What We Do

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) establishes and manages global sustainable standards with the aim of increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices among public and private stakeholders. The GSTC is independent and neutral, serving the important role of managing its global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. It is mostly a volunteer organization, consisting of experts in sustainable tourism and supported by organizations and individuals with a passion for ensuring that meaningful standards are available globally for sustainability in travel and tourism. Financial support from donations, sponsorship, and membership fees are critical to our own sustainability.

At the heart of this work are the Global Sutainable Tourism Council's Sustainability Criteria.  There are two sets of GSTC Criteria: Destination Criteria (GSTC-D) and Hotel & Tour Operator Criteria (GSTC-H&TO).  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.

The GSTC is a USA-registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that represents a diverse and global membership, including UN agencies, leading travel companies, hotels, country tourism boards, tour operators, individuals and communities – all striving to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism.  We are a virtual organization with staff and volunteers working from all six populated continents. 

Membership is open to all interested parties and does not by itself imply endorsement by the GSTC of the policies and practices of the member organization.

Developing International Standards:

The GSTC Criteria serve as baseline standards for sustainability in global travel and tourism.  The Criteria can be used in many important ways:

  • Serve as basic guidelines for businesses of all sizes to become more sustainable, and help businesses choose sustainable tourism programs that fulfill these global criteria
  • Serve as guidance for travel agencies in choosing suppliers and sustainable tourism programs
  • Help consumers identify sound sustainable tourism programs and businesses
  • Serve as a common denominator for media to recognize sustainable tourism providers
  • Help certification and other voluntary programs ensure that their standard smeet a broadly-accepted baseline
  • Offer governmental, non-governmental and private sector programs a starting point for developing sustainable tourism requirements
  • Serve as baseline guidelines for education and training bodies such as hotel schools and Universities.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council's Criteria are the minimum requirements that any tourism businesss should asprie 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 poverty alleviation.  For more information about the GSTC Criteria, go here

Making Destinations Sustainable:

Destination stewardship is a process by which local communities; governmental agencies, NGOs, and the tourism industry take a multi-stakeholder approach to maintaining the cultural, environmental, economic, and esthetic integrity of their country, region, or town. In other words, to ensure that the destination retains and enhances the distinctive attributes that makes it attractive to beneficial tourism. The GSTC developed the Destinations Criteria and subsequent programs to help destinations apply the Criteria to their destination management programs.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) and the related performance indicators were developed based on already recognized criteria and approaches including, for example, the UNWTO destination level indicators, GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, and nearly 40 other widely accepted principles and guidelines, certification criteria and indicators. They reflect certification standards, indicators, criteria, and best practices from different cultural and geo-political contexts around the world in tourism and other sectors where applicable. 

To learn about the GSTC Destinations Program, please visit here.

Promoting Market Access:

The GSTC promotes the development of broad market adoption and application of the GSTC Criteria. With the ultimate goal of increasing demand for sustainable travel and tourism offerings and building trust amongst travelers, the group works to identify opportunities and solutions for alignment greater market potential. The Market Access Working Group plays an integral role in helping the GSTC achieve these goals.

The GSTC supports the following objectives in order to promote market access:

  • Increase the number of sustainable tourism products by creating a realizable market incentive for businesses to pursue sustainable operations
  • Increase the number of sustainable tourism products that are easily accessed in the most utilized market points-of-sale
  • Promote procurement policies that demand sustainable travel options
  • Build recognition and promotion of local sustainable product through Destination Management Organizations and Tourism Boards
  • Provide access to market opportunities for small enterprises and community based tourism

Increasing Knowledge:

The GSTC is committed to ensuring that sustainable tourism best practices are adopted and implemented by the industry and the traveling public. The GSTC Sustainability Training Program, with the support of the Education and Training Working Group, is tasked with developing and identifying the tools and resources to facilitate the transition to sustainable practices, and delivering training classes for a wide range of tourism industry professionals including: hotel and tour operators, destination managers, government officials, resource managers, educational consultants, and academic institutions.

In order to increase sustainable tourism knowledge, the GSTC strives to:

  • Provide education and training materials tailored to specific sectors, to help them implement sustainable tourism using the GSTC Criteria as the base
  • Provide educational resources to certification organizations to assist them in moving towards accreditation
  • Ensure the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are integrated into the curricula of universities, training schools and other programs
  • Build capacity amongst organizations promoting and selling tourism businesses, products and services, to educate their customers about more sustainable travel options


Integrity Program - Helping Verify Sustainability:

The GSTC Integrity Program places a mark on the standards used by organizations that wish to distinguish their excellence and objectivity from others which may not involve independent, third-party verification of the application of their standards. Such standards include those used by certification bodies for certifying hotels, tour operators, and other travel providers; by public authorities at national or regional levels that verifiy or certify travel companies for sustainability; by specialized organizations such as ecotourism or ecolodge associations wishing to filter memberships or provide certification to worthy recipients; or by any other type of standard being applied to some form of acknowledgement of the sustainability of a travel/tourism product, service, or entity.

The GSTC offers three levels for those standards-using organizations that follow procedures that meet GSTC requirements for transparency, impartiality, and technical competence. "GSTC Recognized" standards meet the GSTC Criteria. "GSTC Approved" or "GSTC Accredited" certification programs use a GSTC Recognized standard and award certification according to GSTC requirements for internal policy and practices. To learn more about the Recognition, Approval and Accreditation program, please go here and for a simple overview of logo usage, please go here.

The GSTC Accreditation Panel seeks to recognize standards and certification programs that are credible, transparent, impartial, and comply with the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism. The GSTC Accreditation Panel provides an impartial and independent voice for the GSTC. It operates independently from the rest of the organization in order to assure neutrality and objectivity.

Be a Part of the Sustainability Movement:

about smallParticipate with the GSTC:  Become a member or sponsor of the GSTC.  Participate in one of GSTC's programs designed to improve sustainability.

GSTC News:  Learn what is happening today at GSTC, as we continually developing ideas and strategies to meet the demands and momentum of this rapidly growing movement.

Subscribe to our Newsletter: Enjoy our monthly recap of news and announcements.

GSTC Events: Join the GSTC in several locations around the world.  Participate in meetings, workshops, conferences, and other networking events.


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