EU Guidebook on Sustainable Tourism for Development

In recognition of the considerable opportunities and issues involved in the development of tourism, in 2012 the European Commission's Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid established the project “Enhancing capacities for sustainable tourism for development in developing countries”. The project was undertaken in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which was commissioned to prepare a Guidebook on Sustainable Tourism, as an engine for development, trade in services, job creation and poverty reduction.

The Guidebook is intended to enhance the understanding of tourism in all its dimensions, how it relates to the EU Agenda for Change so as to enable EU services in Brussels and the EU Delegations in 180 countries as well as other development institutions to include sustainable tourism development in their programme cycles.

UNWTO endeavours to maximize tourism’s contribution to, inter alia, development and international understanding, while minimizing its negative impacts, paying particular attention to the growth potential of developing countries. Likewise, the European Union is well placed to support developing countries in identifying and implementing interventions in sustainable tourism.

The approach has been based on the experience of UNWTO and its work with a wide range of partner agencies and governments. In particular, the results of the study have been field tested in six countries during and following the preparation of the document, namely Kenya, India, Vietnam, Senegal, Botswana and Timor-Leste. The guidebook was publicly launched with the EU on the 27th of June 2013 in Brussels.

Background- Sustainable Tourism for Development

Over the last decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and increased diversification, becoming one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. The business volume of tourism today equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles, offering millions of direct entry points into the workforce, particularly for youth and women, and a diversity of investment opportunities for young entrepreneurial talents. Tourism has become one of the major sectors in international trade, at the same time representing one of the main income sources for many developing countries.  It is their only service sector with recorded surpluses in trade compared to the rest of the world.

of direct global GDP
million jobs wordwide
billoninternational tourist by 2030
of the world's exports of services
billion international tourism in 2012
US$ trillion generated by international tourists

However, tourism can also be a source of environmental damage and pollution, a threat to the socio-cultural structure, a heavy user of scarce resources and a potential cause of negative externalities in society.  What must be done?

Tourism in the Global Development Agenda: The future we want Rio+20 outcome document

"Sustainable tourism is highlighted in the final outcome document of Rio+20 as a thematic area and a cross-sectorial issue within the framework for action and follow-up.

130. We emphasize that well-designed and managed tourism can make a significant contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development, has close linkages to other sectors, and can create decent jobs and generate trade opportunities (…)

131. We encourage the promotion of investment in sustainable tourism, including eco-tourism and cultural tourism, which may include creating small and medium sized enterprises and facilitating access to finance, including through microcredit initiatives for the poor, indigenous peoples and local communities in areas with high eco-tourism potential (…)"

In recent years, sustainability has emerged as a critical concern that must be addressed in any viable tourism development strategy. Expressed simply, sustainable tourism can be defined as “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities”. Tourism is one of the ten economic sectors identified in the UNEP Green Economy Report, whose greening could increase prosperity, create employment and reduce poverty. In addition, tourists are increasingly demanding the greening of tourism. Tourism development should hence have a sustainable approach, to be able to promote growth in the long-term while maintaining a balanced use of resources. This should be supported at local, national, regional and international levels.

Developing Countries surpassing advanced economies’ international tourist arrivals in 2015

Although developed countries remain both the major tourism destinations and source of international tourism, developing countries are reducing the gap. In recent decades there has been a substantial diversification in international tourism destinations, and many developing countries have registered phenomenal growth in tourist arrivals and receipts. Tourism also particularly thrives on assets such as natural environment, warm climate, rich cultural heritage and plentiful human resources, where developing countries have a comparative advantage.

  • Tourism is the first or second source of export earnings in 20 of the 48 LDCs
  • In some developing countries, notably small island states, tourism can account for over 25% of GDP.
  • From 2015, emerging economies will, for the first time receive more international tourist arrivals than advanced economies
  • By 2030, 58% of international arrivals will be to emerging economy destinations of Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Inbound tourism, advanced and emerging economies

However, tourism can also be a source of environmental damage and pollution, a heavy consumer of scarce resources and a cause of negative impacts in society.  For these reasons, it is imperative that it is well planned and managed, embracing the principles of sustainable tourism which is defined as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry the environment and host communities”.

The Purpose of the Guidebook- Sustainable Tourism for Development

The Purpose of the Guidebook- Sustainable Tourism for DevelopmentThe purpose of the study is to enhance common understanding and commitment about Sustainable Tourism and to demonstrate how it is a vehicle to foster economic and social growth, through the achievement of development imperatives, while minimizing negative social, cultural and environmental impacts.

The document is aimed at two main audiences:

  • The EU and other development assistance agencies – to help them understand and identify opportunities to assist the tourism sector in delivering sustainable development.
  • Governments and other stakeholders within developing countries – to help them identify where they may need to strengthen their approach to sustainable tourism, and if necessary to seek assistance, within the context of international priorities and policies for sustainable development.

In particular the document provides a basis for discussion between the above two groups in agreeing on priorities and actions for supporting sustainable tourism.

The study is seen as informing the existing cooperation frameworks and common assessment and coordination processes in Official Development Assistance and Aid for Trade. This applies particularly in the field of trade, in which tourism plays an important part, including the work of the Enhanced Integrated Framework in promoting Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies and in the delivery of Aid for Trade.

The study contributes to the positioning of tourism within the overarching framework for action on green growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development post-2015, stemming from Rio+20 and addressed by the European Commission in Communication (2013) 92 A Decent Life for All: Ending poverty and giving the world a sustainable future

“Sustainable Tourism for development in developing countries”: A document in three interlinking parts

The Guidebook takes a comprehensive approach to tourism, covering a wide range of topics relating to its planning, development, management and impact. By working through the whole document, users are able to identify priorities for intervention across a spectrum of issues.

The Guidebook’s aim is to mainstream tourism by:

  • Enhancing understanding and commitment to sustainable tourism.
  • Providing guidance to assess the tourism sector’s importance, identifying opportunities for sustainable tourism development, planning actions, and enhancing sustainability of projects.
  • Delivering a “Sustainable Tourism for Development Study” which will enable the EU and other development institutions to include sustainable tourism development in their programme cycles.

The guidebook is divided in the three parts described below:

  • GUIDANCE NOTE: Relates the UE framework for development, e.g. the EU Agenda for Change and Tourism pillars (methodology) and relates to EU priorities. It aims at providing guidance to EU services on the approaches required to ensure the effective implementation of priorities for sustainable tourism in developing countries. 
  • SITUATION ANALYSIS: Describes the macro-economic dimensions of tourism; its contrubution to improve the situation of a country and its relation with other sectors; policies in place to develop the sector and its contribution to sustainable development and reviews the existing policies and programmes auming at developing sustainable tourism in developing countries.   
  • METHODOLOGY: Designes to ptovide EU delagrions with a sustematics approach to understand the impact and value of the tourism sector in the country and the way it is managed and operated; and to understand which actions are appropriate to improve the situation through tailored interventions. 

“The Methodology”: How to assess priorities for Sustainable Tourism in Developing Countries?

The Methodology follows a systematic structure which, through a series of questions* under each issue, enables the situation to be assessed, weaknesses and gaps identified and possible actions considered, while also pointing to existing services that are available. It focuses on five key pillars of sustainable tourism in developing countries:

 Sustainable Tourism in Developing Countries