Providing Assurance for Sustainable Tourism
Accreditation: GSTC partners with ASI (Assurance Services International) to provide accreditation services for Certification Bodies that certify hotels/accommodations, tour operators, and destinations as sustainable. This provides the marketplace a credible means of selecting Certification Bodies that have been verified by an impartial, credible assurance provider.
GSTC-Recognition: GSTC provides a formal indication of other standards that align with the GSTC Criteria. GSTC-Recognized means that a sustainable tourism standard has been deemed equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism. This designation is made by GSTC’s expert, independent Assurance Panel. GSTC-Recognized refers to a standard or a system and does NOT mean that the Certification Body using the standard is accredited.
What is the difference between certification and accreditation? Organizations get certified by a Certification Body, and Certification Bodies get accredited by an Accreditation Body. Both levels, certification and accreditation, exist to provide evidence of neutrality and competence in the process of certification.
Intended Impacts & Outcomes
- Accreditation drives market-facing ecolabel which supports Responsible Consumption & Production by giving buyers of tourism services at both the retail and wholesale level a credible means of selecting services and suppliers that are certified sustainable.
- GSTC has impacted the uptake of certification by enhancing its credibility in a market that suffers from confusion of 250+ standards. For example, TUI has certified nearly 400 of its owned hotels from 2014 to 2020 with a requirement that the Certification Bodies selected by each hotel use a GSTC-Recognized standard.
- The GSTC Accreditation Manual has impacted non-accredited certification programs in tourism by raising awareness on impartiality requirements and other aspects of credible certification per the ISEAL Alliance Assurance Code and relevant ISO standards such as ISO 17065. GSTC has evidence of such impacts via direct communications with several programs’ leaders.
- Sustainability is defined similarly by participating programs by including the 4 pillars of the GSTC Criteria. Further, Recognized standards and systems include principles derived from GSTC’s intensively inclusive standards-setting processes. To date, some 48 standards and 2 sustainable systems are GSTC-Recognized, distributed throughout the world including many national programs.
- Some of the standards in use in tourism, including some of the most prominent and high volume programs, revised their standards from environment only to include social and other elements in order to gain GSTC-Recognized status. A prominent example is Green Key FEE, which at the behest of TUI Group and GSTC revised their standard in that manner 2015-2016. They are the largest by volume certifier in Europe.
- Impacts from the certification of hotels was measured in a survey conducted in 2017 by TUI Group, with a proper control group and other appropriate survey techniques, finding that hotels with sustainability certifications vs non-certified hotels achieved:
- 10% lower CO2 emissions per guest night
- 24% lower waste volume per guest night
- 19% less fresh water use per guest night
- 15% less total water use per guest night
- 23% higher use of green energy
- 9% higher employment rate of national employees
- Higher customer satisfaction scores for accommodation overall