Sustainable tourism management instruments

Policy instruments for sustainable tourism management

Policy instruments for sustainable tourism management are like instruments in other fields of environmental policy. They can be economic (or market-based), regulatory (or command-and-control) and institutional instruments. Economic instruments include environmental taxes, user fees, financial incentives and tradable market permits, regulatory instruments include quotas and zoning, while institutional instruments refer to eco-labels and changes in property rights. Sometimes a combination of various instruments might be more effective than implementing a single one.

Tourist environmental tax

This tax is levied on tourists for environmental purposes. Whether or not a drop in tourism income will result depends mainly on the amount of tax being levied and the ability of a destination to compensate for higher prices with a higher quality of tourism products and services. Different levels of environmental tax in high and low tourist seasons can enable more equal distribution of the number of tourists during the year, and consequently reduce pressures on the environment and increase the stability of incomes. Although there are many ways in which tourist environmental tax can be collected, the tax bases that embrace the majority of tourists and are most often used in practice are either tourist arrival or departure, or number of nights spent at a destination.

Access fees

When access to a specific environmental resource can be controlled, access fees charged to tourists can serve as a simple mechanism for capturing part of the benefits derived from the resource. The most common used are entrance fees to protection areas. Access fees also are a typical tool to manage carrying capacity limits.

Financial incentives

These can be designed to change behaviour either by increasing or reducing the prices of particular goods or services. Governments can encourage the introduction of the use of environment friendly equipment for water and energy-saving at hotels by lowering taxes, providing subsidies or reducing import tariffs. In a similar way, taxes or tariffs on non-environmental goods or services could be raised. Incentives in the form of taxes on construction activities, or taxes on second homes and higher building permit costs might be useful for reducing construction activities that often coincide with tourism development.


These can be applied to almost any product or service offered to tourists that satisfy certain environmental criteria (accommodation facilities, tour operators, beaches, restaurants, marinas or tourist destinations). To be meaningful, an eco-label must be internationally recognised and administrated by a reputable organisation. The ‘Blue Flag’ is probably the best known international eco-label in tourism, which has been awarded to beaches and marinas in 36 countries worldwide. Green Globe 21 is also a certification for sustainable travel and tourism products and services, used principally in Asia, the Caribbean and Australia.


Setting a limit on the number of visitors admitted to a destination during a fixed period may include closure of certain places, like environmentally fragile areas at certain times; establishing a maximum number of accommodation units; determining a maximum number of persons allowed at certain tourist attraction, particular area or a whole country. These instruments prevent overcrowding and subsequently the degradation of the natural resources. Bhutan is the only country that has introduced a tourist quota at the national level. Its quota allows 6,000 foreign tourists and 3,000 tourists from neighbouring countries per year, with established fixed minimum daily expenditures per tourist.


This instrument for limiting construction activities allows for planned tourism development and is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. The physical plan that can restrict construction in environmentally sensitive areas (e.g. 100 metres from the coast) or minimise areas allocated for new construction. In the Maldives, for example, regulations state that the built environment should utilise no more than 20 percent of the total land area in order to maintain the natural beauty of an island environment. Moreover, two-story buildings are allowed only if there is enough vegetation to screen them from view.

Ecological economic zoning has also been proposed in climate change policy to protect Brazilian rainforests under Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation initiative.

More information about policy instruments can be found here:

With the similar goal to implement proper environmental policy the European Wilderness Society has developed and is currently implementing a standardized Wilderness norm: The European Wilderness Quality Standard and Audit System (EWQA). Among other important elements EWQA includes the principal of Wilderness Disturbance. Here the focus lies on the removal of infrastructure, well-planned tourism access and strictly regulated and limited road access to the area, to ensure minimum tourist impact on the Wilderness zones.

EWQA also provides expert recommendations on Wilderness management improvement  for best sustainable benefits of nature and human being.

You May Also Like

Please Leave a Comment

Join more 100+ forest experts demanding a radical change in German forestry management.

Sign the Open Letter to the German Federal Minister of Forestry and Agriculture

Open Letter to the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture

Federal Ministry of
Food and Agriculture
Minister Julia Klöckner
11055 Berlin

Dear Minister Klöckner,

The current situation of the forest in Germany is worrying. It is a forest crisis not only driven by climate change. The current crisis management of the forestry industry is backward-looking and harmful to the forest. The declaration announced at the meeting of ministers in Moritzburg can be described as a `Moritzburg declaration of bankruptcy´. We call on the state forestry industry to, instead of expensive rushed actions, finally carry out an expert analysis of its own work and to involve all stakeholders in this process. What is called for is a consistent departure from plantation forestry and a radical shift towards a management that treats the forest as an ecosystem and no longer as a wood factory.

On 1stAugust 2019, five forestry ministers of CDU and CSU-led states adopted a so-called “master plan” for the forest in Germany, which was affected by heat, bark beetles, fire and drought. As of 2020, the federal government is to make 800 million euros available as a reaction to climate change. This money is to be used to repair the damage caused, reforest the damaged areas and carry out `climate-adapted´ forest conversion – including the use of non-native tree species that have not yet been cultivated in the forest. Research should therefore focus on on tree species suitability and forest plant breeding in the future – keyword: `Climate-adapted forest of the future 2100´.

