Building a Thriving Community to Support Sustainable Tourism Initiatives


Photo by Matheus Bertelli

A thriving tourist destination doesn’t arise due to the efforts of a single business or even city leadership. It is really the commitment and talent of the entire community of businesses and concerned citizens that are the most important. When locals collaborate in meaningful and organized ways, visitors have the opportunity to have fun and enriching experiences while at the same time the local community can reap the benefits from tourist dollars and an overall better environment.

By the same token, the community must work together on sustainable tourism efforts. Sure, a single business or organization may offer a certain amount of environmentally and socially responsible activities. But attempting improvements in isolation doesn’t always make a great impact. On the other hand, a committed and collaborative community built around your business can be a powerful tool for making tourism a force for good in the world.

In this blog, we’ll examine some important aspects to take into consideration when working to build a thriving community to support sustainable tourism initiatives.

Engage the Community

The first step in creating a sustainable tourism environment is to actively engage the community. 

Some of the best ways to approach this could be in the form of:


Community engagement benefits from raising local awareness of the efforts being made. Local tourist boards and business leaders should collaborate on marketing campaigns. This should include videos and news stories that make it clear what the intentions of the initiatives are and why sustainable tourism is important. Alongside the ethical and environmental aspects, this marketing should also highlight the benefits for the community at large. Vitally, the marketing campaign should drive enthusiasm for the initiatives and emphasize the importance of collaboration with the whole community.


Not everybody will be clear on exactly what sustainable tourism entails. Those leading initiatives should produce educational sessions and materials. Particularly when it comes to businesses, it’s important to offer information on the less obvious forms of sustainability. Alongside green actions, sustainable tourism also involves making companies more accessible to a wider range of people. This isn’t limited to supporting those with physical mobility challenges. It also means helping businesses understand how microaggressions in the workplace can be damaging to employees and consumers alike. Education that aids locals to mitigate behavioral, environmental, and verbal stressors is a key step toward a more inclusive community.


Community engagement in sustainable tourism initiatives can’t just be a one-way street. There needs to be a significant element of interaction surrounding the planning and execution of activities. As such, it’s worth arranging community meetings and roundtables to discuss the issue. Make sure these are accessible to residents of all backgrounds. This isn’t just a method to encourage more people to get involved. It also provides greater community ownership of the initiatives. Moreover, it provides a diversity of perspectives that can give sustainable tourism projects valuable nuanced insights into challenges and solutions.

Create Local Non-Profits

Community sustainable tourism efforts involve a significant amount of planning. Not to mention they’ll need funding. Larger cities might benefit from dedicated tourist boards or sustainability councils with budgets to make active improvements. But for smaller communities with various challenges to address, it can be worth establishing non-profit organizations.

Some of these might be geared toward projects to make sustainable adjustments in key areas of tourism. For instance, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council helps monitor and improve the health of local coral reefs. It also gives tourists advice on how to interact with the ocean sustainably. If you live in a small coastal community, your non-profit could be geared toward arranging beach clean-ups or tracking the impact of tourists on local marine life. If your community is based in a city, you might create a non-profit to fund sustainable tourist travel around the area by building and maintaining cycle lanes.

One of the plus sides of creating non-profits for sustainable tourism initiatives is the ability to set and achieve your desired goals. There is a clear focus on intended outcomes and ways members of the community can get involved. Doing so also provides official points of contact and responsibility when members of the community have ideas or concerns. This way, local businesses may be more inclined to donate to initiatives as a certain amount can be deducted from federal tax payments.

Encourage Tourist Communication

Sustainable tourism can only be effective if the community is actively talking about it with tourists. Locals may fully commit to protecting their landscape and having a more inclusive environment. But visitors may not always share the same pride for the area or understand how they can appropriately interact with it. This untethered visitor impact is among the reasons Thailand’s Maya Bay was at one time closed to visitors indefinitely.

As such, it’s important to develop community initiatives to get the sustainability message to tourists. This can begin before they even arrive in the local area. Hotels, restaurants, businesses, and travel agents should include messaging on their websites. This should include information about the importance of environmental protection and ethical social behavior and how tourists are expected to act accordingly.

There should also be efforts to discuss this subject with tourists in-person. This doesn’t have to be a confrontational approach when locals witness non-sustainable behavior. Rather, it can be based on education. Encourage community members to have discussions with visitors about what sustainability means in the area. Accommodation providers can provide insights into local points of natural beauty along with the conservation efforts that have been put in place. Businesses can even advise about where visitors can cleanly dispose of paper, cardboard, or single-use plastics.


Tourism that is environmentally and socially sustainable is key to reducing the negative impact that it can have on communities. It’s important to implement initiatives that allow visitors to have fun while also behaving responsibly. Members of the community should be involved in spearheading such efforts through dedicated non-profits, active engagement, and targeted tourist messaging. Their insights and commitment can help ensure everyone continues to benefit from tourism experiences in a positive way.

Sea Going Green is a sustainable tourism consultancy supporting destinations and tourist operators with strategies that leave a positive impact behind on local communities and the environment.

Learn more about how you can make an impact.

 A thriving tourist destination doesn’t arise due to the efforts of a single
business or even city leadership. It is really the commitment and talent of
the entire community of businesses and concerned citizens that are the most

In this blog, we’ll examine some important aspects to take into
consideration when working to build a thriving community to support
sustainable tourism initiatives.Read MoreEducationBlog – Sea Going Green


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