How Norway is promoting sustainability in tourism

May 15, 2019
By The Explorer

Visit Lyngenfjord/Anna Ribelova

Norway is home to great natural beauty, with unspoiled mountain ranges and forests and clean, invigorating fjords. Nature is an integral part of Norwegian lifestyle and culture. A Sunday walk in the woods is practically an institution, and people engage in a variety of other outdoor activities, depending on the season. In summer, it is fishing, swimming and sailing; in autumn, berry picking and moose hunting; in winter, cross-country and downhill skiing; and in spring, picking the first wildflowers of the season.

A sense of obligation to leave nature undisturbed has been passed down from generation to generation in Norway. In addition, there is growing awareness of just how much impact human activity has on the natural environment, and this has resulted in an even greater commitment to preserving the environment for the good of all.

Tourism is a major contributor to Norway’s economy, accounting for about 4.2 per cent of the country’s GDP. The industry has been experiencing years of strong continued growth, with 10 per cent of all new jobs going to tourism.

In Norway, however, like other holiday destinations around the world, tourism can have considerable negative environmental and social impact. While the influx of tourists presents multiple opportunities for local value creation and employment, it also brings with it the risk of increased emissions, damage to the landscape and disturbance to local communities.


Visit Longyearbyen/Sophie Cordon

Pioneering sustainable development in tourism

While the Norwegian tourism industry is committed to growing the industry and providing experiences that are North of the ordinary, it is equally dedicated to safeguarding the environment and cultural heritage. To advance this effort, Innovation Norway launched a certification scheme for sustainable tourist destinations in 2013.

“Sustainable Destination” certification is awarded to destinations in Norway that are working systematically to reduce the negative impact of tourism. The certification scheme is a tool for monitoring how sustainable development in tourism contributes to job creation, promotion of local culture and products, and a better destination management model.

To be certified, a destination must show clear progress toward increasing economic, social and environmental sustainability. It must preserve local nature and culture, strengthen social values, demonstrate political commitment, have effective management, and be economically viable.

It takes about two years for a destination to earn initial certification. Once certified, a Sustainable Destination must continue to demonstrate improvement over time. The monitoring process includes documenting the promotion of local food and local culture, energy efficiency, waste production and use of cultural assets. Every three years, the performance of the destination is evaluated based on the criteria and indicators.


Visit Lysefjorden

Internationally recognised standard

In 2018 Norway’s Sustainable Destination Standard was awarded “Recognized Standard” status by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), an independent non-profit organisation that establishes and manages global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. Worldwide, 10 destination standards and 30 hotels and tour operators standards have achieved GSTC-Recognized status as of 2018.

Norway’s standard includes 42 criteria and 104 indicators to be measured, registered and monitored. It covers nature, culture, environment, social values, community involvement and economic viability. Each of these five criteria has indicators that specify which actions are to be taken. As one example, indicators for the criterion “Protection of nature, culture and environment” include a tally of the number of visitors arriving by plane, bus, boat, bicycle and other modes of transport.


Visit Lillehammer/Ian Brodie

Advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals

Norway’s Sustainable Destination certification scheme works to advance several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth, target 8.9: The scheme promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth by promoting beneficial and sustainable tourism.

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities, target 11.4: The scheme also helps to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production, target 12.B: A driver for responsible consumption and production, the scheme serves as a tool for monitoring sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.


Visit Lysefjorden/Stiftelsen Preikestolen

Sustainable Destinations in Norway

The following destinations have been awarded status as Sustainable Destinations: Femund Engerdal; Geilo; the Golden Road; the Lillehammer region; the Lindesnes region; the Lyngenfjord region; the Lysefjord region; Røros; Setesdal; Tromsø; and Trysil.

For more information about the Sustainable Destination certification scheme itself, please contact Innovation Norway.