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

"This is a world-class, cutting-edge professional course which is highly regarded in the tourism industry for sustainability and growth across the globe. The program is more interactive and educational than other courses, and the instructors are highly knowledgeable in their areas of expertise. The course will definitely scale up your professional standing in the tourism industry."

Bafoday Keita
Compass Group

"I recommend this program to anyone interested in obtaining a deep understanding of sustainable practices in the tourism industry. As an international development professional, I have seen first-hand the increase of tourism-related procurement in business development. This certification gave me more credibility as a tourism specialist, and on the job I am often thought of first when it comes to tourism research, meeting and interviewing different stakeholders in the value chain, and delivering reports on findings.
This certificate also provided a holistic view of the actual tourism industry, as the class topics covered the foundation areas of the industry really well. If you are like me and considering a potential Master of Tourism Administration degree in the future, the certificate can also be applied for a certain amount of credits towards that degree — a nice bonus if you intend to further your studies. "

Jonathan Mariano
Proposal Manager, Nathan Associates, Inc.

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 digital and 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.

Required Courses

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 ten hours to complete. Coursework includes presentations, readings, online mentoring, discussion boards and guest lectures by tourism professionals.

701: Sustainable Tourism & Regenerative Travel

This course covers the "why," the "what" and the "how" of sustainable tourism. The course reviews why innovative leaders framed a path for a better way of promoting and managing tourism, and why this has become an imperative for doing business today. Participants will examine the core principles behind sustainable tourism, become familiar with its ever-evolving definitions, and take a look at the most popular assessment frameworks. The course will then examine how this looks in practice by providing insights into new ways to approach sustainable tourism, from destination networks to socially and environmentally responsible companies.

Participants will learn to:

Understand the "why" of sustainable tourism — then and now Understand the "what" of sustainable tourism through its principles, definitions and assessment frameworks Be inspired by the "how" through current examples of sustainable and regenerative tourism in practice from the destination to the business scale Discover new ways of deepening and diversifying your work by incorporating principles of sustainability and regenerative tourism

702: Destination Management

This course examines destination governance, management and leadership. It takes a closer look at how destinations use sustainability to enhance their competitiveness. It provides an overview of destination management models, and new tools for monitoring the sustainability of tourism destinations.

Participants will learn to:

  • Organize destination governance by guiding and coordinating tourism industry stakeholders
  • Utilize destination management to 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  
703: Destination Marketing

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
704: Product Development

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:

  • Current trends in sustainable tourism product development
  • How to take market analysis information to shape and design their products
  • The resources needed to develop sustainable tourism product
  • How to develop an action plan to get to implementation
705: Destination Investment & Finance

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 including concessions.

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)
  • How to work with international development organizations to attract investments in sustainable tourism projects
  • Tactics and tools to facilitate sustainable investment and financing from private investors
706: Destination Policy & Planning

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


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.

Program Fees & Financial Aid

Each required course costs $495, but courses may be purchased in a three-course bundle for a discounted rate of $1,350. 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. Course completion letters will be emailed to students to indicate the completion of each course. A digital and 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 individual courses. All financial obligations to the George Washington University must be met in order to receive a certificate.

Refund Policy

If a student withdraws from the Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management program thirty days or more before the start date, a refund of 100% of tuition costs (minus a $100 withdrawal fee) will be granted. 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 period will receive either a full credit for a future session or a 50% refund.


Sustainable Tourism Destination Management courses are offered in bundles of three a few times a year.

Register for April 2023 Courses

Register for the Visitor Management Strategies for Destinations Course

For more information about the Professional Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management, please email [email protected].