Making change happen

In 2002, 280 representatives from all sectors of tourism from 20 countries attended the Cape Town Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, preceding the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. A declaration on responsible tourism was agreed.

The 2002 Cape Town declaration agreed that responsible tourism:

  • minimises negative economic, environmental and social impacts
  • generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well being of host communities; improves working conditions and access to the industry
  • involves local people in decisions that affect their lives and life chances
  • makes positive contributions to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage embracing diversity
  • provides more enjoyable experiences for tourists through more meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues
  • provides access for physically challenged people
  • is culturally sensitive, encourages respect between tourists and hosts, and builds local pride and confidence

A brief history of Responsible Tourism


  • 1994 - Environment Awareness Day launched 
  • 1996 - South Africa adopts Resonsible Tourism 
  • 1998 - Launch of Just a Drop
  • 1999 - CSD7 at the UN focuses on tourism and poverty reduction
  • 2000 - CSD7 at the UN focuses on tourism and poverty reduction


  • 2001 - UK Government sustainable Tourism initiative 
  • 2002 - World Summit on Sustainable Development Cape Town Declaration 
  • 2003 - UK Travel Foundation launched
  • 2004 - International Tourism Partnership founded and Responsible Tourism Awards launched at WTM
  • 2007 - 1st UNWTO Ministers' Summit on Tourism and Climate Change Launch of World Responsible Tourism Day


  • 2008 - Ed Fuller of Marriott in the Hot Seat with Stephen Sackur 
  • 2009 - Adam Stewart of Sandals Resorts in the Hot Seat with Stephen Sackur
  • 2011 - Launch of Responsible Tourism programme at Arabian Travel Market 
  • 2012 - Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development and Responsible Tourism on the programme in Sao Paulo 
  • 2013 - Awards in their 10th year renamed the World Responsible Tourism Awards


  • 2014 - Responsible Tourism programme at WTM Africa and Africa Responsible Tourism Awards launched 
  • 2015 - UN Sustainable Development Goals launched and Responsible Tourism features in the Industry Report for the first time 
  • 2017 - WTM London took owership of the World Responsible Tourism Awards
  • 2019 - WTM Latin America Responsible Tourism Awards launched

Learn more about us

Read on to learn more about what we do and how we are going to achieve our goal of becoming a more sustainable tourism industry.