Sustainable tourism

Projects and initiatives

The national competition "Sustainable Tourism Destination in Germany" has been carried out twice already. It was developed by the BMU to acknowledge regions that are particularly committed to sustainable tourism and to create an incentive for the development of domestic tourism. Following the first competition in 2012-2013 (prizewinner: Uckermark region) and further development, the second competition in 2016-2017 closed with the Schwäbische Alb biosphere reserve as the victor. The region won over the expert jury as an excellent example of how a consistently sustainable approach can strengthen the sense of community and identity among the local people. Nominees and winners were showcased in the sustainability report.

An evaluation of the previous competitions, to be completed by autumn 2020, will be finalised before the next competition. The evaluation aims to uncover the form of competition or perhaps other instrument that is best suited to support destinations in strengthening sustainable tourism in Germany and raising its profile in future.

A current research project on further development of sustainable tourism is examining the characteristics of sustainability in tourism and how and whether the sustainability in Germany's tourism industry can be measured, made transparent and compared. The project was already recognised as a pilot study of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) under the global initiative "Measuring the Sustainability of Tourism (MST)". It therefore also flanks the BMU's involvement in the tourism programme of the United Nations (UN) 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. The results, talks and presentations from the international conference are also available, as is the issues paper "Sustainability in tourism: developments, approaches and clarification of terms".

Climate change and adaptation to changing conditions for tourism destinations is another thematic focus. In addition to tourism amenities and products on offer, the demand side also plays a role when estimating the adaptation pressure tourism is under, this means the reaction time and sensitivity of travellers with regard to climatic changes. The study focusses on water tourism and tourism in the German Alps and lower mountainous regions. Current research findings are to be presented at a conference on 11 and 12 May 2020 in Dessau.

What effect is climate change having on tourism in winter months? Global warming is advancing at an even faster pace in the Alps than at lower altitudes. As winter tourism in the region depends on snowfall, this has already had a visible impact. The brochure on winter tourism and climate change summarises the latest climate and travel trends in winter tourism and shows how the expectations German tourists have for winter holidays have developed in recent years.

Online booking platforms are not the only form of digitalisation in tourism, however. The research project "The impact of digitisation and big data analysis on the sustainable development of tourism and its environmental impact" delves into the influence digitalisation can have on ecological and social aspects and the resulting opportunities and risks. 

The role sustainability plays for consumers searching for and booking holiday travels via online booking platforms is examined in the research project "Finding sustainability information on holiday travel (FINDUS)". 

The BMU is making its mark through additional research and model projects regarding the promotion of environmentally sound tourism in Germany and sustainable tourism trends in holiday destinations abroad frequented by German tourists. Specific measures aim to support the improved integration of environmental protection, climate action and biodiversity conservation into corporate decisions and tourist attractions.

Support is provided, for example, for:

  • cooperation and networking between stakeholders from nature conservation, tourism and sport,
  • nature conservation and environmental education-related nature experience activities in National Natural Landscapes,
  • organising sustainable trips for children and young people (Change and the City, Zero Impact Camps),
  • school hiking programmes (Schulwandern), nature and environmental protection in the Alps (for example Alpine Pearls on sustainable mobility or Alpenkonvention AAA+) and
  • Germany's largest energy-saving campaign in the hospitality sector on increasing energy and resource efficiency and protecting the climate, in cooperation with DEHOGA, the German Hotels and Restaurants Association.

The Federal Environment Ministry is also active internationally in the field of tourism under the Alpine Convention and the tourism programme of the United Nations (UN) 10 Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.