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The International Sustainable Tourism Initiative is establishing a globally recognized research and educational program in cooperation with foundations, industry members and governmental programs. The program will work with quantitative models, develop protocols for research, and create advanced design systems for the management of sustainable and healthy tourism development worldwide.

Research Areas

The Carbon Reporting and Management Framework for Tourism Destinations

We equip change makers with evidence they need to act now to protect and improve the environments that determine our health.  That’s why our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative developed the Carbon Reporting and Management Framework for Tourism Destinations. The framework helps local governments measure how tourism activities consume resources, so that their regions can meet global and national goals for reducing carbon impacts. We are establishing collaborative research programs to pilot our framework with local research and planning institutions in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Local authorities will benefit in a number of ways. For example, the framework will:

  • Gauge a destination’s climate impacts, working within the National Determined Contributions (NDC) reporting system, developed as part of the Paris Climate Treaty
  • Measure municipal costs for servicing tourism and guide decision making on policies
  • Project the rising costs of non-renewable resources, such as water
  • Help to develop strategic mitigation and adaptation plans to manage climate impacts, such as sea level rise, floods, and disappearing water resources
  • Help trigger international funding, subsidies, and investment for clean development projects
  • Identify research gaps and help trigger international research collaboration

Contact Megan Epler Wood, Director of our International Sustainable Tourism Initiative, for more information.

Advanced Tools for Destination Management and Climate Change Preparation

The International Sustainable Tourism Initiative will introduce the best computerized design systems to plan for the rapid growth of tourism to respond to the urgent need to protect coastal areas and vulnerable ecosystems, gauge the use of natural resources, monitor climate impacts, and plan for required infrastructure and landscape protection strategies. 

The goal of this global effort is to help business, communities, and government to work together with data that can be delivered via locally managed systems to balance tourism development, environmental protection, and local well-being over the long-term.

This work will be undertaken in collaboration with the Harvard Graduate School of Design to offer tourism and resort planners visualized data presentations that take advantage of the most recent advances in geodesign to provide stakeholders with graphic and schematic views of how their decisions will affect the future of their regions. 

Healthy, Sustainable Food Supply Chains for Tourism

This global research project will be the first in the world to review the environmental, health, and business implications of linking hotels to local and international food supply chains.  Researchers will develop decision making dashboards for hotel food and beverage divisions to evaluate business, environmental, economic, and health considerations.

The goal of this project is to advance the management of healthy, hotel food supply chains while maximizing benefits for local suppliers and host populations.

This work will take advantage of the expertise of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in the fields of environmental health, and nutrition as well as those studying the impacts of climate change on sustainable agriculture. It will also engage students from the Harvard Business School, who will perform independent studies on regional and local food supply chains.

Policy Innovation in Tourism Development

This research project opens up new opportunities for governments to answer questions about how to respond to the need for sustainable infrastructure to manage tourism growth. 

The goal of this project is to develop robust and innovative solutions to the financing and development of sustainable energy, solid waste, water, and waste water systems for both tourism and host community needs.

This work is being incubated in collaboration with the Environment and Natural Resources Program within the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  Student-led policy analysis exercises and internships are available to governments seeking to develop their tourism policy environment.

Photo by Megan Epler Wood