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Join the GSTC in Bonito Brazil April 25-26, 2014

Come to beautiful Bonito for the GSTC’s AGM and Destinations Workshop -- learn more here

Welcome To Sustainable Tourism

“Promoting the widespread adoption of global sustainable tourism standards to ensure the tourism industry continues to drive conservation and poverty alleviation”

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) serves as the international body for fostering increased knowledge and understanding of sustainable tourism practices, promoting the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles and building demand for sustainable travel.  This is accomplished through the work executed by its diverse programs:  international standardsetting, destinations, education and training, market access, and accreditation

At the heart of this work are the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and the development of the GSTC Criteria for Destinations. These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation.  Sustainability is imperative for all tourism stakeholders and must translate from words to actions.


News & Announcements »

samoa.jpgFirst destination in the South Pacific Region to adopt criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (March, 2014)– Samoa is the first South Pacific  destination to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC)  Early AdopterProgram and the second destination in the world to do so at  the national level. Since the late 1990s, Samoa has held a pivotal leadership role in Sustainable Tourism practices and the Early Adopter Program provided the destination with an opportunity to benchmark its performance in the international context.

The Early Adopter Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and implemented by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International.  It applies the recently developed GSTC Destination Criteriain assessing current sustainability levels and providing direction for future improvements. These guidelines complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.

Samoa has demonstrated exemplary management in the South Pacific.  Through their participation in the Early Adopter program, Samoa sets a clear and distinctive sustainable tourism process for small island nations.  We look forward to their participation and knowledge sharing as they participate on the global stage in sustainable tourism initiatives”, expressed Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC.

The Independent State of Samoa is made up of 10 islands in the Polynesia, covering a total area of 2,831 square-kilometers. Remarkably beautiful, Samoa showcases breathtaking coastlines, white sandy beaches, coral reefs, marine wildlife, and rainforest covered volcanic peaks. Samoans are known for their traditional “Fa’a Samoa” way of life which values family and an authentic communal lifestyle.

The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner and leading destination specialist Sustainable Travel International.  “Samoa was an early pioneer in the concept of sustainable destination management. The evaluation demonstrates that sustainable tourism is at the very core of Samoa's efforts. This includes a tourism product successfully built around natural and cultural heritage, and considerable frameworks in place at the national level to manage and monitor the impacts of tourism” added Jeremy Sampson, Senior Destination Specialist at Sustainable Travel International, responsible for conducting the on-site evaluation.

The assessment was an initiative in collaboration with the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), which provided guidance and facilitated resources to meet with the stakeholders. Present at all stages, STA demonstrated considerable understanding and commitment to the process. “Sustainable tourism is the only form of tourism that ensures we are balancing all that is wonderful in our lives, from our pristine environs and our vibrant Samoan culture, to visitor satisfaction that exceeds expectations. Samoa has long supported these objectives and the monitoring and evaluation of indicators. These efforts help know where we are doing well, and alert us to areas of concern that we must immediately address,"stated Sonja Hunter, CEO, Samoa Tourism Authority.

During a 10-day span, the assessor met with key representatives to discuss tourism planning and management, sustainable development, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. The assessment determined the destination’s readiness to demonstrate GSTC-D adherenceoutlining a number of good practices and areas where the destination can improve.


randy at gstc pata.jpg  WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 21, 2014) - The Global Sustainable Tourism  Council (GSTC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Randy  Durband as its new Chief Executive Officer. Durband assumes executive  responsibilities effective immediately.

 “Randy is a charismatic and dynamic leader who brings tremendous  experience in the travel industry," said GSTC Board Chair Kelly Bricker  said. “He is full of enthusiasm and energy; his unique ability to inspire  individuals is exactly what we need at this stage of our organization's  growth. We are confident that with Randy at the helm of the GSCT, we will continue to grow sustainability in the tourism sector." 

Durband brings significant management experience to the GSTC, having served  twenty-plus years in senior leadership positions at some of the finest U.S. Tour Operators followed by five years as a Sustainable Tourism advisor, consultant, and speaker. 

“The GSTC plays a vital role in the global sustainable tourism movement, setting standards for excellence and honesty for what is labeled sustainable and responsible.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help move that message forward clearly for all to hear”, Durband said.

Durband and several board members will be attending and presenting at the GSTC Annual Meeting in Bonito Brazil coming up in April.

Stay tuned with our community! Like our Facebook page, follow us onTwitter and join our group on LinkedIn.

webinar.jpgEarlier in February, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) in partnership with Sustainable Travel International hosted a live virtual educational presentation with over 300 registrations  from around the world. The webinar was presented by Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC Board, as well as Dr. Louise Twining-Ward and Jeremy Sampson from Sustainable Travel International.

