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The integration of sustainability within the domain of tourism has recently made considerable progress. For instance, in the UK and the Netherlands, the most important federations of tour operators, the FTO and the ANVR, have introduced obligatory minimum standards to contribute to sustainability. In fact, most tourism companies seem now to accept that they have corporate responsibility for the integration of sustainability into their practices. The UN-WTO has recently identified 15 goals for member states that should be adopted as policy orientation to reach sustainability in tourism. Nevertheless, not all stakeholders in tourism are ready to accept their exact roles in this process. For example, the European representation of the hospitality sector (HOTREC) has had until now an active policy to avoid environmental restrictions upon their hotels and restaurants. Furthermore, if sustainability principles are applied in the tourism sector there is a broad tendency to focus on minimising environmental impact rather than maximising the contribution to sustainable development. Finally, this environmental focus seems to be exported to the tourism sector outside the EU as main aspect of sustainable tourism. This orientation has been heavily criticised by NGO’s such as the International Ecotourism Society and the French GRET. So are we, considering the fact that there is a general willingness to take responsibility, on the right track or not?
In this article it is noted that there is hesitation to take full responsibility for sustainability in tourism and there is confusion on what should be the focus of responsible tourism management. The current trend to address to corporate responsibility of individual tourism companies need to be complemented by a strong approach of tourism sectors as a whole. There is a need of a better insight on what is the exact relation between the effects of their actions, responsibilities and roles for sustainable development. First, the different tourism sectors should agree on a definition of what is exactly the relative pressure that their activities have on the capacity of the region (in this case tourism destination) to develop in a sustainable way. Secondly, the sectors need an agreement on a fair assignment of roles and responsibilities to enlarge the capacity of the region for sustainable development. The tourism sectors need to know what the priorities are in order to invest effectively their scarce resources.