Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management

Well-planned and sustainably managed tourism can contribute to the environmental, social and economic health of destinations. In fact, the United Nations declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism because of the industry’s ability to contribute to key Sustainable Development Goals.

The George Washington University’s Sustainable Tourism Destination Management program provides a strategic overview of responsible destination management along with practical applications. The certificate is designed for tourism professionals and career changers who want to advance their careers and take advantage of the increasing opportunities in the field. Participants will learn strategies and tools for recognizing and developing tourism products, creating visitor markets, minimizing the potentially negative effects of tourism and enhancing the sustainability of destinations so that they remain viable and attractive to visitors, and support their host communities.

What Can You Expect to Gain from the Program?

  • Strategies to sustainably develop and manage tourism destinations
  • Essential information on effective promotion
  • Guidance on designing tourism policies and working with stakeholders
  • Instruction on developing new tourism experiences and products
  • An overview and introduction to key players in the field
  • Skill sets that you can apply to your career right now

Is the Program Right for You?

Sustainable tourism destination management is an ideal program if you are:

  • Working in the tourism industry and would like to deepen your understanding of sustainability    
  • Interested in joining the sustainable tourism industry
  • Starting or changing your career
  • Planning to start your own sustainable tourism business

Sustainable Tourism Destination Management Certificate Requirements

Students must complete all six courses in the program in order to receive a certificate. Individual course completions will be emailed to students to indicate the completion of each course. A paper certificate signed by the university will be mailed to students upon the completion of the entire certificate program. Paper certificates will not be mailed for each individual course. All financial obligations to The George Washington University must be met in order to receive a certificate.


To be admitted to the Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management program students must have completed the equivalent of a high school diploma. A Bachelor’s degree is strongly recommended. International students not proficient in English must have a TOEFL PBT score of 600 or a TOEFL CBT score of 100.

The Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management program is a non-degree program that provides continuing education credits (CEUs). Federally funded or other student loan programs or scholarships are not available, and the program is not eligible for deferment of such loans.


Courses are offered in bundles of three a few times a year. Registration is now open; register here.

Program Fees & Financial Aid

Each course is $495 individually. But courses may be purchased in a three-course bundle for a discounted rate of $1350. Students typically purchase two course bundles to complete the certificate program for a total cost of $2,700.

Because the Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management is a non-degree program, federally funded student loan programs are not available, and the program is not eligible for deferment of such loans.


The grading system is pass or fail.

Important Policies

Refund Policy

If a student withdraws from the Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management program thirty days or more before the start date, refund is 100% of tuition minus a $100 withdrawal fee. If a student withdraws from the program within fifteen days of the start date, no refund is granted. A student who withdraws between the thirty- and fifteen- day will either receive a full credit for a future session or a 50% refund.



To earn a Sustainable Tourism Destination Management certificate, students are required to complete a total of six online courses, which are offered in sets of three throughout the year. Each course offers participants the opportunity to improve their professional standing, expand their industry network, and deepen their understanding of tourism’s ability to contribute to environmental, social and economic goals. The courses are offered over the course of a week and each one should take students about eight hours to complete. Coursework includes presentations, readings, online mentoring, discussion boards and guest lectures by tourism professionals.

View Course Dates and Registration Information

An introduction to how tourism can support sustainable development objectives, the course begins with a history of sustainable tourism, followed by an overview of key components of sustainable tourism policy and practices. Participants will explore the links between tourism economic development and the conservation of natural and cultural resources. The course covers:

  • Good practices for sustainable tourism policies, plans and strategies

  • Innovation in tourism planning that minimize negative impacts and potential benefits to local economies

  • Trends in consumer demands around sustainable tourism

  • Guidelines and tools used in developing sustainable tourism strategies

This course covers destination governance, management and leadership. Participants will learn how destinations can use sustainability to enhance their competitiveness, and they’ll be introduced to destination management models and new tools for monitoring the sustainability of tourism destinations.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Organize guide tourism industry stakeholders toward good governance

  • Enhance a destination's competitiveness

  • Assess the sustainability of a destination and create a framework for public-private partnerships at the local, regional and national levels

  • Develop a destination management strategy

To succeed in the marketplace, sustainable tourism products and services need well-targeted promotional efforts that convey consistent messages to potential customers. This course will cover sustainable destination marketing with a particular focus on e-commerce, internet marketing and social media.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Develop marketing, branding and positioning strategies for sustainable tourism products

  • Create consumer demand by leveraging digital and social media

  • Develop comprehensive marketing plans  

Critical to the success of tourism destinations is the quality and variety of the attractions, accommodations and activities they offer. This course equips participants with the tools needed to develop sustainable tourism products and services that will attract and accommodate visitors while conserving natural resources and benefiting local people.

Participants will learn how to:

  • Assess tourism products in the context of the global tourism marketplace

  • Develop tourism experiences

  • Turn sustainable tourism assessment information and concepts into full-fledged business plans

Mobilizing investments and financial resources to develop, manage and market sustainable tourism products and services is a challenge for many destinations. This course introduces participants to the various models used by the public and private sectors to collaboratively establish and fund destination management and marketing organizations. It  includes an overview of government financing mechanisms used to develop tourism infrastructure including municipal bonds, tax-based funding, service fees, special assessments and land use-related financing.

Students will learn:

  • Why governments invest in tourism development and their expectations

  • To identify various models used to establish and fund Destination Management and Marketing Organizations (DMOs)

  • Government financing mechanisms used to develop major tourism infrastructure

  • How to attract funding from international development organizations and private investors

The rapid growth of tourism worldwide has created both economic opportunities and challenges for destinations. The best hope for destinations to remain viable in the face of rapacious industry development is through careful planning and sound policy support. Destinations must continually renew and revise their development plans in order to keep pace with evolving needs and realities. As "overtourism" and "undertourism" threaten the viability of this sector, it is critical that all stakeholders understand their roles and responsibilities and contribute to careful planning and monitoring that safeguard places and their resources.

By the end of this course, participants should be able to :

  • Understand the definition and roles of both planning and policy development

  • Identify policies and planning strategies that ensure tourism is developed according to established sustainable practices

  • Explore and evaluate tourism policies that generate sustainable benefits for people who depend on tourism

  • Recognize resources and tools used in conducting sustainable tourism assessments, land-use planning, project development, and monitoring and evaluation initiatives

  • Implement a monitoring and evaluation process for sustainable tourism development

Register for Spring Courses

Registration Information

Please email us to preregister, receive updates on the program, or get more information.