Some of the attendees included Kuoni Travel, The Nature Conservancy, PATA, Royal Caribbean, Rainforest Alliance, Sabre Holdings, and numerous ministries of tourism and regional tourism organizations.

During the 60-minute interactive gathering, Lara Velasco of Turismo Lanzarote and Dr. Lars Lindkvist of Kenya’s Mara Naboisho Conservancy showcased their “Early Adopter” experience –the first initiative in the Destination Partnership Program.

This webinar was the first held in a series of informational programs to put sustainability efforts in the spotlight. For those who couldn’t attend, you can download slides here and reply the video recording.

Stay tuned with our community! Like our Facebook page, follow us onTwitter and join our group on LinkedIn.

sierragordaqueretaro.gif Mexican biosphere reserve adopts baseline criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 11, 2013)– Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in  Mexico is the first Central American destination to complete the Global  Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) GSTC Early AdoptersProgram to  test its new Criteria and Indicators for Destinations, under  the scope  of the GSTC’s Destination Partner Programin collaboration with  Sustainable Travel International(STI).

Located in central Mexico, Sierra Gorda is one of the most eco-diverse protected areas recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program, which promotes sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. The destination’s tourism assets encompass natural, scenic, and cultural richness, with sweeping landscapes, waterfalls, rivers, wildlife and archaeological sites.

The Sierra Gorda region has solidified their commitment to help their local communities preserve two major conservation areas in the Sierra Gorda region: one in Querétaro and one in the state of San Luis Potosi, through sustainable tourism development and their work in the GSTC Destination Partnership Program.  Through this collaboration and network, ecotourism is an impetus for conservation efforts and addressing poverty alleviation full scale.  We highly commend Sierra Gorda’s leadership in working towards sustainable development and addressing the current challenges within the region”expressed Dr Kelly Bricker, GSTC Chair, Board of Directors.

Assisted by Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda – destination Liason - Sustainable Travel International conducted an on-site evaluation of Sierra Gorda as part of the GSTC Destination Criteria Early Adopter Program. "The community-driven approach in Sierra Gorda is extraordinary, and at the very heart of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda's mission. The destination's excellent stewardship practices include carbon emission and waste management, the involvement of local community groups in conservation initiatives, and effective capacity building programs for local micro-enterprises. We are confident Sierra Gorda will build on these strengths while adopting recommendations for improvement in the coming period,” concluded Kathleen Pessolano, the “Assesor” and Senior Director of Destinations at Sustainable Travel International.

During a 10-day span, Ms. Pessolano met with key stakeholders in Sierra Gorda to discuss tourism planning and management, economic development, community involvement, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. As a result, the Evaluation Report revealed that the destination has made considerable progress on some significant destination sustainability issues, highlighting: public commitment to destination sustainability, rules and regulations to prevent visual and noise polution, bringing artisans, local growers and businesses into the tourism value chain and practices to promote local culture.

Several key areas remain in need of attention: establishing coordinated planning and management of tourism as a whole, monitoring sustainable destination management issues, establishing and enforcing clear codes of conduct in the destination, and strenghening efforts in tourism awareness.



 WASHINGTON, D.C. (February, 2014)- The Global Sustainable Tourism      Council (GSTC) recently announced that the Chilean national system for      distinction of sustainable tourism has achieved ‘recognized’ certification      status. This commendation acknowledges its commitment to promote sustainable tourism products and services recognized by the GSTC.

“Chile has shown clear leadership and commitment to sustainable tourism.  As a country steeped in beauty, culture, and adventure, tourism remains a positive economic development tool and under their plan will be a tremendous asset for positive change in the country.  Chile continues to move towards excellence in sustainable tourism and as such, will be a major competitor on the global stage.” Expressed Dr Kelly Bricker, Chair, GSTC Board of Directors.

The development and promotion of a sustainable tourism industry is a key factor in this competitive global market. Aware of this trend, the tourism industry in Chile has decided to move towards a sustainable tourism development in joint efforts from the government and the private sector. As a result, they implemented The National System for Distinction of Sustainable Tourism: “Distinction S” -the certification program of the SERNATUR (Servicio Nacional de Turismo) - that identify andrecognize the efforts of tourist accommodation that have progressed in the field of sustainability.

SERNATUR is a governmental institution whose mission is to execute the National Tourism Strategy, promoting Chilean destinations and encouraging the competitiveness and sustainable development of the tourism industry, through the implementation of plans, programs and public policies.


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