Researchers create online platform to help small tourism companies become more sustainable

Projecte de turisme sostenible Sustain-T

An international research group led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) has developed the Sustain-T online learning platform for sustainable tourism aimed at helping micro and small companies of the tourism sector in Europe.


The new tool is the result of the Erasmus+ Sustain-T (Sustainable Tourism through Networking and Collaboration) project, directed by the TUDISTAR and  GRATS research groups, which included the participation of institutions and businesses from Spain, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, United Kingdom and Hungary. It was presented today in Barcelona at the project's closing conference, attended by public authorities, professionals, academics and students of the tourism sector.

“The objective of Sustain-T is to improve the sustainability performance of businesses by raising the awareness of those in charge of managing sustainable tourism practices. At the same time, it seeks to foster an improvement in their networking abilities to establish new alliances and implement sustainability through joint initiatives”, explains Gemma Cànoves, Professor of the Department of Geography at the UAB and Director of TUDISTAR.
Filling in a Current Gap in Training

Europe is one of the world's leading tourist destinations. It represents 40% of the total market quota, a figure that translates into a high degree of pressure on its natural and socio-cultural surroundings. Despite awareness-raising campaigns aimed at guaranteeing the sustainable management of destinations, businesses and products promoted by the European Union (EU), several reports confirm a lack of sustainable development training among the sector's workers. It is also a sector made up almost entirely by micro and small companies which often lack the investment needed to implement sustainable practices and train their employees in this field.

Sustain-T offers tools that cover this lack of resources in training and collaborative work, with the aim of increasing the number of small business entrepreneurs with environmentally-committed companies. It also gives visibility to those who have incorporated sustainable tourism practices and can already demonstrate their economic viability.

In addition to micro and small business owners and managers, the platform is aimed at professional training providers and students interested in sustainable tourism. The research team points out the fact that the platform can be used by over 25,000 tourism companies, training centres and academic institutions located in the countries taking part in the project, with emphasis on the fact that the resources can be applied in any European country. The majority of materials can be found in the languages of the participating countries.

Training, Audits and Ideas Mapping

The new platform is comprised of several useful spaces. The main space is formed by educational material for self-learning, structured into different themes related to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC): economic, social, environmental and cultural sustainability. There are also lists of good practices by tourism companies from different European countries, including Spain, and from different areas within the sector (hotel industry, sports and leisure activities, etc.).

Sustain-T also offers audit tools for companies and for the mapping of resources and ideas, which helps users reflect upon the current situation of their business, analyse their resources with the aim of improving them, and generate and share collective ideas.

To create the platform the research group received collaborations from over 1,500 representatives of the project's interest groups such as tourism administration and management authorities, professional associations, entrepreneurs and networks, etc., all of whom directly participated in the activities and events organised by the researchers. These included curriculum validation workshops, launching of training seminars and promotional conferences at national level.

“The Sustain-T project represents the first step towards a more ambitious goal of providing a comprehensive self-learning tool focused on sustainability in the tourism sector within Europe. The promotion of sustainability initiatives in businesses of the sector will bring Europe closer to its ultimate goal, which is to turn our continent into a sustainable destination”, Gemma Cànoves states.

The platform will be made available for at least the following five years.

Project Members

In addition to the UAB through its TUDISTAR and GRATS research groups, the institutions, entities and businesses conducting the Sustain-T project included the company Albea (Spain), the LUISS Guido Carli Business School (Italy), AidLearn (Portugal), the European Centre for Quality (Bulgaria), Total Innovation EU (UK), the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Csongrád County (Hungary) and the Confederation of Toursim of Portugal.

Project website


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