What is the Future for Sustainable Tourism


One thing that we know for a fact is that travel will not stop. We have already surpassed 1 billion international travelers per year in less than 4 decades and the forecast is that the number will continue to grow. With increasing global concern on how human activities are making the planet uninhabitable and how we have already wiped out almost 60% of wildlife species, the concern is whether economic activities like tourism can be made sustainable.

What we already know is happening is that the demand for sustainable travel is growing among travelers while their unawareness on the sustainable tourism options available to them is decreasing. This is according to a booking.com report released in 2018. The report showed that 87% of travelers want to travel sustainably while those who were unaware of sustainable travel options were 31%, a decline of 8% of what was reported in 2017. In 2017 the number was at 39% unaware while in 2016 the number was at 38% unaware.

The number of sustainable tourism certification schemes is also increasing and the benchmarks for standards getting higher and higher as certification schemes evolve from the increasing awareness on the impacts of travel, pressure from global demands for sustainable development and from competition with each other.

Furthermore, governments have prioritized sustainable tourism to become a tool for achieving global sustainable development rather than being GDP arguments of country specific economic development strategies. Governments have also realized that tourism has negative impacts that undermine achievement of sustainable development, example being its contribution to global warming.

While some these of these trends show a positive shift towards sustainability for the travel sector; the number of travelers who manage to travel sustainably is only 10%, the global number of eco certified tourism businesses is less than 5%; locals are starting to riot against tourists, people in tourism concentrated areas remain poor especially in developing nations and Africa’s tourism is on a snail pace growth despite a global growing demand for wildlife based tourism.

The 16th Interuniversity seminar on sustainable tourism focused on the Future of Sustainable Tourism where students discussed on what has changed in travel, what is changing in travel and what is against the change in travel to become sustainable.

Emerging Issues

Advancement in information technology is disrupting travel. Information about destinations has become readily available to the traveler and making travel arrangements has been made easier thanks to fast internet, advancement in internet access supported devices, increasing number of online travel agents (OTAs) and increasing travel knowledge exchange in internet travel social forums and social media platforms. Travel costs have started to go down as supplier push on having best prices available on the internet.
On the other hand, knowing the traveler has become harder and instead of spreading out travelers are concentrating in popular destinations trending on the internet.
Promotion of travel has changed and it has also become more demanding and expensive for destination marketers. The growing demand for sustainable travel has forced destination marketers to start the shift from marketing attractions and products to marketing travel experiences. Since the traveler has also become more aware and has unique demands, destination marketing organizations have been forced to invest more on research and in developing unique marketing campaigns.
Resources for creating tourism experiences vs livelihood resources for host communities. Over 1 billion people travel internationally every year. They have to go somewhere and they have to use resources of that somewhere for creating their travel experience. The problem is that somewhere has residents who use the same resources found there for their livelihood. Competition for resources is increasing and it is often the local residents that lose out, both in developed and developing destinations. In developed nations tourists have started to outnumber the local residents sometimes leading to situations where residential homes being converted to tourist homes and become too expensive for the residents to live in. In developing nations access to land and water is sometimes used to create luxury tourism experiences at the expense of the local residents.

On the other hand, human population growth is also threatening tourism. Wildlife habitat areas are being converted to settlement areas for building infrastructure or for agriculture to meet the growing demand for food. Poverty created by limited opportunities and diminishing access to finite resources has also escalated poaching.
Training and sustainable tourism. Tourism is changing fast and it is changing faster than training curriculum. It emerged that tourism training curriculum was taking too long to respond to the demand for tourism to be developed more sustainable ways and to the changing needs of travel especially on product development and service delivery. What employers expect from graduates do not match the realities in terms of training.
Travel vs Hospitality adoption of sustainable tourism. It emerged that hospitality was more responsive to demand for sustainable travel than tourism where hotels are leading the way in adopting sustainable tourism practices. Tour operators and destination planners are still slow in adopting sustainable tourism practices.
Tourism business models are changing.
It emerged that tourism businesses are now becoming more of social enterprises where tourism businesses are increasingly introducing foundations to ensure both social and economic progress of the business and the local communities that host the business.


Student recommendation was concentrated on the training curriculum. It is the youth who are expected to shape the future of tourism and make it more sustainable as travelers, as employees, as planners and as entrepreneurs. With the right training, travel will change in all aspects.
1. Training curriculum- More student exposure programs and on the job learning mentorship programs are needed to fill the gap between training curriculum and employment expectations for sustainable tourism development. Training curriculum should be reviewed to remove irrelevant units and include relevant sustainable tourism units.


The future of sustainable tourism looks promising going by the trends. The traveler is increasingly becoming more aware of the negative impacts of their travel and is increasingly demanding for sustainable travel options. Hotels are also responding positively by adopting sustainable tourism practices and forcing destination planners, destination markers and tour operators to follow suit.
However, when it comes to actual travel, the good intention by travelers is not translated into practice leading to situations like over tourism, mainly driven by the internet and social media craze. The internet has also made it difficult to know who exactly the traveler is and what experiences they want beyond authenticity.
Furthermore, with a number similar to the population of China travelling every year, coupled by the increasing global population of human beings, pressure on finite resources is only increasing. Day Zero, experienced in Cape Town South Africa is likely to become a common phenomenon across the globe.
The only solution to these challenges that are threatening the future of sustainable tourism is create a generation that will change travel for the better. Training this generation will require a change in how we teach tourism to our travelers, future tourism planners, future employees and future tourism entrepreneurs. The future of sustainable tourism is therefore dependent on our educational training curriculum and mentorship programs.


Student Presentations

Threats to the Future of Sustainable Tourism by Ian and Lilian of Muranga’ University of Technology
The Future of Sustainable Tourism and Current Undergraduate Tourism and Hospitality Training Curriculum by Felix from Kenya Methodist university

Organization, Institutions and Business Presentations

Trends in Sustainable Tourism presented by Lucy Atieno of Sustainabel Tarvel and Tourism Agenda
Does Sustainability Sell in Tourism? Presented by Paula Okello of Uniglobe Lets Go Travel
Promoting Sustainable Tourism, what has Changed? Presented By Fiona Ngesa of Kenya Tourism Board
Is Kenya Responding to Sustainable Tourism Demand? Presented by Dr. Joseph Njoroge of Murang’a Tachnical University


Presenters of the day and lecturers of participating universities.

Session Moderators (Students)

Cephas of University of Nairobi

Universities in Attendance

Murang’a Technical University-Hosts
Zetech University
Dedan Kimathi University
University of Nairobi
Mount Kenya University
Kenya Methodist University
Technical University of Kenya
Total number of Students in attendance: 161

The inter-university seminars is an activity of the the Knowledge Safe Space of the STTA Young Change Makers Program

1 Comment

  • Felix Abel

    Good work STTA,with this trend then certainly we’re no longer viewed as tomorrow’s change makers but actualizing that now even as we exit the academic arena and get into the industry to revolutionize it.
    Keep it up sustainability champions.

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