Denmark’s coastlines have been protected from tourism development and construction for more than 80 years. In 2014, the Danish politicians opened up for softer regulation of the coastlines and invited proposals for tourism development projects within the hitherto protected coastal zone. The call explicitly requested nominations for sustainable tourism projects. A comparison between academic sustainability discourse and the approved projects suggests that tourism actors do not address sustainable tourism development as a holistic concept. Long-term perspectives are largely absent, whereas economic benefits are emphasized. Key findings also indicate weak political leadership in the envisaged transfer towards sustainable tourism development.