What Are the GSTC Criteria?

What Are the Criteria?


The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria serve as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The GSTC Criteria, like other standards, are used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses and government agencies and other organization types, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification.

They are the result of a worldwide effort to develop a common language about sustainability in tourism. Focusing on social and environmental responsibility, as well as the positive and negative economic and cultural impacts of tourism, the criteria are organized into four pillars:

  • Sustainable management

  • Socioeconomic impacts

  • Cultural impacts

  • Environmental impacts (including consumption of resources, reducing pollution, and conserving biodiversity and landscapes)

The GSTC Criteria have been built on decades of prior work and experience around the world, and they take into account the numerous guidelines and standards for sustainable tourism from every continent. During the process of development, they were widely consulted throughout the globe, in both developed and developing countries, in several languages. They reflect our goal in attaining a global consensus on sustainable tourism.  The process of developing the Criteria was designed to adhere to ISO codes of conduct and the standards-setting code of the ISEAL Alliance, a global leader in providing guidance for the development and management of sustainability for all sectors.

The Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, which businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs, and laws, the Criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and supplemented by additional criteria for the specific location and activity.

To date, two sets of GSTC Criteria have been developed: for hotels and tour operators, and for destinations.

GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators

(Download in other languages here)

In March 2012, GSTC announced the second version of the GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators (GSTC-H&TO). After over 3 years of review and public comment on version 1, these new set of criteria are a true collaboration between tourism organizations, stake-holders and individuals. To read more about how these standards were created and to see a full list of the new criteria Click here.

The next revision of the Hotel & Tour Operator Criteria is underway. To participate in the public consultation, click here.

GSTC Criteria for Destinations

(Download in other languages here)

The 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. Potential indicators were screened for relevance and practicality, as well as their applicability to a broad range of destination types. Click here for more information on the Criteria for Destinations.

 Click here to read the full report on the criteria consultation process for the initial creation of GSTC H&TO

The Criteria are available in translation in many languages


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