Fair tourism or sustainable tourism can be defined as tourism that maximizes the positive impacts of tourism minimizes the negative ones. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism 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”. Sustainable tourism, then, is closely connected to a more general concept, sustainable development.
Sustainable tourism often focuses on one of three main areas of interest: economic, socio-cultural, or environmental. Economic sustainability can refer to the destination community benefiting from tourism financially. This is not a given, as profits often leak away from the destination, especially if the tourism supply of a destination is too dependent on big, international corporations whose headquarters are located far away from the actual destination. While big hotels can provide employment to many locals, small, locally-owned businesses have more potential to distribute profits and reduce poverty in the community.
Tourism is socio-culturally sustainable when the relationship between tourists and the host community is built on mutual respect and tourism does not take advantage of the local population or harm its culture. Sustainable tourism aims to protect the local culture against cultural commercialization: a process where local heritage and culture are modified to meet the tourists’ expectations. Socially sustainable tourism also emphasizes the role of the local population as business owners, decision makers, and tourism planners.
Environmentally sustainable tourism recognizes the importance of the environment as a tourist attraction while ensuring the protection of local natural resources. Sometimes referred to as ecotourism, environmentally sustainable tourism also attempts to educate tourists about environmental issues while traveling to and within a destination. The most essential issues in ecotourism are minimizing waste production, improving waste management, and using energy as efficiently as possible in all travel-related activities, including accommodation.
Despite a common misconception, sustainable tourism is not a specific type or form of tourism, but a group of principles, practices, and goals that can be applied to all kinds of tourism and travel. This means that all tourism, including vacation packages, can be sustainable if the tourist makes sustainable choices. That being said, reaching sustainability goals requires contributions from and the collaboration of travel businesses, local governments, and non-profit organizations. Making tourism sustainable is an on-going process that requires constant evaluation of the impacts of tourism. On a positive note, sustainability is a rising trend in the tourism industry. A study conducted by consulting company Deloitte in 2014 found that within the next few years, the significance of sustainability will increase in both decision-making and business thinking.