What are the goals of sustainable tourism

2030 Agenda and Tourism

Sustainable tourism is mentioned a total of four times in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The explicit mention of the sector not only emphasizes its global importance, but also obliges us to fundamentally change the tourism model that is widespread today. Because far too often human rights are violated, workers are exploited and nature is destroyed in the name of tourism development. In short: it stands in sharp contrast to sustainable development.

The transformation of our world

In September 2015, all member states of the United Nations jointly adopted the Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the visionary title “The transformation of our world”. The strength of the Agenda lies in its holistic approach, its complexity and its strong vision of a fundamental transformation of our world.

The 2030 Agenda is aimed at all states - both in the south and in the north. While the countries of the Global South are to receive special support, the agenda calls for industrialized nations to reduce their disproportionate consumption of resources and to reform their economic and development policies in such a way that they are not at the expense of other countries. Tourism should also be seen in this context.

The transformation of tourism is necessary

Although tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, only a small fraction of the world's population still travels while the majority are directly or indirectly affected by its effects. That raises questions of justice. In the absence of regulation at the international, national and local level, tourism is growing unchecked and exacerbating existing injustices: workers are exploited, local communities are displaced, cultures are commercialized, finite natural resources are consumed and the opportunities of future generations are endangered.

The necessary transformation of our world can only succeed with a fundamental turnaround in tourism.

Transforming Tourism Initiative

The 2030 Agenda as a frame of reference

For tourism to contribute to sustainable development, a fundamental turnaround in tourism is needed. Business as usual is not an option. Human rights and community self-determination must be at the center of any tourism development, and the benefits of tourism must be fairly shared. Tourism only supports sustainable development if it improves local living conditions.

The 2030 Agenda calls for sustainable tourism on a number of occasions and is committed to the necessary change. The 2030 Agenda thus offers an important frame of reference for bringing the demands for a fundamental turnaround in tourism back into the public discourse.

Still, the agenda has weaknesses. Some goals and indicators for measuring the achievement of goals are not defined clearly enough. In particular, the tourism-related indicators rely unreflectively on unregulated growth in the sector with considerable side effects. Instead of promoting the development of tourism per se, adjusting screws must be identified that contribute to the change in the sector.

Tourism in the 2030 Agenda

As a complex branched sector, tourism has a considerable influence on the living conditions of the local population and workers as well as on their environment and culture. This means that tourism can make a significant contribution to the achievement of every SDG. In an online compendium, experts from civil society and science have analyzed the connection between tourism and each individual SGD.

Tourism is explicitly mentioned in the 2030 Agenda in the following targets:

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Target 8.9: By 2030, develop and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
Target 12.b: Develop and apply tools for observing the effects of sustainable tourism, which creates jobs and promotes local culture and local products, on sustainable development.

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources in terms of sustainable development.
Target 14.7: By 2030, increase the economic benefits of the sustainable use of marine resources for the small island developing countries and the least developed countries, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.

Tourism Watch demands:

Political turnaround

All states are called upon to implement the 2030 Agenda - also in tourism. They have to impose binding rules on the largely unregulated sector and enforce them. The UNWTO, the United Nations' specialized agency for tourism, is also called upon to support overarching initiatives in this area and to promote dialogue between all actors. Effective mechanisms for the participation of civil society and local communities in tourism development must be created and a human rights-based approach to tourism must be strengthened. Global strategies to reduce the consumption of resources such as land or water and to reduce emissions, especially from air and shipping traffic, are urgently needed.


Companies are also required to align their management processes with all 17 goals for sustainable development as well as with the UN guiding principles for business and human rights. They must exercise their human rights due diligence across the entire tourism value chain - from the journey to the local activities - and report transparently on them. If you buy products locally and employ local employees on fair terms, you can better integrate the local markets and boost added value.

Consumption turnaround

Last but not least, travelers are asked to take responsibility themselves by respecting their hosts and their culture, being careful with the scarce local resources, supporting the local economy and respecting the dignity of their hosts.

Transforming Tourism Initiative

For more than 40 years, civil society organizations have been committed to making the voices of people marginalized by tourism heard - also in the process of the 2030 Agenda. In an online compendium, experts from civil society and science analyzed in detail the connections between tourism and the individual SDGs.

The authors and other representatives of tourism-critical, scientific and civil society organizations met in Berlin in March 2017 to discuss the 2030 Agenda together. More than 30 participants from 19 countries contributed their experience, expertise and concerns. Together they developed the Berlin Declaration on "Transforming Tourism". They want to initiate further debates and reflections and demand the implementation of concrete, urgently needed measures.

The 2030 Agenda as a frame of reference

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Tourism turnaround

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly refers to tourism in four places. Associated with this is the call to use the potential of tourism and to develop it further in the interests of global justice. The transformation of our world, which the 2030 Agenda calls for, will only succeed if the tourism turnaround is tackled consistently.