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Journal number 3 ∘ Bashir Hajiyev

Summary. Green tourism as an important component of the transition to a green economy is considered in the article. Analyzing the features of this transition, the author considers the existing challenges for the development of green tourism, opportunities in the context of a green economy, as well as the creation of conditions for greening of tourism.

Keywords: green tourism, green economy, ecotourism, transition.


Currently, the transition to a green economy is one of the priorities of the world community on the path to sustainable development. Tourism, and especially green tourism, is an important sector where transformation is necessary and possible.

As known, a green economy is a system of economic activities related to the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, which lead to an increase in human well-being in the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks or ecological scarcity.

The UN Environment, the leading global environmental authority, has identified ten key sectors for the transition to a green economy: agriculture, housing and utilities, energy, fisheries, forestry, industry, tourism, transport, waste management and water management [1]. For the transition to a green economy it is necessary to invest only 2% of global GDP in these ten key sectors by 2050 [2].

UN Environment and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) believe that tourism in the context of a green economy means tourism activities that take full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, as well as meeting the needs of consumers of services (tourists), industry and local communities [3]. 

Challenges for the development of green tourism

The tourism industry is faced with many serious problems associated with greening and sustainable development. Among the specific tasks that need to be solved are the following:

Energy and greenhouse gas emissions

Tourism is an important source of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The development of tourism is associated with an increase in energy consumption (mainly based on renewable energy) in travel, including transport, in places of residence and in the provision of tourist services. All this contributes to the exacerbation of climate change.

According to various estimates, tourism currently contributes about 5.2–12.5% ​​of all greenhouse gas emissions. All this, in turn, negatively affects the prospects for the development of tourism, increasing uncertainty and risks for its development.

Water consumption

The tourism industry consumes a large amount of water - moreover, in terms of one person, these figures are greater in travels than in a country of permanent residence. Thus, according to UN Environment, in Europe an average of 300 liters of fresh water per day is consumed per tourist, and in expensive hotels up to 880 liters [1]. For comparison: the average per capita water consumption for each European is estimated at around 250 liters per day. Water in tourism is used both directly for drinking and hygiene, as well as for landscaping, in the hotel industry, catering facilities, laundries, swimming pools, SPAs, health centers, etc.

Waste and waste water

According to UN Environment estimates, every international tourist in Europe in the mid-2000 generated at least 1 kg of solid waste per day, and in the US - up to 2 kg. Globally, 35 million tons of solid waste is generated annually from domestic and international tourism in the world [1].

Tourism can also directly affect water quality, for example, by discharging untreated sewage. This often happens in developing countries, but it also happens in relatively rich developed countries. For example, according to the WWF, in the mid-2000 wastewater discharges from hotels directly into the sea have been a common practice in the Mediterranean region, and only 30% of these have been cleaned before. Besides that, 80% of urban sewage discharged into the Mediterranean Sea is untreated [4].

Loss of biodiversity

There are many examples where large-scale tourism has a negative impact on biodiversity, including coral reefs, coastal wetlands, forests, arid and semi-arid mountain ecosystems.

Coral ecosystems have been severely affected by the use of corals for building materials for hotels; fish populations are reduced due to over-fishing for feeding tourists; habitats of many species are disturbed due to improper placement of tourist buildings, parking lots, golf courses. Flora and fauna also suffer from the creation of beaches.

The preservation of biological diversity is recognized by the world community as the most important task on which the survival and development of mankind depends. In addition to the destruction of the global and local natural environment, problems in this area narrow the possibilities for the development of the local economy and generate conflicts with the local population. At the same time, the situation in biodiversity largely depends on how tourism develops, especially in developing countries. In this regard, a lot of work should be done in the world on the integration of sustainable development principles in the tourism planning process. For example, UNWTO and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have developed the CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development [5].

Cultural heritage

Tourist interest in unique cultures can lead to negative consequences and serious destruction of local communities. The number of negative examples of deterioration of the situation in unique places is growing due to the large number of visitors, the commercialization of traditions and the threat to the cultural survival of communities due to unplanned and uncontrolled tourism. Tourist destinations are often created by outsiders in areas that indigenous or traditional communities consider their own and where the development of tourism would be, from their point of view, undesirable. This creates conflict situations that make cooperation and obtaining mutual benefits very difficult. Recently, awareness of the problem of the impact of tourism on cultural heritage from government, international and non-governmental organizations, as well as the tourism industry, has begun to grow. 

Opportunities in the context of a green economy

There is an urgent need not only to respond to the challenges described above and reduce the negative effects of tourism, but also to maximize the potential of green tourism for the sustainable development of mankind, which is undoubtedly very great.

Tourism can contribute to economic growth

In the mid-2000 the tourism industry accounted for 5% of global GDP and provided about 8% of total employment [1]. This industry ranked fourth in world exports (after the fuel, chemical and automotive industries). Tourism has been growing steadily over the past 60 years, and the last 20 years - an average of 4% per year. And in the developing world, tourism is developing more rapidly than in developed countries. The tourism industry is expanding at a rapid pace in countries with economies in transition: it has grown by more than 60% since 2000. It is predicted that these trends will continue in the future. The development of tourism provides an incentive for the development of other sectors of the economy (agriculture, food and processing industries, transport and infrastructure, construction, services, etc.).

Changing consumption patterns

Studies show that the choice of tourists is increasingly influenced by environmental considerations - more and more people take into account the health of the environment when planning trips and prefer to stay in an environmentally friendly hotel. Such consumer preferences give additional impetus to initiatives to introduce green tourism.

