Sustainability is of key concern for tourists to New Zealand, one which businesses would do well to put front and centre of their brand in order to drive growth.

That's according to new research carried out by the University of Canterbury and ChristchurchNZ, funded by the Tourism Industry New Zealand Trust.

It found that international visitors to Canterbury consider environmental sustainability to be important, but that tourism operators could be doing more to promote eco-friendly practices to travellers.

"The research provides evidence that visitors want to protect the environment in New Zealand," said TIA Industry Strategy Manager Bruce Bassett, "but we need to make it easier for them to do so. If the tourism operator is sustainable then they can talk to the visitor about how they can support the business's efforts."

Almost 1200 New Zealand tourism businesses have now signed up to Tourism Industry Aotearoa's New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment, which is also supported by the Tourism Industry New Zealand Trust.

The TSC sets 14 commitments for tourism businesses to achieve environmental, economic, host community, and visitor sustainability. These include carbon reduction, ecological restoration, waste reduction, and active engagement with visitors regarding the importance of restoring, protecting, and enhancing New Zealand's natural environment.

“By showing our visitors that we are taking responsibility for looking after our environment and communities, we can encourage them to follow our lead," said Bassett.