The UNWTO International Network of Sustainable Tourism Observatories (INSTO) is a network of tourism observatories monitoring the economic, environmental and social impact of the tourism at destination level. The initiative is based on UNWTO’s long-standing commitment to support sustainable and resilient growth of the sector through measurement and monitoring, fostering the evidence-based management of tourism. Since the early 1990’s the organization has pioneered the development and application of sustainability indicators specifically for destinations. Back then, the Environmental Committee of UNWTO developed the first set of internationally accepted indicators of sustainability applicable for the tourism sector, which was followed by a continuous expansion of the work including the creation of relevant publications on the topic such as the UNWTO Guidebook on Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations, published in 2004, as well as the support for and implementation of workshops on indicators and the establishment of INSTO.

The framework of INSTO, which has recently been updated, aligns with efforts made by other relevant initiatives in this field such as the European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). Since its establishment in 2004, a total of 18 observatories have been recognized by UNWTO for their commitment to regular monitoring: eight in China, one in Greece, one in Mexico, one in Brazil, three in Indonesia, one in Croatia, two in the United States of America and one in New Zealand.

Key Objectives:

  • Integrated approach: To provide a framework for the systematic, timely and regular monitoring of resource-use and a better understanding of tourism impacts.
  • Evidence: To establish a strong foundation of tangible information for well-informed decision making.
  • Stakeholder empowerment: To actively engage local stakeholders in the measurement of risks, costs, impacts, limits and opportunities through an inclusive and participatory approach.
  • Engagement: To network and exchange information for improved collaboration, communication and greater public accountability.
  • Performance measurement: To monitor the implementation of sustainable development plans, policies and management actions.
  • Continuity: To foster long-term commitment for regular monitoring, thus contributing to the sustainable growth of the sector at the destination-level. 
  • Knowledge building: To highlight and share good practices and lessons’ learned.