Research strategies

Look for literature that discusses sustainability indicators, either as policy discussions or applied (case studies). Within these documents look for leads to other documents and organizations.

Whether using internet search engines, the library catalogue or article index databases, you can construct your search syntax for effective results, for example:

(ecotourism OR eco-tourism OR sustainable tourism) AND (indicators OR measur* OR assessment OR stewardship)
touris* AND (environment* OR social OR cultur* OR economic)
sustainability indicators AND

(environment* OR ecolog* OR biodivers*)

As well as the broad search, try looking for specific types of indicators and specific types of tourism, for example, skiing and economic sustainability or cultural aspects of kayaking in remote coastal regions.

Think about what type of documentation you're seeking::

  • legislation / regulation?
  • position papers?
  • records of consultation?
  • existing frameworks?
  • case studies?

Consider the various interest groups and look for their views to be represented. For example, groups interested in sustainability of sports fishing may include commercial fishers, sports fishing camp owners, competing tourist industries (e.g. whale watching), aquaculture workers, commercial fishers, first nations, and local residents, all competing for or influenced within the same resource environment

Consider the following sources of documents when looking for all perspectives on a sustainable tourism issue:

Interest group Documents sources
Government websites, reports & position papers, assessment programs, manuals for practitioners
Researchers (academic, industry, NGO) Scholarly books & articles, conference papers, consultations with government
Tourism industry Industry associations websites, government consultations, newspapers and trade magazines, case studies
Competing industries (resource-based and other) Industry associations websites, government consultations, newspapers and trade magazines, case studies
Activists (conservationists, social issues, heritage) Websites, government consultations, newspaper articles
Residents (aboriginal as well as settlers) Newspaper articles, government consultations
Tourism consumers Survey results, statistical sources, newspaper articles


The following are subject headings in the Library Catalogue that may lead you to some useful books or reports:

  • tourism - social aspects
  • tourism - economic aspects
  • tourism - environmental aspects
  • tourism - government policy
  • sustainable development
  • economic development
  • ecotourism
  • sports and tourism
  • culture and tourism
  • heritage tourism
  • recreation areas
  • wildlife watching
  • marine ecotourism
  • sports and tourism
  • culture and tourism
  • heritage tourism
  • recreation areas
  • wildlife watching
  • marine ecotourism

Suggested titles

  • Sustainable tourism: theory and practice [print]
  • Monitoring for a sustainable tourism transition: the challenge of developing and using indicators [online or print]
  • Sustainable Tourism III. International Conference on Sustainable Tourism [print]
  • The World Ecotourism Summit: Quebec City, Canada, 19 to 22 May 2002: final report [print]
  • Sustainable development of tourism: a compilation of good practices. World Tourism Organization [print]
  • Tourism and the environment: regional, economic, cultural, and policy issues [print]
  • Tourism and sustainability: development, globalisation and new tourism in the Third World [print]

Database indexes to journal articles, conference papers, chapters in books, reports, etc.

Database Name Description


Human geography and development topics covered, as well as physical geography, geology and ecology.

Environment Complete

Comprehensive coverage in environmental and many related disciplines

Canadian Research Index

Indexes government publications (federal, provincial & territorial), including scientific and technical, social, economic, and political reports; Statistics Canada and other selected statistical publications

Humanities and Social Sciences Index

Useful for finding journal articles covering anthropology, geography, cultural practise, planning and public administration, international relations, policy and urban studies.

Sociological Abstracts

Good place for exploring social aspects of tourism.

Business Source Complete

Business journals and trade publications covering the industry perspective on tourism and sustainable development. Good for marketing research and case studies.

Web of Science

Cross-disciplinary database.

Alternative Press Index

Alternative, radical, and left publications, which report and analyze the practices and theories of cultural, economic, political, and social change.

Google Scholar

Intended to provide a search engine for scholarly materials on the web, including articles, conference proceedings, digital repositories, etc. Includes citations but basis for results ranking and scope of database are withheld from users. Not comprehensive - use with caution.
Indexes for specialized topics:

Aquatic Sciences & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA)

Biological and ecological aspects of marine, brackish and freshwater environments; wildlife management, recreation, and public health

Biological and Agricultural Index


Indexes to biological sciences and agricultural literature. Useful for finding bio-indicators (conservation of species and biodiversity)

ASTIS (Arctic Science and Technology Information System)

Worldwide scientific and practical literature focused on the Arctic and cold regions, including land management, culture, social, economic and environmental aspects of tourism and travel

Sport Discus

Worldwide scientific and practical literature in the areas of sport science. Especially useful for recreational tourism

Statistical sources

Source Description / details

UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics

  • Data relevant for the analysis of world trade, investment and development for over 190 countries and territories and 50 economic or trade groups


  • Compilation of United Nations and agency statistics, covering economic, social, financial and development topic

Statistics Canada

Canadian Tourism Commission


  • Demographic, economic and other statistical reports produced by the BC government. Start with their Tourism page.

Tourism BC

Selected regulatory / policy bodies

Public policy development is reflected in a variety of document types: legislation (bylaws, bills, statutes, regulation, treaties & conventions), position papers by government departments, industry and activists, records of public consultations, etc. The industry may also self-regulate or offer voluntary guidelines for practice. When researching policy issues, you need to identify the subject of the policy, how the issue is regulated, who has responsibility for regulating the issue (geopolitical parameters) and note names of documents that describe the development and implementation of the policy.

Organization Selected resources on site


UNEP: Sustainable Tourism (UN)

Click on the Library tab for a listing of downloadable publications, such as:

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): Environment ; Sustainable Development

European Environment Agency (EEA)

North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation

Tourism Australia




Environment Canada
Parks Canada
Natural Resources Canada


  • Tourism BC corporate website
  • Link to research publications, including tourism indicators, regional reports and sector reports by type of tourism
  • Subscribe to a research publications email alerting service
Ministry of Agriculture and Lands
Ministry of Environment

NOTE: to identify government agencies with responsibilities for tourism in other countries, use leads in secondary sources (e.g. research articles) OR go to the homepage for the national government and search for your topic within the site. Responsibility for different aspects of specific types of tourism may be spread across several government bodies. Regional, as well as national, agencies may play a role in developing policy.

Public consultations

Public consultations about proposed policy changes often take place with stakeholder groups that represent a range of positions, as well as interested individuals. Industry, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, tourists, residents. government officials and other interest groups may submit policy briefs describing their position and/or make presentations to the consulting body.

Calls for public consultation are documented in government publications, such as the Canada Gazette, advertisements in newspapers and other publications, via listservs to interest groups, etc. The results of consultations with stakeholders may be documented in minutes and evidence for federal and provincial legislative bodies (e.g. parliamentary committees), ministry websites (e.g. part of environmental assessment for development projects), as well as regional/municipal government websites (e.g.expansion to the Vancouver Aquarium ). Public consultations may be contracted out to companies and final reports may list the groups consulted, without including details of each group's position.

Public consultations with government agencies are often reported in media sources as well, providing the names of interested groups and summaries of their views. Interest group websites are another good source for information about public consultations (e.g. Cathedral Grove parking issues). For municipally based tourism initiatives, the Board of Trade website is often a good source of information, as well as websites for individual businesses in the region.

As you find documents that describe sustainable tourism policy and indicators, see if you can find descriptions of the consultation process as the documents are developed, in order to assess whether the indicators are representative of all stakeholders.

Selected policy documents

Research organizations and gateways

Industry associations


Certification programs

Civil society organizations