The ecological footprint as a key indicator of sustainable tourism

Colin John Hunter, Jonathan Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues for ecological footprint (EF) analysis to become widely adopted as a key environmental indicator of sustainable tourism (ST). It is suggested that EF analysis provides a unique, global perspective on sustainability that is absent with the use of locally derived and contextualised ST indicators. A simple methodology to estimate indicative, minimum EF values for international tourism activities involving air travel is presented. Critically, the methodology accounts for the EF that would have been used by a tourist at home during the tourist trip, providing an estimate of the net, as well as the gross, tourism-related EF. Illustrations of the application of the methodology are provided, including the evaluation and comparison of specific tourism products. It is suggested that some (eco)tourism products may, potentially, make a positive contribution to resource conservation at the global scale. Areas for further research in applying EF analysis to tourism are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-57
Number of pages12
JournalTourism Management
Issue number1
Early online date19 Oct 2005
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


  • sustainable tourism
  • indicator
  • ecological footprint
  • Costa-Rica


Dive into the research topics of 'The ecological footprint as a key indicator of sustainable tourism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this