principles of Sustainable Tourism

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the term sustainable tourism can be defined as: “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”. Global development of sustainable tourism is closely connected to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its heart, which consists of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.

All members of the UNESCO Global Geoparks network give their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. This also applies to Saimaa Geopark which received UNESCO Global Geopark status in 2021. Please see further information on the UNESCO Global Geoparks’ actions and commitments to support the SDGs

Calculating the carbon footprint

The Responsible Tourism in Southern Savo project (2017-19) was implemented with the University of Applied Sciences of South-Eastern Finland (Xamk) and its partners. One of the aims of the project was to increase the responsibility in tourism in South Savo.

“For the future of tourism in the region, it was necessary to outline the ecological, economic and socio-cultural impacts that tourism can have. In order to minimize the negative effects and maximize the benefits, indicators and commonly agreed guidelines for promoting sustainability are needed.”

Read more about the project (in Finnish)

The project also developed a counter for calculating the regional carbon footprint of tourism. It was used to calculate the carbon footprint of tourism in South Savo. The total carbon footprint in 2017 was 274 kt CO2e. Emissions per tourist were 120 kg CO2e and per leisure resident 425 kg CO2e. Studies showed that tourists shared for 69% and leisure residents for 31% of the carbon footprint. Most (about half) of the emissions came from the travels of tourists and leisure residents. Emissions which form in the area were mostly from accommodation. Tourism carbon footprint is calculated every two years and its done by Regional Council of South Savo.

The carbon footprint of the South Savo region can be viewed here:

Matkailun alueelinen hiilijalanjälkilaskuri_Etelä-Savo (Excel) – in Finnish/Riina Tuominen, University of Applied Sciences of South-Eastern Finland (Xamk), 2019

Carbon footprint of tourists and leisure residents in South-Savo, combined
Carbon footprint,

t CO2e, 2017

Travelling to destination 135 537
Accomodation 56 088
Daily services 27 600
Activities 31 373
Catering services 23 340
Total 273 939


The project also updated the carbon footprint counter for companies, which was developed from the previous project ‘’Responsible Tourism in South Savo’’ (2016). Companies can take advantage of the carbon footprint indicator for monitoring and striving to reduce it. Saimaa Geopark wants to promote the responsibility of tourism by raising awareness among companies throughout the geopark region.

You can find the carbon foot counter (Excel) from the link below.

Carbon footprint counter for companies, in Finnish (Excel)


The definition of responsible tourism is based on the same principles as sustainable tourism, yet, it is not the exact same thing. Sustainability is a goal that can be achieved only by people taking responsibility together with each other. Responsible tourism is about taking responsibility and acting to make tourism sustainable.

The global travel market has adopted the Cape Town Declaration definition of responsible tourism which encourages the industry to take responsibility for making tourism more sustainable and demonstrate their responsibility.

A responsible tourist can make a difference with their choices e.g. by finding out about the destination and different options already before the trip. Responsible service providers can make the decision-making easier by offering information and guidance.

A graduate of tourism studies programme, Anna Tiippana, surveyed company owners’ thoughts on responsible tourism in Saimaa Geopark area (in Finnish) in her thesis. According to the results, the majority of entrepreneurs in tourism are willing to invest in responsibility in the future. When communicating about responsibility, the companies want to concretise the topic and emphasise the values behind responsible actions. The aim is to develop less consuming services, prolong the visitors’ stay in the destination, and use renewable natural resources when possible.

When it comes to regional development of tourism, Saimaa Geopark aims to obtain the role of sustainable tourism expert, coordinating and collecting together different actors of the region.


When moving to circular economy, consumption is no longer based on mass-production of more and more goods, and neither on owning things. Instead, it is based on using services – sharing, renting and recycling. Materials are not destroyed at the end of their useful life, but used to make new products over and over again. Circular economy means that the production and consumption chains work efficiently and the amount of waste is reduced to the minimum. The change towards a circular economy is necessary in order to protect our limited natural resources and to ensure sustainable development.

Visitors can explore Saimaa Geopark and its sites by using low-carbon means of transportation, enjoying immaterial experiences in the beautiful natural surroundings, and finding rental services for  vehicles and equipment. Saimaa Geopark also encourages and advises visitors to leave the environment litter-free. The region’s active NGOs take care of the maintenance of toilets and rubbish bins in the harbours and in campsites. This enables geopark users to do boating, hiking and other outdoor activities in clean nature and in a sustainable and responsible way.