Sustainable Tourism Development

Tourism in Alberta has grown at dramatic rates over the last few decades with considerable growth predicted to continue. While the province recognizes the economic importance of tourism, this increase in development can put significant pressures on local communities and cultures, the environment, and public land and natural resources, which the tourism industry relies upon to maintain its success.

In addition to the traditional economic assessments of your business, it is important to evaluate the impacts of your tourism development and operations on the surrounding environment and communities. Similar to determining the financial costs and benefits associated with your project, the following process will provide you with an outline of what environmental and social impacts your business is likely to have and how you can create efficiencies and minimize those impacts.

Tourism operators are encouraged to address and minimize the environmental and social/cultural impacts throughout the development of the business. Starting from the original idea to design, planning, construction, and operations, operators are encouraged to consider the environmental and social/cultural impacts at each stage in the development process. For example:

  • Are the buildings and other facilities designed and situated to minimize site impacts and respect the natural environment?
  • Do building designs consider feasible "green building" technologies to achieve maximum efficiencies of resources and the reduction of facility operating costs?
  • Is there a program in place to preserve and protect the sensitive features of the environment including vegetation, views and wildlife habitat?
  • Have efforts been made to consult with the local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities regarding the development?
  • How will relationships be maintained during construction and once the facility becomes operational?

Some additional information on sustainable tourism strategies and practices can be found at the following sites:


  • Tourism Industry Association of Canada

    The sustainable development of the tourism industry is one of the core principles of TIAC. They encourage the Canadian tourism sector to embrace sustainable practices with greater commitment and are currently positioning Canada as a sustainable tourism destination.

  • BC Sustainable Tourism Collective

    This collective of six influential tourism operators was founded on the vision that travel within B.C. can foster appreciation and stewardship for the natural environment, regions and communities.

  • Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism

    The objective of the GMIST is to enhance the quality and sustainability of outdoor/nature-based experiences afforded throughout Atlantic Canada, by providing developmental training programs respecting sustainable tourism practices, experiential tourism services and eco-adventure tourism.

United Nations

  • Tourism and Environment Programme

    The mission of this program is to encourage sustainable practices and demonstrate the economic, environmental, and socio-cultural benefits of sustainable tourism.

  • Sustainable Tourism

    This site describes how sustainable tourism development guidelines and management practices are applicable to all forms of tourism in all types of destinations, including mass tourism and the various niche tourism segments.

  • Making Tourism More Sustainable: A Guide for Policy Makers

    This guide provides a comprehensive set of instruments for governments to help ensure tourism ventures are economically, socially, and environmentally successful over the long-term.


  • Tourism Australia

    This website is dedicated to sustainability in the Australian tourism industry outlining definitions and terms, possible approaches, best practise case studies and other resources.

  • Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre

    The STCRC was established under the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centres program in 1997, and was formed to underpin the development of a dynamic, internationally competitive, and sustainable Australian tourism industry.

  • Tourism Queensland

    This site outlines a number of reasons for adopting sustainable tourism practices in a tourism business as a means to reduce operating costs as well as attracting and retaining staff with sustainability values.

  • South Australia

    The SA Sustainable Tourism Package comprises a series of 16 aligned initiatives and projects designed to ensure the sustainable development of tourism consistent with South Australia's tourism vision.

  • Steps to Sustainable Tourism

    This document is a tool for tourism industry stakeholders to assist in the development of tourism products or destinations that achieve a range of sustainable benefits for communities and the environment.

  • Sustainable Tourism Australia

    This site outlines a national sustainable tourism certification program designed for all sectors of the tourism industry (regardless of size), including hotels, attractions, tours, transport, restaurants, travel agents, and industry bodies.

Other Resources

  • Sustainable Tourism Online

    Sustainable Tourism Online is a comprehensive online information resource delivering substantial research, data and tools within three main sustainability themes - Destinations and Communities, Business Operations and Parks, and Culture.

  • Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance

    The GSTA is a partnership of leading organizations in the sustainable tourism field working together to apply a holistic and market-driven approach to sustainable tourism development.

  • Sustainable Tourism Laboratory

    This site assists communities with incorporating sustainable tourism principles into the strategic tourism destination planning process.

  • Tour Operators' Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development

    This site provides practical management tools for tourism operators to assist in developing tourism products or services that optimize benefits while minimizing adverse environmental, social and economic impacts.

  • Sustainable Travel International

    STI is dedicated to providing education and outreach services that help travelers, travel providers and related organizations support environmental conservation and protect cultural heritage while promoting cross-cultural understanding and economic development.

  • Renewable Energy in Tourism Initiative

    RETI has published a set of manuals outlining current best practices in the application of renewable energy approaches in the tourism industry.


For additional information about how to make your tourism business more sustainable, please feel free to contact:

Paul Radchenko, Tourism Product Development Planner


Last reviewed/revised: December 9, 2013