotlands certification program
- Green Globe 21 - global implementation program for all forms of tourism. *Check out New Zealand's Green Globe product guidelines
- Brazil Sustainable Tourism Certification Program (PCTS)
- Florida Green Lodging
- Green Hotels Association (Canada) -information on how hotels are reducing their impact on the environment
- Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Program (Australia) - Also check out The *International Ecotourism Standard has been developed by the Ecotourism *Association of Australia in conjunction with the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Sustainable Tourism of Australia.
- International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) - certified mainly larger hotels and tour operators for environmental or quality assurance - ISO 9001 and ISO 14001
- Rainforest Alliance
- SmartVoyager certification program is an Ecuadorian nonprofit group -- and the Rainforest Alliance, SmartVoyager minimizes the impact of tour boats in the Galapagos Islands by improving social and environmental conditions of boat operations.
- Nordic Swan
- Viabono - Germany
- Pan Parks
- Fair Trade in South Africa - one of the newest initiatives dealing with fairtrade tourism
- Milieubarometer - (Environmental Barometer) is the Dutch ecolabel for companies in the leisure sector.
- Blue Flag Campaign - certification for beaches
- Green Key - Accommodation certification in Lithuania, France, Denmark, Greenland, Sweden
- Green Flag - for parks and green spaces in the UK
- An analysis of certification schemes done by the WWF
- Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry - a practical guide of indicators.
- Sustainable Tourism
- Is sustainable tourism achievable?
- Sustainable Tourism
- Best practices and sustainable tourism in the western Mediterranean