Whether you call it sustainable tourism, soft tourism, integrative tourism, or fair travelling: what is meant is tourism which is fair towards the environment and the people in the destinations, which provides the local population with economic prospects, which is mindful of cultural identities and which preserves natural resources. Among experts, the term "sustainable tourism" has prevailed and it has also been enshrined in the United Nations principles.
Sustainable development according to the UN Earth Summit of 1992 was defined as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
In the 1990s, this guiding principle was adopted by many organisations in the tourism sector and adapted for practical implementation in the tourism industry. The term "sustainable tourism" was thus established and, in 1999, defined by the German Forum on Environment and Development as follows: Sustainable tourism has to meet social, cultural, ecological and economic requirements. Sustainable tourism holds a long-term view, for present and future generations, is ethically and socially just and culturally adapted, ecologically viable and economically sensible and productive.
Nowadays, the concept of sustainable tourism largely replaced the term of soft tourism, which had been conceived in contrast to hard tourism (= mass tourism) in the 1980s. Likewise, ecotourism is not the same as sustainable tourism, as the former is often associated with the observation of flora and fauna, whereas sustainable tourism is a far more comprehensive concept and is designed to be applicable in the entire tourism system ‒ in mass tourism, too.