SCP Publications

Tourism and Mountains: A practical guide to managing the social and environmental impacts of Mountain Tours

Travel to mountain ecosystems is increasing at a rapid pace, as growing numbers of tourists are attracted to the clean air, unique landscapes and wildlife, scenic beauty, culture, history, and recreational opportunities that mountain destinations offer. Yet, while this growth provides important benefits to local communities and national economies, the very popularity of mountain areas also poses a potential threat to the health of their natural and cultural resources. Mountains, which make up nearly a quarter of all land area on Earth and are home to at least 12 percent of the world’s human population,1 contain a wide variety of habitats, many of which have extremely high levels of unique and rich biodiversity. Poorly planned and implemented tours and tourist activities can have a serious impact on these often fragile ecosystems, as well as on the communities that inhabit mountain regions.

This guide has been created to help mountain-based tour operators and other mountain recreation professionals improve their environmental and social performance. We begin with an overview of mountain ecosystems and communities and a discussion of the nature and potential impacts of mountain tourism and tour activities. Next, we review good practices for a range of key issues related to mountain tourism. These issues are grouped into three main categories: good business practices, good environmental practices and good practices for specific tour activities. For each individual issue, we offer a brief summary, the rationale for good practices, recommendations of specific activities and practices, and examples of what other operators around the world are doing. A self-assessment checklist is included - at the back of this guide - for tour operators to use both to identify areas of business activity that need improvement and as a tool for choosing business partners and suppliers based on sustainability criteria.

This publication is part of a series of Practical Guides to Good Practice developed by Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Programme for various sectors of the tourism industry. One set of these guides, which is aimed at tourism professionals, including the marine recreation sector, the cruise sector and the accommodations sector, encourages providers to implement good practices and work jointly with national and local agencies to develop and implement sustainable tourism strategies. Another group of guides - of which this publication is one - is aimed specifically at tour operators offering tours in particular environments, including rainforest-based tours, desert-based tours and land-based tours.

Publication also available in French and Spanish.

Self Assessment Check-list (PDF 179Kb)


Language: English
Publication date: May 2007
Programme: Tourism
ISBN: 978-92-807-2831-6
Pages: 29