France, Germany and the UK top a new global sustainable tourism index.

Strong policies supporting sustainability in the tourism industry help the European countries take the top three spots in the first Sustainable Tourism Index compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit covering ten countries across the world

But developing countries fall well short in policy implementation, though they are showing greater awareness of sustainable tourism goals.

China and India, leaders in travel and tourism industry growth, are poised to make a huge impact on sustainability if they can complement their robust tourism sectors with comprehensive environmental and cultural-protection policies.

Japan leads the socio-cultural sustainability category of the index but ranks at the bottom for economic sustainability, which gauges the economic importance of tourism to a country.

The index is claimed to be the first to compare countries on their commitment to develop and promote sustainable practices in tourism.

It measures performance across five categories: political and regulatory environment, environmental sustainability, socio-economic sustainability, economic sustainability, and travel and tourism industry.

It found that the effective pursuit of sustainable tourism requires a high degree of co-ordination between the business and public sectors, as well as civil society and individual tourists.

Where policies are lagging, companies may be stepping in to fill the void, although small and medium-sized enterprises which comprise the lion’s share of the tourism industry worldwide still struggle to meet sustainability goals.

Rich nations have done more at the national level to foster this trend compared to their emerging-world rivals.

France and Germany tie for first place in the clarity and robustness of their milestones and action plans around sustainable tourism, while France and the UK tie for first on the rigour of their tourism laws.

However, there are a number of areas where less developed countries are putting building blocks in place that could positively contribute to sustainable tourism in future.

Indonesia, for example, ties for first on the comprehensiveness of its sustainable tourism policy, while Brazil trails only Germany when it comes to the share of national territory that is under protection.

China is the standout leader on growth in the overall tourism industry, which indicates where efforts should be directed in order to make the biggest impact on sustainability on a global scale.

Michael Gold, the editor in charge of the research, said: “Progress in sustainable tourism is ongoing in the emerging world, and will hopefully continue apace.

“While the strong performance of developed nations is encouraging, as developing countries grow in prominence as tourism destinations, they will take on a greater role in driving sustainability in this field, worldwide.”

The Sustainable Tourism Index

1 France
2 Germany
3 UK
4 US
5 Japan
6 India
7 Brazil
8 China
9 Indonesia
10 Egypt