Promoting sustainability in the tourism sector has been a key objective for more than 30 years since the first Earth Summit was held in Rio in 1992 organised by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Inappropriate tourism development and the lack of tourism management or tourism policy damage the environment. Therefore, tourism must be planned in a manner that minimises the impacts of its activities and maximises the benefits that it can bring by promoting environmental protection and generating funds for protection, as well as by increasing environmental awareness at the local level. ITC-A introduces the concept of sustainability in all its development projects. The consultancy has participated in major environmental assignments such as contributing to the UNIDO-led COAST project, conducted in partnership with UNWTO and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which aims at reducing the harmful impacts of tourism practices to the coastal ecosystems of nine African countries. ITC-A assisted the Government of Cambodia in developing the ‘Tourism Clean City’ concept over a period of four years. This has now become an ASEAN-wide standard.
The socio-economic and socio-cultural impacts of tourism at a destination need to be managed so that local communities are able to prosper from the growth of the sector where they live. Policies and strategies are formulated to ensure that the economic benefits of tourism are also spread to the local population and that cultural identities are protected and not diluted to fit stereotypes held by visitors. ITC-A has worked on poverty reduction projects, notably for the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation (Sustainable Tourism Eliminating Poverty). ITC-A’s approach is to strengthen community participation and benefit sharing by building Destination Management Organisations (DMO) at the local level, conducting workshops and training programmes with local communities, providing small business development and planning advice and developing tourism products related to nature, community-based tourism and rural tourism. For example, ITC-A formulated an Ecotourism Strategy for the Government of Sikkim in India funded by the Japanese development agency, JICA, designed to develop and improve the sector for the benefit of fringe-forest local communities while ensuring environmental conservation. The consultancy established local DMOs in Korça, Southern Albania and in Ghana, West Coast to provide the local communities with a structure to manage their own tourism sector.