United Nations and Sustainable Tourism — The U.N. Plan

In 2002, the United Nations and sustainable tourism converged as part of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Sustainable tourism is a business model that attempts to limit the impact tourism has on the people and environment of a tourist destination. Increases in tourism, while an economic positive, can overtax the local natural resources that residents rely on, resulting in more harm done than good. The goal is to lessen the negative impact that tourism can have on environmentally sensitive areas of countries ill-equipped to deal with environmental issues.

The United Nations and sustainable tourism take their cue from the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. This plan sets out specific strategies for managing the natural resources of an area. One of the most important strategies outlined is to manage and protect water resources. The potential is great for water pollution in an area of growing tourism activity. So, too, is the possibility of overtaxing the water resource supporting that activity. The plan calls for the adoption of protective measures to insure this doesn't happen.

Additional United Nations and sustainable tourism strategies include protection of coastal areas and marine life. Local residents in coastal areas often depend on the ocean for sustenance and a source of economic opportunity. Recognizing how activities in one area can have a global impact, the Plan calls for coordination between governing bodies to properly manage and preserve coastal and marine ecosystems of emerging countries. The Plan goes on to outline specific actions for maintaining or restoring fisheries to assure local food sources are managed properly and encourages the halt of destructive fishing practices.

The United Nations and sustainable tourism plan also recognizes the need to develop contingency plans to address vulnerability of ecosystems that an increase in tourism can lead to. Therefore, the Plan also calls for addressing ways to avoid disaster that could have a devastating impact on the environment and ways to mitigate the impact should disaster strike.

The bottom line for the United Nations and sustainable tourism is a recognition of the need to balance an increase in tourism with managing the environment in developing countries that can greatly benefit from the positive economic impact tourism can bring.