Tourism is a growing industry across Europe, even in northern regions that were long eclipsed by the sunnier south. And increasingly, travellers favour lodgings, products and services that they see as socially and environmentally responsible. They want tour providers to follow best practices that protect nature, for example, rather than harming it. They favour restaurants that source their food locally. They worry about waste.

A planned online learning tool, to be created as part of the international project GIFT for Europe (Green Ideas for Tourism for Europe), is meant to simplify the teaching and learning of the principles of sustainable tourism. The tool can be used by tourism enterprises such as hotels, restaurants, travel agencies etc. for training their staff as well as in tourism-related education establishments in the learning and teaching process.

“What’s special about this comprehensive and easy to use online tool is that it will simulate the environmental impacts of tourism enterprises,” says Evelin Piirsalu, a senior expert at SEI Tallinn. The tool will automatically calculate the environmental impacts based on mathematical formulas. It will also help users to understand the positive outcome of various environmental management measures that can be implemented in tourism establishments, such as reducing the use of various resources that will also cut down the costs.

“For instance, choosing low-flow taps and showers for a hotel or a restaurant instead of the use of traditional ones, will decrease the environmental impact of the establishment as well as saving money for the owners,” Piirsalu says.

The online tool will be created based on best practices in the sustainable tourism sector, in the compilation of which SEI Tallinn will also participate.

It will be ready to use in tourism and education establishments in the three project countries (Estonia, Finland, Bulgaria) by 2018. Until then, updates about the Erasmus + funded project can be followed through the project website: learnsustainabletourism.wordpress.com.