Tourism plays a key role in the European Union because of its economic and employment potential as well as its social and environmental impact. Indeed, the industry is the third largest economic sector in the EU. Tourism represents more than 2.3 million businesses (mostly SMEs), employing up to 17 million people. In 2018, the travel and tourism industry accounted for 10.3% of EU gross domestic product (European Parliamentary Research Service, 2017). The number of international tourist arrivals in EU reached 671 million in 2017, which represents more than half of the worldwide market (51%). And these figures are expected to increase in the coming years…
Unfortunately, it also has negative effects on its environment: pressure on nature resources, pollution and physical impacts. For example, tourism emits 4.9% of global GHG emissions, and these are predicted to more than double by 2050 in the business-as-usual scenario (European Parliamentary Research Service, 2017). Nevertheless, the tourism sector and climate change are interlinked. While tourism contributes to GHG emissions, mostly from tourist transport, it is also heavily impacted by climate change.
The environmental dimension of tourism is becoming increasingly important over time. Indeed, today, an increasing number of projects promoting sustainable and ethical tourism are already being launched. Sustainable tourism labels are part of this movement. It all began in 1987 with the introduction of the Blue Flag dealing with beaches, and the Blue Thistle, covering accommodations in the Kleinwalsertal, Austria. The number of sustainable tourism labels in the world reaching 60 in 2000. In 2017, 231 labels were listed, involving between 40,000 and 50,000 tourism organisations worldwide (i.e., 1% of all tourism organisations) (Plüss, Zotz, Monshausen, & Kühhas, 2012).
According to UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the future of tourism should be sustainable. This is the reason why certifications, rewarding positive impact on the environment and the society, are expected to increasingly continue becoming more important.