I came across this article from Travelmole today that provides some explanation of what the different tourism descriptors mean. You can view the original article here,
History: The seminal event in world social history, the 1992 Earth Summit and Agenda 21, popularized sustainable as an adjective. Sustainable Tourism was adopted shortly thereafter.
Backers: United Nations and the UN-backed Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are big-buck backers as are the great and the good of the global travel industry. This has now morphed into the Tourism Sustainability Council, which may, or may not become a global sustainable tourism accreditation agency.
Benefits: Sustainable is a real word that really means something with the added credibility of the Earth Summit and the UN behind it. It also has no moral baggage and appears to be practical.
Drawbacks: Opponents focus on the global nature saying that tourism is a local activity, also that ‘sustainable’ has no market credibility.
History: Prof Harold Goodwin and Richard Simon start MSc in Responsible Tourism at Greenwich University in 1994 – International Centre for Responsible Tourism inaugurated 2000
Backers: ICRT (now at Leeds Metropolitan University – UK) and Responsible Travel Ltd (started by Harold Goodwin and Justin Francis) plus the global alumni network of ICRT graduates – now some hundreds of key tourism executives.
Benefits: Has achieved a level of market recognition with the annual Responsible Tourism Award at the World Travel Market.
Drawbacks: Responsible is not an easy bedfellow with the hedonistic element of holidaymaking and the focus on local issues micro-management will hinder growth.
History: The International Ecotourism Society was launched in Florida in 1989 as the world’s first international non-profit dedicated to ecotourism as a tool for conservation and sustainable development.
Backers: TIES (now in Washington DC) and a clutch of other initiatives like CREST (Center for Ecotourism and Responsible Travel) have a wide network of adherents in the travel and tourism industry worldwide
Benefits: Has been going the longest and has neatly combined the eco/ecological theme with tourism the global network is very active.
Drawbacks: Seen to be limited to holidays/travel more related to the environment rather than commercial aspects.
History: Adopted as a user-friendly word for tourism that has some regard for the environment at the same time the green parties were launched – around the same time as Greenpeace in the 1970’s
Backers: The online Green Travel Network (founded in 1991) has 2500 members worldwide, there are many more green travel-related sites. Green Tourism Business Scheme is the first travel accreditation agency launched by VisitScotland in 1997.
Benefits: Although the word has a great history in social development – it can mean what you want it to mean – even a colour, hence it is much loved by the media and advertisers who launch ‘green brands’
Drawbacks: Nice word – not very much practical credibility