Purpose: This paper provides an overview and explains the context of this theme issue. The paper outlines the theme issue approach and profiles the articles written in response to the strategic question that aims to explore the challenges and opportunities for sustainable tourism development in Cyprus. Design/methodology/approach: The paper outlines the theme issue approach to exploring challenges and opportunities for sustainable tourism development in Cyprus. The strategic question is tackled in a series of articles that contain literature reviews, reviews of data and evidence, interactions with practitioners and practical solutions. Findings: The findings of the theme issue focus on sustainability challenges and opportunities in Cyprus and provide insights into the history, current state of development and progress made in implementing sustainable development in its tourism and hospitality industry. Originality/value: This theme issue outlines the challenges that the tourism industry faces in a small island state that is highly dependent on income generated by conventional tourism activity. In turbulent times where all stakeholders actively demand more sustainable, balanced tourism activity, the articles in this theme issue provide insights on stakeholder involvement, support availability, residents' perceptions of tourism activity, opportunities to develop innovative, technologically advanced solutions, themed tourism activities in remote regions and destinations and the implementation of sustainability concepts in tourism and hospitality education.