Assurance Panel

The GSTC Assurance Panel seeks to recognize standards and certification programs that are credible, transparent, impartial, and comply with the GSTC Industry Criteria and GSTC Destination Criteria for sustainable tourism. The GSTC Assurance Panel provides an impartial and independent voice for the GSTC Process and operates independently of the GSTC Secretariat. Current members of the Assurance Panel are listed below. The GSTC Assurance Panel members have been selected and appointed on the basis of specific qualifications and experience requirements (see Qualifications).

Cathy Parsons, Chair

Cathy has been Chair of the Accreditation Panel – now Assurance Panel, since October 2010. She has been actively involved in the evolution to the present day of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. From 2001 to 2006, Cathy was the Executive Director and then CEO of the worldwide tourism certification program, Green Globe. She was responsible for all aspects of delivering the program to tourism operations in over 50 countries with the objective of achieving a more sustainable tourism industry. During her time in the mid-90s as a senior executive with the Australian Government’s Department of Tourism, she managed the government’s environmental tourism programs. She assisted industry to develop the world’s first ecotourism certification program as well as several other tourism certification programs for different industry sectors.

David Andrés Ortegón-Martínez

David Andres Ortegon Martinez 120David’s experience on sustainability include his work as Sustainability Corporate Director at Karisma Hotels & Resorts in México, Jamaica and Dominican Republic, the development of the SM@RT Manager program, created to integrate Project Management, International Quality Standards (The Leading Hotels of the World – AAA) Innovation and CSR under a Sustainable approach into the daily operation of Hotels & Accommodations, and the development of the Sustainable Tourism Model for the State of Guanajuato, México. David is General Director and Owner of KAI Sustainable Coaching, a company based in México and Dominican Republic, created to assist tourism businesses in Latin America and The Caribbean to integrate Sustainability into their Management Systems and use it as a key element to optimize the use of its resources and its competitiveness on the market. David holds a Master on Leadership & Environmental Management from the UCI Costa Rica and an International Master in Local/Rural Development from the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

José Augusto A. K. Pinto de Abreu

Jose Augusto 120

During the last 25 years, José Augusto Abreu had the opportunity to work with standards and conformity assessment programs, both in the operational and strategic level and at international and national level. José Augusto’s experience comprises quality and safety and also the environment, ecolabelling, and sustainability. During these years he worked on several projects and initiatives, including many in the tourism sector. José Augusto worked for standards bodies, certification bodies, accreditation bodies, NGOs, governments and private enterprises. He is a civil engineer and holds a master in civil engineering. He lives in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Nicola Koschel

Nicola Koschel 120

Nicola Koschel serves on the Accreditation Panel on behalf of WWF. She is an independent tourism consultant based in Germany with a focus on the sustainable development and environmental management of tourism. After graduating from a BBA in Tourism Management and Consultancy (NHTV-NL) she obtained a Master in Sustainable Tourism Management (HNEE-DE). Since 2007 Nicola has worked with and for NGOs, specialist researchers, federal ministries, the German Development Cooperation, the European Commission as well as by order of renowned consultancy firms. Her work portfolio involves product and destination development, feasibility studies, project evaluation, consumer market research, design of appropriate marketing strategies and the organization of study trips, tourism awards, and conferences. She is also a member of GSTC’s International Standards Working Group.

Richard Denman

Richard Denman 120

Richard is Director of The Tourism Company, a small specialist tourism consultancy based in the UK. Following a degree in Economics from Cambridge University and a doctorate based on tourism research, Richard worked for ten years as development and marketing director for the tourist board in central England. He has been a consultant since 1990 and has worked in over fifty countries. In 2005 he wrote the policy guide Making Tourism More Sustainable for UNEP and UNWTO, and has continued to work with them and a number of international agencies on sustainability issues, including the preparation of various good practice guides. Richard has worked at a local level with many destinations around the world and has a particular interest in tourism in protected areas. In 2009/10 he undertook the initial work on developing the accreditation process for the predecessor body to the GSTC. Richard is a former Board Director of The International Ecotourism Society and serves on the Advisory Committee of the Travel Foundation.

Görkem Kurşunlu Karakuş

Görkem Kurşunlu Karakuş has been a government officer for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Türkiye for almost 20 years. During her tenure, she has worked in different departments to promote and develop Turkey’s tourism industry. After completing her university degree, Görkem pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Leicester in the UK, focusing on preserving natural and cultural heritage and tourism policies in the European Union. She then worked as the Director of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Counselor’s Office in Washington DC, USA. Currently, Görkem serves as the Chief Inspector of the Ministry and has been actively involved in sustainable tourism policies since 2019. As a Project Coordinator, she worked on the “2023 Türkiye Tourism Master Plan” and participated in the studies conducted by the Ministry of Strategic Tourism Planning and Türkiye’s National Sustainable Tourism Program with GSTC. She has also conducted studies on competitiveness and sustainability in tourism with international organizations such as the World Economic Forum and UNWTO. Between 2021-2023, she worked as a Project Fellow for the World Economic Forum, contributing to the White Paper “Driving Türkiye’s Travel and Tourism Development” published by WEF. Currently, she is working with the authorities of the Türkiye Tourism and Promotion Agency (TGA) to implement sustainable tourism policies and destination management to promote Türkiye as a sustainable brand in the tourism industry.

Kathy Colgan

Kathy has over 25 years of experience working in natural resource management with specific experience in sustainable tourism auditing as a lead auditor and trainer. She has completed training as an environmental auditor in ISO14001 and also has qualifications in Quality Auditing, Integrated Management Systems, and Environmental Management Systems auditing. She has worked for both the government and the private sector over her career. She is currently undertaking work related to sustainability and conducting environmental audits and training around the world.