German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)



Naturschutzinsel Chumbe Island
Chumbe Island nature reserve (© Michael Pütsch)
The picture shows Chumbe Island nature reserve.

Critical debate surrounding tourism has spawned a confusing array of terms, ideas and alternative visions. Environmental and nature conservation concerns need to be reconciled with the interests of tourism development. The development of sustainable tourism as defined by the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) offers a way forward: 

Sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present tourist and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems.” (UNWTO)

The concept of sustainability was adopted by the global community as the “sustainability principle” at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (the Rio Summit). This focuses tourism around the following goals:

  • Conserving natural and cultural heritage (environmental dimension)
  • Delivering high levels of visitor satisfaction and
  • Improving the quality of life of host populations (social dimension)
  • Strengthening regional economies (economic dimension)

There are also other definitions, some of which have an environmental emphasis, but which are generally less comprehensive.

Last Change: 22/01/2020