The availability of time has played a pivotal role in the analysis of tourism. An examination of social theory and time suggests that tourists experience time in multiple ways, which has implications for the traditional temporal and spatial reference frame. This article calls for a better understanding of ‘time’ in tourism and sets the agenda for further research into time and the sustainable development of tourism. It analyses the role of time in shaping tourism consumption and illustrates the challenges posed by new temporal understandings and distance concepts to create less greenhouse-gas-dependent tourism in our society. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.