Guidelines for sustainable tourism communication

Sustainability is essential for the future of tourism – it must therefore also be talked about, written about, etc. The need for sustainable tourism therefore necessarily has an impact on tourism marketing. Clear communication of sustainability is particularly important here.


Communicating sustainability is multifaceted and can be divided into many different areas. This document offers 10 guiding principles with explanations and concrete examples of how sustainability can be successfully communicated and was created as part of the joint project “Communicating sustainable travel offers successfully” by Futouris and Global Communication Experts.

Find the guiding principles here

The theory behind the individual guiding principles

The consistent integration of sustainability in all aspects of communication sends a clear signal: It conveys that the focus on sustainable action is not a clearly delineated additional task, but that every area can be improved in terms of sustainability.

This shows consumers that sustainable action is not an end goal, but an ongoing process.


The constant integration of sustainability in communication also offers the opportunity to set a standard and actively and consistently address the topic. This shows the target group that sustainability is an important and wide-ranging topic and that everyone can contribute to more sustainable action. Such communication clearly conveys the values that are important to the company.


Furthermore, the active integration of sustainability also emphasizes that the company is committed to the topic and is willing to invest.

Sustainability has become a much-used term in recent times, although it is often not clear exactly what it means. To ensure that consumers know exactly what sustainability stands for, the choice of words should be adapted accordingly.


Misunderstanding and confusion can be avoided by using simple and generally understandable terms. Instead of talking about sustainability, concrete words such as responsible, commitment to the environment, environmentally friendly, social commitment and similar can be used. It also helps if specific action points are pointed out so that it is clear what is meant. This also includes naming concrete goals and describing measures and commitment.


Storytelling further helps to communicate these elements while working with values and emotions.

Sustainability is often associated with nature and the environment. The other two areas of sustainability are often forgotten: social sustainability and economic sustainability. Even if the diversity of nature is particularly suitable for communicating sustainability, people and the economy must not be forgotten.


Especially when it comes to social sustainability, it is important to communicate the points of view of the people involved and give them a voice. This also means that current social issues can be addressed in communication. This honest communication leads to transparency and creates trust.


It also shows consumers that sustainability is an ongoing process and that the company is willing to invest and improve in order to have a positive impact on the destination.

Furthermore, involving people is a good way to establish a personal connection with consumers. It conveys humanity and offers the opportunity for consumers to learn more about the culture and history of the local population.

Stereotypes are highly simplified and generalized images of groups of people or things. Using them in marketing can have serious consequences. In the worst case, such stereotypes can reinforce prejudices against certain groups of people. The use of stereotypes therefore has a strong influence on the expectations and perceptions of consumers and can, at best, influence the experience.


When communicating about a destination, the communicating company has a responsibility to present the destination in a genuine, diverse way and to avoid stereotypes. The responsibility of the communicating company is particularly high because consumers form their first impression of the destination and its population through marketing. In short: a diverse target group can be addressed with versatile communication. This has a lively effect and can be surprising.

In order to avoid stereotypes, it must be ensured that frequently used terms such as “exotic” or “authentic” are reflected and used accurately. The same applies to images, especially because visual representations underline a message. With every image used, it should be questioned what is intended to be communicated and also what could be interpreted from this image. Stereotypes are often not obvious, which is why critical questioning is all the more important. It is a matter of course that all persons depicted give their consent to the use of the image and is also legally required under the European GDPR.


The following points should be considered when selecting images:

  • Address statistically underrepresented groups.
  • Depict people of different genders, ages, nationalities, physical abilities.
  • How are different people depicted and what could their positioning in the image mean?

The way we write, speak and depict influences our perception. Language choices can be used to include or exclude groups of people. Respectful communication can ensure that all consumers feel comfortable and included with the chosen language. It is therefore important to use gender-inclusive language and diverse visual communication.


When communicating in writing, you can adhere to the following points:

  • Use neutral forms such as: Customers, visitors, travelers
  • Use passive sentences
  • Use complete paired forms such as: Visitors
  • Use of direct speech such as: Please note the following instead of The visitor has to note the following
  • Paraphrasing with an adjective such as: Medical assistance instead of Help from a doctor
  • Important: the short form with brackets should be avoided.


When selecting image and sound material, it is important to show diverse role models. People with different characteristics should be made visible as independent, equal and with equal rights.

Sustainable action is often seen as a compromise. Many people think that they either have to make additional efforts or give up certain luxuries in order to act more sustainably.

A positive and motivating choice of language has the effect that readers also feel encouraged to contribute to more sustainable action. In this way, it can be shown that it is not about renunciation, but that small changes in behavior can still make a positive contribution to people and the environment. People often want something in return when they adapt their behavior. When benefits and concrete positive influences are actively emphasized, this conveys a positive feeling.

People often want something in return when they adapt their behavior. When benefits and concrete positive influences are actively emphasized, this conveys a positive feeling. Customers realize that they are making a contribution to sustainable development with their trip.

Many people are overwhelmed by the concept of sustainability and are not sure how they can contribute to a more sustainable journey. If helpful tips and practical options for action are communicated and made available, this supports consumers.


In order to promote more conscious travel, tips and tools can be made available that can be used on the traveler’s own initiative. However, there are also helpful methods for influencing customer behavior.

For the former, for example, tips can be provided on what to look out for when traveling in order to have less influence on the destination. These can address various areas such as packing lists, dealing with privacy and customs in the destination country.

The values that are communicated should also be exemplified. Value-based communication includes consistent and clear communication as well as the implementation of these values. The company should clearly show which values are central to the company and how these are implemented in practice. Readers can use concrete examples to visualize the company’s commitment.

When it comes to communicating sustainability, it is important that it is also credible. This means that the communication itself should be consistently sustainable and must not contain any contradictions. Specifically, this means, for example, that no shots from an UL coaxial helicopter or visible off-road tours or airline advertising should appear in a marketing spot. The same applies to the choice of communication media. Such slip-ups could have a major impact on customer trust in the company, which is a high risk.


Consistent communication creates trust and credibility as an organization. It is also important that only images are used that actually depict the destination or the experiences. This ensures that communication remains truthful and does not convey false images.

Among other things, Sustainability is about longevity. For a campaign to be effective, it should also be used over a longer period of time. This means that the company’s core values can be repeated several times and integrated into the storytelling.