About the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC®) is managing the GSTC Criteria, global standards for sustainable travel and tourism;
as well as providing international accreditation for sustainable tourism Certification Bodies.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council® (GSTC) establishes and manages global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, known as the GSTC Criteria. There are three sets: Destination Criteria for public policy-makers and destination managers, Industry Criteria for hotels and tour operators, and MICE Criteria for Venues, Event Organizers, and Events & Exhibitions. They are the result of a worldwide effort to develop a common language about sustainability in tourism. They are arranged in four pillars: (A) Sustainable management; (B) Socioeconomic impacts; (C) Cultural impacts; and (D) Environmental impacts. 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.

The GSTC Criteria form the foundation Accreditation for Certification Bodies that certify hotels/accommodations, tour operators/transport providers, and destinations as having sustainable policies and practices in place. GSTC does not directly certify any products or services; but provides an accreditation program to accredit Certification Bodies.

The GSTC is an independent and neutral organization, legally registered in the USA as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that represents a diverse and global membership, including national and provincial governments, leading travel companies, hotels, tour operators, NGO’s, individuals and communities – all striving to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism. It is a virtual organization without a main office, with staff and volunteers working from all six populated continents. Financial support from donations, sponsorship, and membership fees allows us to provide services at low costs and to create, revise, and make available the GSTC Criteria. GSTC is an ISEAL Community Member.

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.

For more organizational information: GSTC organizational structure; GSTC’s legal status and financial reports.

GSTC has a number of logos in use. For more details, please visit this page about the GSTC logos usage guidelines.

GSTC Mission & Impacts

Tourism fulfills its potential as a vehicle for social, cultural, and economic good while removing and avoiding any negative impacts from its activities in terms of environmental and social impacts. 

To be an agent of change in the world of sustainable travel and tourism by fostering the increased knowledge, understanding, adoption and demand for sustainable tourism practices.

The GSTC vision and mission is accomplished by the following activities:

Developing International Standards – the GSTC Criteria

The GSTC Criteria are global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism: 

  • GSTC Industry Criteria – guiding principles for all types of tourism-related business, with detailed guidance for hotels/accommodations and tour operators/agencies
  • GSTC Destination Criteria – guidance for policy (national, provincial, etc.) and for destination management
  • GSTC MICE Criteria – guidance for Venues, Event Organizers, and Events & Exhibitions

The GSTC Criteria provide a comprehensive definition of sustainable travel and tourism, arranged to support four pillars of sustainability:

  1. Managing for sustainability
  2. Social
  3. Culture and Community
  4. Environment

Providing Assurance for Sustainable Tourism

Accreditation: The GSTC provides accreditation services for Certification Bodies that certify hotels/accommodations, tour operators, and destinations as sustainable. Learn about the difference between certification and accreditation.  

GSTC Recognized” standards. Distinct from accreditation of certification, GSTC also offers an “Assurance” scheme to formally indicate whether another organization’s sustainable tourism standards complies in very technical terms with the GSTC Criteria.

Read more about the difference between certification, accreditation of certification bodies, and recognition of standards.

Making Destinations Sustainable

Destination Stewardship” is our description for the framework whereby the public sector, private sector, and the residents of local community are engaged jointly to preserve, protect, and benefit from visitors to their touristic destination.

The GSTC Destination Criteria and our destination programs provide support to destinations seeking to manage and operate truly sustainable and responsible forms of tourism.

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 GSTC works to identify opportunities and solutions for alignment greater market potential, working closely with prominent OTAs and large travel providers.

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 Sustainable Tourism Training Program (STTP), with the support of the Education and Training Working Group, delivers training to managers and practitioners on use of contemporary tools and resources to facilitate the transition to sustainable practices. Training courses are relevant for a wide range of tourism industry professionals including: hotel managers and staff, tour operator managers and staff, destination managers, government officials, consultants, NGOs, and academic institutions.

History of GSTC

In 2007, the “Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria” was initiated by the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation), and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), together with a coalition of 32 prominent partners in the tourism industry. The purpose was to bring the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles, standardizing a common language for sustainable tourism…