A Tool for Social, Environmental and Economic Change

Impact Monitoring

Around the world, one in every 11 jobs is travel and tourism-related. But many industry employees — including hotel housekeepers, taxi drivers and tour guides, for example — live in poverty, even in places where tourism generates healthy profits.  How do we begin to create a just, equitable and accountable industry so that the individuals and communities that most directly depend on travel and tourism benefit from its explosive growth? And how do we incentivize businesses and destinations that rely on visitors to maintain their cultural and natural assets — the very attributes that provide for unique and satisfying visitor experiences? Sustainable Travel International’s Impact Monitoring System is a unique, open-source tool, which unlike other reporting or monitoring programs allows for travel and tourism destinations and businesses to reliably monitor and report their progress on sustainability-related indicators. The widespread adoption of the system will enable the travel and tourism industry to follow in the footsteps of food, fashion and other sectors that have made significant strides toward corporate responsibility and accountability. It will allow the industry to protect the resources on which businesses and destinations depend while remaining relevant, competitive and attractive to the large and growing consumer segment that values transparency and accountability.

The case for social impact monitoring

Along with the explosive growth of travel and tourism is the industry’s footprint on resources. Unless current practices change, it is projected that by 2050 travel and tourism will require 192 percent more water and 189 percent more land than it currently uses.  Our pattern of production and consumption is unsustainable, and it’s leading to the destruction of the very characteristics that attract visitors to destinations in the first place. But despite the increasing demand for transparency by governments, businesses investors and consumers and the importance of reliable data for informed decision-making, most corporate reporting systems remain highly technical, costly and time-consuming. And ultimately, they are often weak in social impact monitoring — the very issues most relevant to employees, target markets and local people living in destinations that depend on tourism.

As a result of the limited sustainability data available for destinations and despite its enormous potential to alleviate poverty and conserve resources, tourism is not a high development priority for most governments and donor agencies.

What makes the sustainable travel international method different?

Building on its extensive expertise in developing standards, monitoring and planning for responsible growth, Sustainable Travel International’s system combines the best of indicator monitoring with a clear communication and reporting style that enables participating organizations to establish comparable baseline metrics, set concrete goals for lasting change and communicate these changes, particularly to those most impacted — the people living in travel and tourism destinations.

This new integrated system addresses previous barriers to monitoring by keeping information simple and accessible, using secondary data and allowing destinations and companies to assimilate the results for better planning. The system does not compare or rate destinations or corporations, and is not geared for technical or certification compliance. Rather, it is a user-friendly tool to benchmark performance and increase participation in and advocacy for equal economic opportunity and the protection of the world’s natural and cultural riches.

What exactly does the system measure?

The Sustainable Travel International system is designed to track and report on a variety of social, environmental, cultural and economic indicators that fall within three categories:


Tourism’s ability to create jobs, provide a living in tourism-dependant communities and directly impact lives.


Traveler spending, which encourages investment and protects the species, landscapes and cultural attractions that communities depends on.


Travel and tourism’s role in driving innovation around waste, energy and water conservation.

In addition to data collection, up to three impact verification techniques are used. They include surveys, collection and communication of impact narratives and the assessment of the well-being of people and places before, during and after a project or initiative has been instituted by a panel of experts.

An industry-wide tool for change

To encourage its adoption and use, Sustainable Travel International’s Impact Monitoring System has been specifically designed as an open-source tool. By using it, destinations and businesses will not only help to make the tool increasingly useful and accurate but they will become active participants in the organization’s goal to improve the lives of at least 10 million people through travel and tourism by 2025. For more information, please contact Robert Chappell, bobbyc@sustainabletravel.org.