Markets working to support sustainable development

Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria

The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) provides the minimum requirements that are designed to simplify and harmonise existing standards for sustainable tourism.

The criteria is based on decasdes of work and experience around the world and involved extensive consultation with stakeholders.

There are 37 criteria covering 4 topics - these are:

  • sustainable management
  • socio-economic impacts
  • cultural impacts
  • environmental impacts, including the consumption of resources, reduction of pollution and the conservation of landscapes as well as biodiversity

And there are two types of criteria that have been developed - one for destinations and another for hotels/tour operators.

Market coverage: 

The market coverage include countries from all around the world. For example, in 2009, the mayors of 172 cities in the US declared their support for the GSTC. Also, in 2010, India convened stakeholders from across the country and chose to use the GSTC as the baseline for their national efforts. 

In addition, the early adopters of Criteria for Destinations included: Okavango Delta, Botswana;  Mount Huangshan Scenic Area, China; Lanzarote; Fjord Norway, Norway; St. Kitts and Nevis; and Teton County, Wyoming, USA. 

Background information: 

In 2009 the Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism set out to develop criteria for sustainable tourism. The partnership was initiated by Rainforest Alliance, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Foundation and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). In 2010 this partnership was launched formally as the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

The Partnership is made up of over 100 members from industry, civil society, academia, government and intergovernmental organisations as well as media representatives.

Funding source: 

The GSCT Council is funded by member contributions. These range from US$100 to US$2,500 and depend on the size of the organisation.

Total revenue for 2010 was approximately US$1 million with  a grant from the UN Foundation constituting 70% of this revenue. According to the business plan, 2013-2014 will be a key year for the organisation as it adapts to self-funding and expansion. 

Notable information: 

Traditional industry standards for benchmarking tend to focus on accomodation and can be interpreted as running according to western standards. The advantage of the GSTC criteria is that they are broader in that they go beyond traditional standards while also removing some of the western bias from the assessment standards. It does ths by making sure that any criteria can be adapted to the local conditions, including culture, environment, customs and laws.