Sustainable tourism resources

Sustainable tourism criteria and industry standards

What exactly is sustainable tourism?  It is not just a trendy headline term but it is a very significant approach in the tourism industry, as to how stakeholders adhere to business practices and management so that the planet's economical, environmental and social elements are positively affected. 

This approach to tourism is important because it is not only a framework of which to abide by in order to accommodate and address the needs of the visitors but it is a basis or toolbox of criteria where operating methods generate a positive influence on the conservation of the world’s fragile environment.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council otherwise known as GSTC, is an organization that manages global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, which are otherwise referred to as the GSTC Criteria. "Launched in 2010, the GSTC began serving as the international body for fostering the increased knowledge and understanding of sustainable tourism practices, the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles, and the promotion of sustainable tourism accreditation, products and services." The criteria were defined to establish a fundamental baseline of sustainable standards for assessing business compliance that could be used globally by all stakeholders in the travel industry, as a “common language”, a step that would minimize greenwashing or false representation of sustainable methods.

Furthermore, the GSTC established four pillars of criteria that constitute the foundation of sustainable tourism and governing principles.  

The first criteria are effective sustainability planning which is a map of how to achieve long term sustainable goals in the tourism and hospitality business. The tour operator, Tui, is a good example of a tour operator that has encouraged its hotels to establish initiatives to align with GSTC criteria, in 2018 Tui reached the achievement where 80% of its hotels obtained the recognized global standard.

The maximization of social and economic benefits to the local community is the second criteria created by GSTC. A Swiss-based tour operator, Fair Voyage, demonstrates this second pillar in that the operator promotes an “impactful journey and support for local changemakers” in its luxury trips, where operations are based around a bottoms-up approach, being inclusive of locals and ensuring fair treatment.

Red Rocks Rwanda names “cultural synthesis as the main objective” of the hotel, which aligns to the third pillar, the reduction of negative impacts to cultural heritage so that it is preserved and not destroyed. Red Rocks assimilates local community events or “gatherings” which is an opportunity for locals and other stakeholders to share their ideas and thoughts towards conservation and shared resources.

And finally, the last pillar of criteria is the reduction of negative impacts to the environment. In Greece, the Athens Plaza Hotel, put practice into motion by creating a “Green Team '' to define a sustainable action plan and continuously evaluate issues such as chemical use and energy conservation. 

Tourism leaders and advocates are important drivers of changes and can help shift the focus of both stakeholders and travellers to adopting more sustainable perspectives. Adopting GSTC Criteria is a key step that tourism stakeholders can take to promote the sustainable tourism movement.
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