What the Sustainable Tourism Working Group’s Report and Interim Action Plan Means for your Tourism Business

“I have instructed my officials to initiate the development of a new national tourism policy, which mainstreams sustainability.” So says the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin T.D.

On the back of this instruction, the Sustainable Tourism Working Group Report has just released an Interim Action Plan with a view to Ireland becoming a leading destination for Sustainable Tourism. The group’s stated ambition is that “Ireland will seek to be amongst the world-leaders in sustainable tourism practices”.

We’ve read the report and action plan, and have summarised some key takeaway that you’ll need to know below. Bottom line, this action plan will have massive implications for those working in tourism. Measuring and managing carbon (and hence energy, waste and water) will be key. Furthermore, credentials, certifications and accreditations look like they will be key when it comes to securing product development support, marketing support and publicity opportunities.

If you’d like to get ahead of the curve and create your own sustainability action plan to be ready for this new world of Sustainable Tourism, we are here to help. As the report states, “Over time, sustainability will become the norm and it will be those businesses not engaging which will be the outliers.”

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Some Key Takeaways From the Report

The UNWTO definition of sustainable tourism opens the report. This is the holistic definition that Sustainable Travel Ireland works to:

“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”

It is expected that the development of a new national tourism policy, that mainstreams sustainability, will commence in the latter half of 2021 when the tourism sector starts to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. This policy will be consistent with our sectoral climate change targets and commitments.

Ireland’s tourism agencies and industry will “have a pivotal role to play in the implementation of sustainable tourism practices and as a first step will further integrate sustainability into their strategic plans and promotional activities”.

Tourism Ireland

Tourism Ireland will develop a new sustainability action-plan to ensure its activity takes the sustainability principles into account. This will include a review of activity, priorities and direction for promoting the island of Ireland and how Tourism Ireland itself should adapt to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.


ITIC will lead out on ensuring that its members deliver their part in full towards helping Ireland be climate neutral by 2050 as per the Climate Action Bill.

Fáilte Ireland

Fáilte Ireland will seek to adopt a sustainable destination management approach by instilling the sustainability agenda within its Destination Experience Development Plans. It will also develop new initiatives which seek to engage visitors and influence their behaviour for the benefit of our natural environment and local communities.

Informed by extensive research, both of the consumer and our own product, a light will be shone on “areas and destinations at home that are striving to be best in class in terms of sustainability”.

Failte Ireland must tailor “marketing programmes to focus on sustainable tourism product and continue to promote our authentic Irish culture, heritage, people and landscapes”.

Some stand out actions named in the report

  • Increase and promote the awareness and understanding of the sustainable tourism agenda for key tourism stakeholders and policy makers through training and development opportunities.
  • Ensure that the guiding principles for sustainable tourism development are embedded in Fáilte Ireland’s Destination Experience Development Plans.
  • Evaluate the benefits of introducing a national tourism enterprise sustainability programme along the lines of ‘Origin Green’.
  • Identify and develop Destinations that have the potential to be promoted as best in class in terms of sustainability.
  • Identify and map existing accredited sustainable tourism product and businesses, including geographical clusters, to inform promotion at home and overseas.
  • Create new sales and marketing opportunities for those sustainable tourism businesses that want to grow their international business.
  • Undertake media and trade familiarisation programmes which feature sustainable tourism product.
  • Initiate the development of a mechanism that allows Industry to report on carbon reduction and off-setting measures.

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For more information you can read the full report here.

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