The Global Sustainable Tourism Council, (GSTC) was created in 2007 by
UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and UNWTO (the World
Tourism Organisation) as a separate non-profit to create global
standards for sustainable tourism, initially focused on hotels and tour
operators and later on public policy and destinations.
As the world’s only sustainable tourism accreditation body, it also
manages the GSTC Criteria, global standards for sustainable travel and
tourism, and provides international accreditation for sustainable
tourism certification bodies.
The criteria are aimed at destinations and the industry, such as
hotels and tour operators, with ‘destinations’ criteria organised around
four main themes: sustainable management; socio-economic impacts;
cultural impacts and environmental impacts. They aim to provide basic
guidelines for destinations that wish to become more sustainable.
We now plan to develop global GSTC MICE Criteria in 2023. They would likely include guidance for venues, PCOs, recurring events, and corporate/business travel programmes.
Randy Durband, CEO, Global Sustainable Tourism Council
‘Industry’ criteria focus on effective sustainability planning,
maximising social and economic benefits for the local community,
enhancing cultural heritage and reducing negative impacts to the
GSTC CEO Randy Durban says the APAC region is showing a much greater
awareness and a desire to act with regards to sustainability than in
previous years. “There is movement on plastics and energy reduction in
order to reduce greenhouse gases,” he says. “Some in particular are
making strong moves at the national level on systematic approaches for
Hotel operators and travel companies can also join as members,
enabling them to be involved in key decision-making processes, gain full
access to GSTC resources, and to publicly proclaim intentions to
enhance sustainable tourism policy and practices according to
international standards. Some of the latest travel brands to join
include Accor, Trip.com and CWT.
“Our work with hotels and DMCs is of great importance to business
travel and MICE,” says Durband. “We have also been in discussion the
past four years with the MICE community and now plan to develop global
GSTC MICE Criteria in 2023. They would likely include guidance for
venues, PCOs, recurring events, and corporate/business travel
Durband says the length of time taken to get to this point for the
MICE industry was about consideration as to whether GSTC would take this
on, but also because the ‘market wants us to create global standards so
we now intend to proceed’. He adds that it will take much of 2023 to
develop them based on the organisation’s inclusive process.
“Sustainability doesn’t ‘happen’ easily; you need to start with
awareness of what it is, start with internal self-assessments, assign
teams to take action and get buy-in from the top (or forget about it),”
he says. “Set goals for the coming three to five years, celebrate
victories, strive for continuous improvement. In other words, a highly
systematic approach that aims for full compliance to the GSTC Criteria.”
Durband suggests that those industry players who want to get started
need to learn what sustainability truly includes, and says that it
requires teamwork, commitment from the top, and hard work to make
progress in a holistic way.
“Everyone can download the GSTC Criteria in many languages to get
started with awareness and to use our standards for self-assessments,”