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Shopping Tourism is Trendy, But How Do We Make It Sustainable?

Shopping tourism has emerged as a popular trend in recent years, attracting individuals who seek unique and entertaining experiences in their travel destinations. However, as this niche market grows, it is essential to consider its sustainability and the impact on local communities and the environment. This article will discuss the challenges and opportunities for promoting sustainable shopping tourism, along with top-notch references for further reading.

Defining Shopping Tourism:

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines shopping tourism as an emerging concept and a branch of tourism aimed at individuals for whom the acquisition of goods outside their usual environment as entertainment is a determining factor in their decision to travel (UNWTO, 2014). It encompasses buying local products, souvenirs, visiting markets, craft workshops, and more.

The Impact of Shopping Tourism:

Environmental Impact: Shopping tourism often occurs in urban areas, reducing direct impact on natural environments compared to ecotourism. However, indirect environmental impacts, such as increased waste generation, still need to be addressed (UNEP, 2021).

Economic Impact: Shopping tourism generally has a positive impact on the local economy by increasing tourist spending and supporting local businesses. However, this can vary depending on the destination and the tourists' shopping preferences (Euromonitor International, 2019).

Social Impact: The social impact of shopping tourism depends on the regulation and policies applied to its management. Promoting local businesses and supporting local communities can help minimize negative social consequences (OECD, 2020).

Case Study: Barcelona and Shopping Tourism:

Barcelona promotes shopping tourism through initiatives such as the Barcelona Shopping Line, which offers a 5-kilometer route through various neighborhoods featuring local businesses (Barcelona Turisme, 2021). This initiative aims to support local economies and minimize the social impact of shopping tourism.

Promoting Sustainable Shopping Tourism:

  • Events and Initiatives: The Shopping Tourism & Economy Summit, organized by The Shopping Tourism Institute, and national fairs like FITUR Shopping, supported by Turespaña, are examples of events aimed at promoting sustainable shopping tourism practices (Shopping Tourism Institute, 2021; FITUR, 2021).

  • Government Policies: Government policies play a crucial role in promoting sustainable shopping tourism. For example, Spain's Shopping Tourism Promotion Plan, developed by the Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism and the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, seeks to increase shopping tourism while ensuring sustainability (Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism, 2015).

Shopping tourism can offer significant economic, social, and environmental benefits if managed sustainably. However, achieving this requires collaboration between governments, businesses, and tourists to create policies and initiatives that prioritize local communities and minimize negative impacts.

In summary, shopping tourism can contribute positively to employment generation, increased per capita consumption, and local economic development. However, to ensure its sustainability, it is crucial to implement policies and initiatives that support local communities, reduce environmental impact, and promote collaboration among stakeholders. By doing so, shopping tourism can become a sustainable and thriving sector within the tourism industry.


  1. UNWTO (2014). Global Report on Shopping Tourism. Retrieved from

  2. UNEP (2021). Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Tourism Value Chain. Retrieved from

  3. Euromonitor International (2019). Shopping Tourism: Global Trends and Opportunities. Retrieved from

  4. OECD (2020). Tourism Trends and Policies 2020. Retrieved from

  5. Barcelona Turisme (2021). Barcelona Shopping Line. Retrieved from

  6. Supporting Local Businesses: Encouraging tourists to shop at local businesses can help redistribute income within the local economy, ensuring the community benefits from shopping tourism (UNWTO, 2014).

  7. Reducing Environmental Impact: Implementing sustainable practices in shopping tourism, such as promoting eco-friendly products and reducing waste, can minimize the environmental impact (UNEP, 2021).

  8. Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaborating with stakeholders, such as local businesses, government agencies, and tourists, is essential for creating policies and initiatives that promote sustainable shopping tourism (OECD, 2020).

  9. Monitoring and Evaluation: Utilizing software for economic impact analysis (SAIE) and collaborating with entities like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Global Blue can help track the economic impact of shopping tourism and guide policy decisions (Euromonitor International, 2019).

  10. Shopping Tourism Institute (2021). Shopping Tourism & Economy Summit. Retrieved from

  11. FITUR (2021). FITUR Shopping. Retrieved from

  12. Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism (2015). Plan de Turismo de Compras. Retrieved from

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