Sustainable Tourism: Definition, Characteristics & Examples

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  • 0:04 Definition
  • 0:38 Characteristics
  • 2:27 Examples
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over an important kind of tourism called sustainable tourism. You'll learn the definition and characteristics of this type of tourism before exploring two real-life examples of it in action.


Have you ever heard of someone choosing a vacation destination only to insult the local people once they got there? Or maybe they showed disrespect by dropping litter all over the local beach? Suffice it to say, those people would not be engaging in sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism refers to a type of tourism where economic, social, and environmental impacts are carefully assessed and improved with respect to the tourists and the local community.

Let's learn more about the characteristics of sustainable tourism and a see couple examples of it.


There are several important characteristics of sustainable tourism. Let's say Bob is going on vacation to a country called Zerma. Bob must ensure that while he's there, he leaves as small of an environmental footprint as possible. That means he, as an individual, must ensure he uses as few resources as possible, doesn't litter, and, overall, respects the environment.

Of course, Bob is only part of the equation. The tour operator must do the same and create conditions that foster environmental respect. For instance, this may include planning ways by which garbage accumulated by the tourists can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. Or maybe creating activities for the tourists to take part in that benefit the environment, such as planting trees in a deforested area.

Sustainable tourism is also characterized by socio-cultural respect. In other words, Bob shouldn't go over to Zerma and feel like he's the king or owed something because he's from America. It means being understanding and respectful of different looks, practices, and beliefs. Again, the tour provider is also responsible here. They must ensure they conserve the cultural heritage of the people in the area. This could mean fostering cross-cultural exchanges between tourists and local people, or it could means something like feeding tourists a local meal instead of hamburger meat imported from another country.

Another very important characteristic of sustainable tourism is that of socio-economic benefits to host communities. In other words, it should be people in the local and host community who largely benefit from the tourism, not some gigantic corporation headquartered a continent away. This could mean employing local people or giving back to the local community by building schools for children.

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