Remarkably, the damage caused primarily by the extreme drought of 2018 is attributed solely to climate change. Climate change is meeting a forest that is systemically ill due to the planting of non-native tree species, species poverty, monocultures, uniform structure, average low age, mechanical soil compaction, drainage etc. A healthy, resistant forest would look differently! The master plan emphasizes: sustainable, multifunctional and `active´ forest management remains indispensable – and thereby means that its unnatural state cannot be changed. Reference is made to the `carbon storage and substitution effects´ of wood products. The use of wood, e.g. in the construction industry, should be increased and thus the demand for wood should be further fueled – while knowing that the forest in Germany already cannot meet this demand. In fact, forest owners are suffering from poor timber prices due to an oversupply of trunk wood on the world market.

All these demands make clear: the current forestry strategy, which has been practiced for decades, should not change in principle. The concept is simple: cut down trees – plant trees. At best, the `design´ of the future artificial forests consisting of perfectly calculated tree species mixtures, that are believed to survive climate change without damages, can be changed. In all seriousness, the intention is to continue selling the public a so-called `future strategy´ to save the forest. This strategy seamlessly follows the model of a wood factory, that is met with general rejection and must be regarded as a failure in view of the coniferous plantations that are currently collapsing on a large scale. An essential part of the forests that have currently died is exactly the part that was reestablished in 1947 as coniferous monocultures on a much larger area than today. There is only one difference to the situation at the time: considerable amounts of money are to be made available from taxes for forest owners this time.

Climate change is progressing, and this, without a doubt, has massive impacts on all terrestrial ecosystems, including forests. To pretend that the last two years of drought alone caused the disaster is too cheap. On closer inspection, the disaster is also the result of decades of a forestry focused on conifers – in a country that was once naturally dominated by mixed deciduous forests. People do not like to admit that for more than 200 years they have relied on the wrong species of commercial tree (spruce) and have also created artificial, ecologically highly unstable and thus high-risk forest ecosystems. A whole branch of business has become dependent on coniferous wood. And now the German coniferous timber industry is on the verge of bankruptcy.

It would only have been honest and also a sign of political greatness if you and the forestry ministers in Moritzburg had declared: Yes, our forestry industry has made mistakes in the past, and yes, we are ready for a relentless analysis that takes into account not only purely silvicultural, but also forest-ecological aspects. Instead, you have confined yourselves to pre-stamped excuses that are already familiar to everyone and that lack any self-critical reflection.

Clear is: We finally need resting periods for the forest in Germany, which has been exploited for centuries. We need a new, ecologically oriented concept for future forest – not a hectic `forest conversion´, but simply forest development closer towards nature. This gives the forest as an ecosystem the necessary leeway to self-regulate and react to the emerging environmental changes. We need a systemic forest management that is no less profitable than the present one, but must be substantially more stable and resistant to foreseeable environmental changes. The aid for forest owners that all citizens are now required to pay through their taxes is only politically justified in the interest of common good, if the forests of the future that are being promoted by it, do not end up in the next disaster, some of which is produced by the forest management itself.

That is why the signatories request from the the Federal Government, and in particular you, Mrs Klöckner, a master plan worthy of the name:

On disaster areas (mainly in public forests!) reestablishment through natural forest development (ecological succession), among other things with pioneer tree species, is to be brought about. In private forests, ecological succession for reestablishment must be purposefully promoted. Larger bare areas should be planted with a maximum of 400 to 600 large plants of native species per hectare in order to permit ecological succession parallelly.
To promote ecological succession, the areas should no longer be completely and mechanically cleared; as much wood as possible should be left in the stand (to promote optimum soil and germ bed formation, soil moisture storage and natural protection against browsing). In private forests, the abandonment of use in disaster areas should be specifically promoted for ecological reasons and in order to relieve the burden on the timber market.

Regarding the promotion of reestablishment plantings in private forests: priority for native tree species (of regional origin); choose wide planting distances in order to leave enough space for the development of pioneer species. For the forests of the future: Minimize thinning (low-input principle), build up stocks through targeted development towards old thick trees, protect the inner forest climate / promote self-cooling function (should have highest priority due to rapidly progressing climate change!), prohibit heavy machinery, refrain from further road construction and expansion, permit and promote natural self-regulatory development processes in the cultivated forest and on (larger) separate areas in the sense of an compound system; drastically reduce the density of ungulate game (reform of hunting laws).

Like in the field of organic agriculture, which has been established since the 1980s, the crisis of our forests should be the reason today to transform at least two existing forestry-related universities. They should be turned into universities for interdisciplinary forest ecosystem management. This is a contribution not only to the further development of forestry science and silviculture in Germany, but also of global importance! The goal must be to produce wood through largely natural forest production and to start with it here in Germany, the birthplace of forestry.


**your signature**

Share this with your friends:

%d bloggers like this: