Perhaps like few other industries, tourism depends and is built on environmental, physical and cultural local resources. In this sense, and as suggested by the scientific community and international agencies, sustainability should be a driver for tourism sector development. For this purpose, three main issues are relevant: the interpretation of the meaning of sustainability reflected in the vision of the destination for the sector; stakeholders' participation, balancing different approaches; and a strategic planning that calls for long-term view and action. The aim of this study is to assess whether the tourism planning of the destinations contributes to sustainable development. We have reviewed 11 local/regional tourism plans existing in Portugal, and the conclusions point to a vague interpretation of the concept of sustainability, to a type of planning that is closed to public participation with a lack of discussion on the kind of sustainability to implement and to difficulties in committing to strategic planning. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.