What Are the Best Practices for Developing Low-Impact Tourism Real Estate?

March 20, 2024

As the global tourism industry continues to grow, the need for sustainable development has never been more pressing. With a profound understanding of the environmental, social, and economic impacts that tourism can have on local communities, scholars, business leaders, and community members are increasingly focusing on the development of low-impact, sustainable tourism real estate. In this article, we will explore the best practices that guide the development of these properties, how they contribute to local development, and the future of the sustainable tourism industry.

The Growing Emphasis on Sustainability in Tourism

As you all navigate the increasing focus on sustainable tourism, it’s crucial to understand that this isn’t a passing trend. The long-term viability of many destinations and communities hinges on the successful adoption of sustainable practices. The environmental impacts of tourism, such as damage to ecosystems, pollution, and waste, are well-documented. But tourism also has significant social and economic impacts. It can lead to improved living standards and provide opportunities for local business development. However, it can also cause social disruption and economic volatility.

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The challenge is to develop tourism in a way that minimizes negative impacts while maximizing the benefits. One way to do this is through sustainable tourism real estate development. This involves the creation of visitor accommodations and attractions that prioritize environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability.

Adopt a Community-Based Approach

A key best practice in developing sustainable tourism real estate is adopting a community-based approach. This means involving local communities in all stages of the development process, from planning to implementation and management. This approach benefits the community economically and socially, and ensures that the development is in harmony with local needs and aspirations.

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Moreover, this approach fosters a sense of ownership among community members, making them more likely to maintain and protect the property. This leads to a more sustainable business model as community-based tourism is often more resilient to external shocks such as economic downturns or natural disasters.

Integrating Environmental Management Practices

Another best practice is to integrate environmental management practices into every aspect of the development process. This starts with site selection. Destinations with sensitive ecosystems or scarce resources should be avoided. Instead, look for sites where the development can have a positive environmental impact, such as reusing a brownfield site or restoring a degraded area.

Next, consider the design and construction phase. Use sustainable, local materials wherever possible. Implement energy-efficient design principles, such as passive solar design and natural ventilation. Plan for waste management from the start, aiming for zero waste generation.

Once the property is operational, continue to monitor and manage its environmental impact. This can include implementing water and energy conservation measures, using renewable energy sources, and promoting sustainable travel options for visitors.

Contributing to Local Economic Development

Sustainable tourism real estate can also contribute significantly to local economic development. By sourcing goods and services locally, developments can provide a stable market for local businesses. By hiring local staff and investing in their training, they can create meaningful employment opportunities and enhance skills in the community.

Moreover, sustainable tourism developments can attract a different kind of traveler. These travelers often spend more, stay longer, and are more likely to return, providing a steady income for the community.

Shaping the Future of the Tourism Industry

The practices we’ve discussed are not only beneficial for local communities and the environment, but they’re also reshaping the future of the tourism industry. Travelers are becoming more conscious of their environmental and social footprints, and are seeking destinations that align with their values. As a result, the demand for sustainable tourism real estate will continue to grow.

We have also seen that sustainable practices can lead to more resilient tourism businesses, capable of weathering economic downturns and other challenges. By adopting these practices, you will not only be contributing to the sustainability of the industry but can also secure a competitive advantage for your own business.

As we look to the future, one thing is clear: the success of the tourism industry will be intertwined with its ability to evolve in a sustainable manner. The adoption of best practices in sustainable tourism real estate development presents an opportunity to be part of this change, and contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive future for all.

Embracing Digital Technology for Low-Impact Tourism Real Estate

In line with the shift towards sustainable tourism, digital technology is emerging as an important tool in facilitating low-impact tourism real estate development. It can provide innovative solutions to manage and reduce the negative impacts of tourism, while also enhancing visitor experiences.

The use of digital technology can be seen in various aspects of sustainable tourism. For instance, in site selection, Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies can provide detailed information about the environmental conditions of potential sites, assisting decision-making based on environmental sustainability considerations. In property design and construction, digital tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) can help create energy-efficient designs and predict the environmental performance of buildings.

Beyond the development phase, digital technology can also aid in the sustainable operation of tourism properties. This includes using smart technologies for energy management, automating waste management systems, and utilizing digital platforms to promote sustainable travel options to visitors.

Furthermore, digital technology can facilitate the involvement of local communities in tourism development. Through various digital platforms, communities can participate in decision-making processes, express their aspirations, and share their local knowledge, thereby ensuring that the development aligns with their needs and contributes to sustainable development goals.

The Role of Policy and Regulation in Sustainable Tourism Real Estate

Policy and regulation play a crucial role in promoting sustainable tourism real estate. They set the rules and standards for tourism development and can stimulate or hinder the industry’s move towards sustainability. Governments at various levels – local, regional, and national – have a responsibility to establish a supportive policy environment for sustainable tourism.

Policies should encourage best practices and incentivize sectors to adopt sustainability measures. Regulations can also ensure that tourism activities do not harm local communities or the environment. For instance, zoning laws can prevent overdevelopment in sensitive areas, while building codes can mandate the use of energy-efficient designs and materials.

It’s not enough to have good policies on paper. They must be effectively enforced and monitored for compliance. Furthermore, policies should be reviewed and updated regularly to keep up with evolving sustainable-development challenges and opportunities.

Overall, a supportive policy environment can guide the tourism industry towards a more sustainable path, promoting the long-term viability of tourism destinations and the well-being of local communities.


As we navigate towards a more sustainable future, the development of low-impact tourism real estate will play a key role in mitigating the negative impacts of the tourism sector on the environment and local communities. The best practices outlined in this article – adopting a community-based approach, integrating environmental management practices, contributing to local economic development, embracing digital technology, and advocating for supportive policies – all contribute towards this goal.

It’s important to remember that these practices are not exhaustive, but rather provide a starting point for those interested in sustainable tourism real estate development. As the field continues to evolve, so too will the best practices and strategies that guide it.

The challenge and opportunity that lie ahead for all stakeholders – scholars, business leaders, community members, and policy makers – is to collaborate and innovate, striving to make the tourism industry a driving force for sustainable development. By doing so, we can ensure that the benefits of tourism are enjoyed for generations to come, while minimizing its harm to our planet and its people. The time to act is now.