The rapid growth of the global tourism sector has also bought along with it issues such as environmental degradation, adverse effect on natural resources such as land, freshwater and marine resources, and damage to eco-systems through considerable waste and pollution. There is now increasing agreement on the need to promote sustainable tourism development, especially in the developing nations of the world to minimize its environmental impact and to maximize socio-economic overall benefits at tourist destinations. The concept of sustainable tourism, as developed by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in the context of the United Nations sustainable development process, refers to tourist activities “leading to management of all resources in such a way that economic, social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity and life support systems”. In 1992, the ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio established the triple principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability. Since then, the principles of sustainable tourism have been adopted by the tourism industry worldwide.

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the major principles of sustainable tourism entail enhancing the wellbeing of communities, supporting the protection of the natural and cultural environment, recognizing product quality and tourist satisfaction, and ensuring that tourism is developed in a way which is ecological, economic and socially sustainable, adequate management and monitoring must be established, following the basic principles of sustainable use of resources.

NAM Member States have been at the forefront at implementing the principles outlined in major international frameworks related to sustainable tourism such as the decision 7/3 on tourism and sustainable development adopted at the 7th session of Commission for Sustainable Development in 1999, Quebec Declaration within the framework of the International Year of Ecotourism 2002 implemented by the Commission on Sustainable Development, International Guidelines for Biological Diversity and Tourism Development” in 2004, and the Marrakesh Task Force Sustainable Tourism, established in 2006, which is encouraging the implementation of actions that promote sustainable tourism through the development of support tools and presenting existing initiatives.

NAM has also welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly of Resolution A/RES/69/233 entitled “Promotion sustainable tourism, which recognizes that sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, represents an important driver of sustainable economic growth and decent job creation, that it can have a positive impact on income generation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger, and that it can contribute directly to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. The resolution encourages Governments at all levels to use sustainable tourism, including ecotourism, as a tool to support poverty eradication, environmental protection and/or conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity and to base tourism components on clear evidence of market demand and on a sound economic and environmental foundation.

A number of NAM Member States have initiated measures for promoting sustainable development. In Seychelles, where tourism is a major source of income, a number of policies have been designed in order to promote sustainable tourism. In recent years, the country has been a pioneer in the concept of a ‘blue economy” seeking to harness locally available marine, land and other resources in a responsible, sustainable and connected manner as a mainstay of long-term development. As well as having a long-established and robust legal framework for environmental protection and conservation, Seychelles has embarked on a project to develop a comprehensive marine spatial plan, whereby it defines the economic and conservation activities to be developed throughout our maritime zones, which includes a vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and areas of continental shelf beyond the EEZ. In India, a Sustainable Tourism Criteria for India has been set which entails the implementation of a long-term sustainability management system which considers environmental, sociocultural, quality, health and safety issue. The Criteria aims at maximising benefits to the environment and minimise negative impacts. Non-Aligned Movement has emphasised the strategic role of sustainable tourism in socio-economic development of the South and expressed their wish to have a common approach to boost cooperation in tourism strategy and promoting sustainable tourism in Member States.