What We Do:

Promoting Sustainable Tourism

Promoting Sustainable Tourism

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the business volume that tourism is generating today equals or even surpasses that of oil exports, food products or automobiles. A primary goal of our work in sustainable development has been to ensure that tourism protects and sustains the world’s natural and cultural resources and meets its potential as a tool for poverty alleviation.


From 2005 to 2010, we teamed up with Expedia, Inc. and UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre to change the travel industry through the World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism

We have worked on the industry side to support:

  • conservation;
  • sustainable tourism; and
  • economic growth for communities in and around World Heritage sites.

We've done this by educating the traveling public through our Friends of World Heritage  campaign and by creating sustainable tourism best practices for investors and vendors.


Best practices don’t go very far unless others take that model and implement it. 

We have partnered with a coalition of 32 organizations from the tourism industry, the UN and conservation communities to develop standards for sustainable tourism businesses. These standards will be the minimum that any tourism business can follow, or that certification programs can be based on to preserve and protect travel destinations for the future.

The first-ever global sustainable tourism criteria were announced at the World Conservation Congress on October 6, 2008.  Read the press release here.

The Partnership was initiated by the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).  Click here to see the full list of partners.

For more information go to


If not run properly, tourism can be a damaging industry: Rapid development can overwhelm natural areas with pollution, disturbing wildlife and once-isolated cultures.

However, certification can address the impacts of tourism by ensuring that tourism businesses comply with standards to protect wildlife and indigenous communities.

The Tourism Sustainability Council (TSC), an initiative of the UN Foundation, UNEP, the UN World Tourism Organization, the Rainforest Alliance and others, uses the global baseline criteria to develop an accreditation standard for sustainable tourism certification programs. The TSC will be the umbrella under which the certification programs will sit.