How a Program Becomes GSTC Approved

GSTC Approved Program

GSTC Approved means that a certification program is using a GSTC-recognized standard and is following processes and procedures that have been reviewed and approved by the GSTC. Businesses certified by an approved certification program can also use the GSTC Approved language and logos and can expect favorable positioning in the market place, among other benefits.

In broad terms it means that the GSTC has recognized that the standard used for certification is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC-Recognized) and that the certification procedures largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence. The process of approval is faster, simpler, and less expensive than accreditation, because not all accreditation requirements will be required in this transitory program. It is expected that approved certification programs will move towards accreditation before the end of 2014, when the Approved process will be phased out.

Who can apply?

Any certification program that uses an already GSTC-Recognized Standard may apply for GSTC-Approval. The program should also have rules for the application of the standard, transparent and impartial verification procedures, and auditors who are technically competent in sustainable tourism and conformity assessment. We will follow ISO trends in verification and conformity assessment procedures.

Why Apply?

The purpose of the GSTC Process is to recognize and reward genuine practitioners of sustainable tourism, which in turn builds confidence and credibility with consumers. Based on this, many travel and tourism organizations and major distributors have publically committed to offering sustainable products and service that have been through the GSTC Process exclusively. The GSTC-Approved products will be eligible for distribution through these channels.


  •  GSTC-Approved certification programs can use the approved seal with a licensing agreement but at no cost.
  • Certified businesses may qualify for preferential market recognition.
  • Placement in GSTC directory
  • Promotion to key partners
  • Mention on presentations and publications


As the image above shows, a certification program/scheme submits an application and other documentation to the GSTC (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for a desk audit. The fee for evaluation must be paid in advance and does not guarantee approval. If the audit team finds non-conformities they will contact the certification to discuss the issue(s).

The audit team prepares a report either indicating recommendations for improvement or for approval. If no serious non-conformities are detected, the report will be submitted to the GSTC Accreditation Panel for final approval.  Within the period until December 2014, the GSTC will conduct site visits for renewal, random spot checks, or when monitoring indicates the need to do so.

To learn more about the process please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


GSTC Approval status is valid for only two years or until the program becomes GSTC-Accredited.  


The time required from application through approval should be no more than three months. Timeline changes will depend on the non-conformities that are found and corrective actions taken by the certification program, as well as the number of programs awaiting review.


US $8,000 application fee for non-members; $7,000 application fee for GSTC members

If travel is required, the costs will be an additional $1,950 for a site visit, plus travel costs.

Renewal fee will be the cost of the site visit.

Licensing and sublicensing agreements

Approved certification program must make a separate sub-license agreement with their clients for the use of the GSTC Approved logo for certified businesses. This agreement specifies the terms of use of the GSTC name and approved seal as well as the royalties to be paid, and the conditions for use and withdrawal of the GSTC trademarks.

GSTC Approved Manual

Download the GSTC Approved Manual here

GSTC Approved Branding Guidelines 

Downloas the GSTC Approved Branding Guidelines here

GSTC Approval application

Download the GSTC Approval application here

Development of the GSTC Process

A team of nine (9) GSTC experts developed the GSTC Process. Each member has an average of 20 years experience in sustainable tourism certification, conformity assessment and accreditation, developed the GSTC Process. The members represent five (5) continents including developed and developing countries. 

Visit the Recognition and Accreditation forum (signed in members only) to engage in dialog, ask questions of the technical

[1] Some certification programs certify specific tours and other tourism products, rather than businesses as a whole. The certification program determines its own scope and is approved as competent to certify within that scope.

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Anyone from individuals to larger organizations can help increase the reach, awareness and recognition of sustainable tourism practices.  
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