Promoting best practices for sustainable tourism

08 October 2010 | Article

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is a global initiative dedicated to promoting and communicating sustainable tourism practices around the world. At the heart of this work are the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. 

Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries and a strong contributor to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. The UN World Tourism Organization forecasts 1.6 billion tourists by the year 2020. In order to minimize the negative impacts of this growth and harness its power to help make positive change, sustainable tourism must translate from words to facts for all tourism stakeholders.

As a standard setting organization, the Council fosters sustainable tourism through the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles, creating the tools and training to engage in sustainable practices and increasing the demand for sustainable tourism products and services. At the heart of this work are the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, the minimum requirements that any tourism business should reach in order to protect the world’s natural and cultural resources while ensuring conservation and poverty alleviation.

Founding members have already started to use the Criteria to mainstream sustainability in their own operations. “Our Native Village”, an eco-resort located in Bangalore India, has set the stage as the only firm in the country to have adopted the GSTC criteria on its own. CB Ramkumar, the owner and developer of the resort used the GSTC criteria as a guiding tool and a source of credibility to avoid “greenwashing”. In a story published by the Deccon Herald in August 2010, the Tourism Ministry of India indicates that the resort may serve as a model to adapt the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria to national Indian standards.

The Fairmont Mayakoba, on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, is a tourist destination nestled in the heart of Riviera Maya and represents another example of a tourism business that has taken great strides using the GSTC criteria. Fairmont Mayakoba has a genuine commitment to continuous improvement on their social, environmental and cultural performance, including continued commitment at the management level. Lyn Santos, Ecology Manager at the Fairmont Mayakoba has used the criteria as a user friendly tool to steer management to implement a sustainability program and to measure progress toward their goals. The criteria also provided them with communications opportunities and greater legitimacy.

These examples demonstrate the initiative’s spirit. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council will further support its members, providing with tools and educational resources for the implementation of the GSTC criteria. In turn, members will benefit from increased market access opportunities through enhanced visibility and by establishing partnership with distributing companies, travel agencies, tourism boards, and associations that are actively promoting GSTC accredited products.

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