Principles of Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is characterised by a variety of principles including:

Being different

The key to successful and sustainable tourism is achieving a clear sense of difference from other competing destinations. This can be achieved by basing development and marketing on the attributes and strengths of the destination.

Achieving authenticity

The attractions most likely to be successful, and those with the greatest enduring appeal, are those which are genuinely relevant to the history, industry, culture, lifestyle and natural resources of the area.

Reflecting community values

This means representing the past, present and future aspirations of the local community in a living and dynamic way rather than embalming the past or imposing development. This involves listening to and responding to the community.

Understanding and targeting the market

Understanding the broad market trends and the needs of specific segments is critical. This involves the development of specialised products based on the inherent attributes of an area.

Enhancing the experience

People’s motivation for travel is to seek something they cannot experience at home. The ‘bundling’ of attributes enhances the appeal of a place and the likelihood of visitation.

Adding value

Adding value to existing attributes achieves a richer tourism experience and helps to diversify the local economy. This can include accommodation, sales outlets or dining, in association with established industries.

Respecting natural and cultural values

Sustainable tourism development derives its form and appeal from these qualities, and adds to the special nature of the destination.

Achieving conservation outcomes

A mutually beneficial alliance can be achieved between tourism and conservation. That is, through understanding and enjoyment comes greater appreciation and empathy, advocacy and protection for the resource.

Having good content (‘telling the story’)

Tourism development can interpret (present and explain) natural, social, historic and ecological features. Telling the story provides a more rewarding experience and ultimately helps conserve the destination.

Enhancing sense of place through design

Good design respects the resource, achieves conservation outcomes, reflects community values, and is instrumental in telling the story. It is not just about form and function but also about invoking an emotional response from the visitor.

Providing mutual benefits to visitors and hosts

Tourism is not encouraged for its own sake. It is an economic and community development tool and must take into account the benefits that both the host community and the visitor seek.

Building local capacity

Good tourism businesses do not stand isolated from the communities in which they operate. They get involved with the community and collaborate with other businesses and stakeholders and help to build local capacity.

While all of the 12 principles described in above contribute to the success of a sustainable tourism development, three are critical to viability:

  • understanding and targeting the market
  • enhancing the experience
  • enhancing sense of place through design

These can be summed up in the statement:

“Providing a target market with a desired experience in a unique place.”

Target market; desired experience; and place: these are the three key elements to get right at the very beginning of a project. Each of these three elements is related to the others, and they all need to be aligned to create a successful sustainable tourist development.

Creating a tourism development can start with any of these. One might have a special site in mind, or want to offer a unique experience, or see an opportunity to satisfy a particular market. The beginning point is not important. What is important is to make sure all three aspects are aligned to provide a target market with a desired experience in a unique place.

Lorton Consulting has extensive experience in planning sustainable tourism to and within a particular site, town, region, development corridor, state, province or country. Please contact us now so that we can assist you with your Sustainable Tourism Planning needs.


  1. Bravo. This sums up exactly what we aim to achieve. Well stated and listed succinctly. Please have a look and let us know what you think.
    We take each point seriously and have worked diligently to make them a reality.
    Warm regards,

  2. Great article!

    Michael at Floating Leaf. Looks great what you’re doing too.

    “Come to Sapa and leave more than just footprints…”

    Best regards,


  3. Thanks Peter
    I would love to come see you guys as well.

    Warm regards,

  4. korir

    good stuff
    adds more in promoting sustainable development

  5. Sam Mugabe

    Good job. Uganda the pearl of Africa invites you

  6. james

    well allied sustainable tourism is now the leading industry

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