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 / Autumn 2010 / Issue 60(originally published by Booz & Company)


Destination: Green Tourism

Marketing and public relations. A strong marketing and public relations campaign is essential for any green initiative. An effective campaign can encourage stakeholders to participate in the program and address potential investors. For example, New York City has created the “Powerful Green Map of NYC,” which guides visitors on a tour of the city’s energy-efficient resources. The map’s highlights include the biomass-powered Statue of Liberty, underwater turbines that generate low-impact electricity in the East River, and a warehouse of reusable building materials in the borough of Queens.

Three Steps to a Green Strategy

Addressing each of the environmental issues and enabling systems and structures requires prioritization and commitment, and they are all intertwined, making the creation of a coherent, environmentally sustainable tourism strategy a challenging endeavor. Moreover, each destination is different; Kenya’s history, culture, ecology, assets, and obstacles are vastly different from those of the Maldives, for example. Each strategy for sustainable tourism must be customized. How, then, should a destination begin to go about crafting such a strategy?

Step 1: Assess your environmental health. Policymakers must first conduct a professional and credible baseline analysis, probing both the strengths and weaknesses of their location as a destination ecosystem. Compare your locale’s current environmental performance to global best practices. Prioritize your needs, setting expectations for short-, medium-, and long-term results accordingly. This baseline analysis will be a starting point for understanding the issues you need to address immediately, as well as those that may become obstacles on the road to green transformation.

Step 2: Map out the green journey. The second step is to create a vision that encompasses your destination’s goals. This vision will help you map out your specific journey amid a spectrum of possibilities.

At one end, you can choose to simply “do no harm” — to prevent or avoid the destruction of natural assets and the environment, while focusing on proven yet affordable technologies instead of cutting-edge solutions. For countries or locations with political challenges or limited financial resources, this end of the spectrum may be most appropriate.

If you have more economic or political capital, however, you may aim for the other end of the spectrum: radical, innovative, pioneering options that stake a powerful claim to leadership in green tourism and reflect an aggressive, visionary desire to compete in an arena whose parameters are still being developed. As is the case with any spectrum, multiple options lie between these two extremes.

A scenario planning exercise can be a powerful way to shape the vision. Leaders — ideally from both the government and relevant businesses — can come together to develop a set of strategic green policy scenarios: full-fledged paths forward, each making a different trade-off among environmental benefits, the speed at which results can be obtained, and the associated costs. Make sure each of the scenarios reflects your destination’s unique strengths and resources, and tailor each to the specific needs and challenges of your locale, as defined in your assessment from Step 1. The scenarios should also be diversified enough to address the concerns of all relevant stakeholders.

You should then consider the commercial, ecological, and financial implications of each scenario. We recommend asking a set of questions that should, at a minimum, cover the following dimensions:

Environmental impact. How will the new programs affect key environmental dimensions? How will the results position your destination in the global arena? Will government and the private sector meet applicable regional or international mandates, or be eligible for existing or proposed incentives?

Demand and customer impact. How will reaching the target state affect current and future tourism demand for your destination? How can any potential negative short-term impact on the cost of tourism operators, and hence on demand, be mitigated? How much might you credibly expect associated revenues to increase?

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  1. Jennifer Blanke and Thea Chiesa, editors, “Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2009: Managing in a Time of Turbulence,” World Economic Forum: A comprehensive ranking and analysis, including detailed profiles for 133 countries.
  2. Ronald Haddock, Kevin Ma, and Edward Tse, “Tourism: China’s New Diaspora,” s+b, Spring 2007: How China’s economic growth — and its citizens’ increasing appetite for travel — will fuel the next tourism boom.
  3. Jürgen Ringbeck and Stephan Gross, “The Importance of Being a Must-See Destination,” s+b, 05/08/2007: How excellent travel and tourism policies, infrastructure, and services can translate into a vibrant economy.
  4. For more thought leadership on this topic, see the s+b website at:
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