Tourism has contributed much to the development of many small island developing States and, as one of only a few development strategies currently being employed, will continue to be very important for their future growth. It could also stimulate the development of other sectors. However, if not properly planned and managed, tourism could significantly degrade the environment on which it is so dependent. The fragility and interdependence of coastal zones and the unspoilt areas on which eco-tourism depend calls for careful management. One of the attractions of small island developing States for tourists is the distinctiveness of their cultures, and the diversity and fragility of their environments are reflected in the diversity and fragility of their cultures. Dependence on tourism is a significant source of economic vulnerability for small island developing States, in particular in view of the high volatility of tourism revenue.

The key reasons for such high volatility include the financial crises, volatile oil prices, negative travel advisories, perceived health risks and dependence on a limited number of major source markets. It is worth noting that the promotion of ecotourism, cruise tourism, events tourism, diving tourism, pro-poor tourism, heritage tourism, medical tourism and spa tourism are on the agenda of many small island developing States.The basic principles and specific actions that are required at the national, regional and international levels to support sustainable development in small island developing states in the area of tourism resources are outlined in Chapters 8 of the BPoA and MSI.

Fourteen SIDS are member states of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Thirty four SIDS are also parties to the World Heritage Convention, which has a specific World Heritage Programme for SIDS, as well as a World Heritage Tourism Programme that encourages sustainable tourism in World Heritage areas.