Tourism and travel form the world’s largest industry, worth US$940bn in 2008. This is almost 5% of the global economy, and its share of greenhouse gas emissions is the same (1,307 million tonnes in 2005). The industry is growing by 4-5% per year, so the number of international travellers will almost double to 1.6 billion by 2020 if nothing changes. It is hugely beneficial in some ways, being one of the best ways to redistribute wealth from rich to poor nations, from North to South, and from urban to rural areas. Eco tourism provides an incentive to conserve a country’s heritage and its natural ecosystems, promotes cultural understanding on all sides, and also benefits the tourists themselves in terms of health and relaxation.

Tourism is also one of the greatest environmental threats, above all due to the impact of air travel while the world’s holiday destinations are changing in any case.

Air travelYour holiday can have a severe environmental and social impact once you arrive at your destination too. Yet there are many green alternatives available – see our section on reducing the impact of your holiday.

Some more eco-friendly tour operators and other useful contacts are listed in holiday companies.