Four years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015, we are at a critical moment for the planet as a global ecosystem, both for the biodiversity it hosts and for the people who inhabit it. The social and environmental challenges are so enormous and complex that they require urgent and coordinated responses. Decisions and actions in the face of these challenges will condition the survival of our species. The 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide us with a roadmap and also a practical guide to change the course and orient ourselves towards fairer and greener development.
The annual report prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), which evaluates all countries concerning their degree of compliance with the 17 SDGs, places our country at the top of the world ranking. However, according to the 2019 report, Spain has not yet approved any of the SDGs, scoring particularly low on Goals 9 (innovation), 12 (consumption and production), 13 (climate change) and 14 (marine ecosystems). We will have to make a great deal of effort in the coming years to achieve the targets defined in these goals by 2030. But, above all, it will be necessary to identify how we can apply this Agenda to the different socio-economic sectors of our country.
Tourism is, undoubtedly, one of the leading development drivers both in Spain and worldwide. It is perhaps the industry with the most higher growth rates, in terms of the number of tourists and its contribution to many countries’ GDP. However, this growth is at the crossroads of being carried out either by applying sustainability criteria or, on the contrary, contributing to making our planet an increasingly unsustainable destination. The tourism sector’s commitment to achieving the 17 SDGs can play an essential role in engaging the new generations in a sustainability scenario that requires collective involvement and participation.
This report intends to provide the necessary criteria to evaluate the efforts undertaken by the tourism sector to incorporate the SDGs. It is a first approach that can be expanded and improved upon, hoping that it will serve as a starting point. Simultaneously, it can be a guide for self-evaluation and reflection, to facilitate the identification of the weak points of a destination and establish future lines of action. Evaluation is, without a doubt, a basis that helps to build tourism projects and activities that are more committed to a future that must be sustainable.
Various professionals participated in the preparation of this paper. Thus, we would like to thank the members of the RTI’s Scientific Council for their inputs to the chapter on tourism’s contribution to the SDGs, and the valuable work carried out by the Barcelona Provincial and City Councils in defining the “Biosphere Commitment to Sustainable Tourism”.
Also, we would like to acknowledge the different institutions that have supported the conceptualisation of the impact of the 17 SDGs on tourism in more local and regional areas such as the City Council of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the City Council of Arona, the Island Council of Lanzarote, the Government of Castile and Leon, the City Council of Ibague (Colombia), the Basque Tourism Agency (Basquetour), Thompson Okanagan British Columbia (Canada) and the Historical Villages of Portugal. They have all shared their experiences for the preparation of a guide that intends to provide a series of criteria that can allow tourism projects to take firmer and more committed steps towards sustainability and compliance with the SDGs.
This document is an initiative of the Spanish Network for Sustainable Development (REDS) and the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI).
Authors: Tomás Azcárate, Javier Benayas, Giuseppe Nerilli and Ana Justel
Edition and revision: Marta García Haro (REDS)
Contributors: Beatriz Margallo, Marta Fernández del Castillo, Elena Ranz, Jorge Rodríguez, Julie
Palacios, Daniela Marcano, Giulia Sabattoli y Patricio Azcárate.
The report should be cited as: Azcárate T., Benayas J., Nerilli G. and Justel A., 2019. “A guide to
Sustainable Tourism”, REDS, Madrid.