Poverty reduction, social and local development

The ability of tourism to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, accumulate foreign exchange, improve infrastructure, and promote environmental protection makes this industry an attractive tool for alleviating poverty and accelerating local development. As an example, Cape Verde: the country managed to move from the category of low human development African country to medium human development country with the most effective management systems thanks to tourism, which has become a key driver of development. A similar experience has developed in Rwanda, Kenya, Jamaica. Therefore, the development of tourism can make an important contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

With proper management, the development of tourism will benefit not only the country as a whole, but also individual regions and local communities.

The tourism planning process needs to take into account employment opportunities and decent working conditions for the local population, as well as such important factors for local communities as infrastructure improvement, access to water supply, sanitation, health care, and education. The development of tourism provides women, youth and disadvantaged groups with disabilities a significant opportunity to become producers of tourism services. 

Creation of conditions for greening of tourism

The impact of tourism on sustainable development is not unambiguous: this sector can have both positive and negative effects depending on how it is planned, developed and managed.

To stimulate the greening of tourism, a set of favorable conditions is necessary, among which are:

Private Sector Orientation

Tourism is a heterogeneous industry, thousands of different companies work in various areas of the tourism industry - mass tourism, ecotourism, adventure, rural tourism, cruise, recreational, etc. The main market share is occupied by accommodation companies, catering, tour operators, transport and advertising companies. Most of the enterprises in the industry are small and medium-sized businesses: for example, small hotels make up an average of 80% of all hotels in the world, while in Europe this figure reaches 90%. Greening of tourism is impossible without the support of various types of companies, taking into account their size, scope and specificity.

Development of dialogue with representatives of the tourism sector

Associations of companies operating in the tourism sector play an important role in the greening of tourism, therefore their participation in the development and implementation of a new sustainable development policy is extremely important. More and more travel companies are introducing the concept of corporate social responsibility. Tourist associations play an important role in the formation of SMEs in the green economy. International development institutions can play a special role in this area - for example, they can support projects in the field of efficient use of resources (reducing water consumption, non-renewable energy sources, reducing CO2 emissions and waste, preserving biodiversity), and promote the use of internationally recognized sustainable tourism standards.

Management, planning and development of tourist destinations

When planning tourist destinations, the environmental component is often not sufficiently taken into account, while this is a key point for greening tourism. Studies show that many decision makers experience the lack of knowledge and experience to implement the principles of sustainable development of tourism in practice. Capacity building and institutional strengthening in this area are needed to fully take into account the interrelationship of economic, environmental and social factors.

Development of strategies for the development of sustainable tourism based on advanced approaches and experience in this field is required, with the support of the high political leadership of the country, region or individual locality, with clear mechanisms and implementation indicators, under participation of various ministries and agencies, tourism business, non-governmental organizations, local authorities and the general public.

Fiscal policy and economic instruments

Greening of tourism will require the use of advanced instruments of government regulation, such as fiscal policy, public investment and pricing for various public goods.

Government investments should be focused on encouraging the transition to green tourism, supporting initiatives for both environmental protection and value creation. Market trends and competitive advantages should be mutually reinforced, and policies in various fields should be coordinated with each other.

Market failures (external factors) should be consistently eliminated, avoiding the creation of additional distortions through government intervention. Social policies should include compensation and benefits for workers, access to improved opportunities, development of human resources, human resources, and integration of the value chain.

Investing in green tourism

It is necessary to stimulate investment in the tourism sector, which, along with economic efficiency, would contribute to solving environmental and social problems, especially in developing countries. Of particular importance is the mobilization of local investment. 


Since tourism is playing an important role in economy, a green tourism is a considerable component of the transition to a green economy. Thus, all types of tourism should become green and sustainable, namely:

  1. make optimal use of environmental resources, which are a key element for the development of tourism, support key environmental processes and promote the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity;
  2. respect the sociocultural identification of local communities, help preserve their cultural heritage and traditional values;
  3. to ensure sustainable long-term economic activities that provide socioeconomic equitable benefits for all parties involved, including tourist satisfaction, stable employment and income-generating opportunities, and social services to host communities.

The existing challenges for the development of green tourism, opportunities in the context of a green economy, as well as the creation of conditions for greening of tourism definitely should be taken into consideration.

In general, developing green tourism requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide public participation in the decision-making process and consensus building. 


  1. ЮНЕП (2011). Навстречу «зеленой» экономике: пути к устойчивому развитию и искоренению бедности - обобщающий доклад для представителей властных структур. [Electronic resource]: Retrieved from http://old.ecocongress.info/5_congr/docs/doklad.pdf
  2. International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (2011). ЮНЕП: «Зеленая экономика» принесет больше преимуществ, чем традиционная экономическая система. [Electronic resource]: Retrieved from https://www.ictsd.org/bridges-news/%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D1%8B/news/%D1%8E%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%BF-%C2%AB%D0%B7%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F-%D1%8D%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0%C2%BB-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%88%D0%B5-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B8%D0%BC%D1%83%D1%89%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2-%D1%87%D0%B5%D0%BC-%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%8F
  3. United Nations Environment Programme and World Tourism Organization (2012). Tourism in the Green Economy – Background Report, UNWTO, Madrid. [Electronic resource]: Retrieved from https://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284414529
  4. World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF, 2019). Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. [Electronic resource]: Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/oceans/problems/pollution/
  5. CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development. [Electronic resource]: Retrieved from https://www.cbd.int/tourism/guidelines.shtml