Tourism, as a global phenomenon involving the movement of over 800 million people across international boundaries every year, constitutes a significant contributor to the overall production of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). In specific, the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations (UNWTO) estimated that the global tourism industry generates some 1,300 mega tons of CO2 equivalent, an amount that represents 5% of the emissions generated globally. The main tourism sectors that mostly contribute to CO2 equivalent emissions are transportation, accommodation and other tourism leisure activities. In 2005, transport generated the largest proportion of CO2 emissions (75%) from global tourism, with approximately 40% of the total being caused by air transport alone. Emissions from accommodation facilities were estimated to be substantially lower than transport emissions but not negligible accounting to 21% of the overall emission from tourism activities and 1% of global CO2 emissions.
The tourism sector has assumed its share of responsibility and pledged to substantially reduce emissions. Aiming at this direction, various tourist accommodations have been called to measure and subsequently reduce their carbon footprints – usually reported as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in CO2 equivalents.
On the other hand, not only the tourism impacts climate change but climate change itself has negative influence to the tourism industry as well. As climate defines the length and quality of tourism seasons and affects environmental conditions that may influence visitor preferences regarding travel destinations, the tourism sector is considered to be highly‐climate sensitive. The effects of a changing climate will have considerable impacts on tourism and travel businesses. In some parts of the world, these impacts are increasingly becoming evident. However, the tourism sector is one of the least well-prepared sectors for dealing with the adverse impacts of climate change.
The obligation of the tourism industry to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the two-way relationship between tourism and climate change was also highlighted at the first International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism, in Tunisia 2003 which resulted in the Djerba Declaration on Climate Change and Tourism.