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 (Assurance Panel 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.
Alice currently works as the Ecotourism Development Manager for Conservation Volunteers/Australian Nature Tours. Born in the UK, raised in Thailand and Ethiopia and now a new Australian she has an eclectic background. Her first degree is in Zoology (University of Liverpool), followed by a PhD on population dynamics of an aquatic insect (University College of Wales, Aberystwyth). Alice has worked extensively around the world on sustainable tourism standards including Vietnam (Flora Fauna International), China (WWF panda reserves, pilot of Green Globe IES and development of Community Based Tourism in Sichuan Province) and the Philippines (development of an Ecotourism Strategy for Department of Tourism). She was one of the founders of Ecotourism Australia and co-authored the world’s first ecotourism certification program as well as an EcoGuide program. Alice has worked extensively with development of standards, administration, training and auditing of sustainable tourism certification programs around the world, including Australia’s ECO Certification program, Respect Our Culture
David Andrés Ortegón-Martínez
David’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.
Geoff established www.WorldClassTourism.com in 2010 as an international consultancy that improves the quality, safety, authenticity, and sustainability of the tourism experience. Geoff was the CEO of Qualmark New Zealand from 2004 to 2009, an organization that developed and assessed the quality standards for all types of tourism businesses including hotel chains, luxury boutique resorts, land and sea adventure activities and cultural tourist attractions. Geoff was responsible for introducing an integrated quality and environmental star rating system in 2008. Geoff works with tourism companies, governments, and donor agencies across Europe, Asia and the Pacific to improve tourism standards and is a part-time lecturer in tourism.
José Augusto A. K. Pinto de Abreu
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.
Lisa has been involved with various sustainable tourism standards in Africa over the past decade such as national standards for South Africa (SANS1162:2011) and Mauritius (MS165:2014), Eco Awards Namibia, Egypt’s Green Star Hotel Standard, and Fair Trade Tourism including the development of their specific criteria for responsible volunteering and captive wildlife ‘attractions’. She also participated in the GSTC criteria pilot from 2010-2011 and facilitated a related workshop for African sustainable tourism certification schemes. Lisa is well known for her role in capacity building and technical training in the implementation of more sustainable operations and management systems with the private sector, DMOs, and various levels of government. She consults through Utopia Africa and is a recognized auditor/advisor for Green Destinations, Travelife for Tour Operators and Fair Trade Tourism. She holds an MA Distinction in Environment, Development & Policy from the University of Sussex and calls Namibia “home”.
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 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.
Richard A. May
Richard May is the Managing Director of Echos Consulting Limited with extensive experience with designing management systems for sustainability in energy, environmental risk management, safety (general, facilities, occupational, and food), risk & emergency management, and other areas related to environmental sustainability and operations risk management.
As a trained lead auditor for standards including; EarthCheck, Cristal International Standards, ISO9001, and ISO14001 certification processes, Richard has worked through commercial and hospitality sectors across the Caribbean and over the past years since 1996 has made significant inroads in the field. His focus and tenacity with sustainability and risk management and efficiency is evident in the number of clients who engage his company’s services in the areas of energy, sustainability and risk management including varied levels of energy audits, renewable energy solutions, and alternative energy recommendations.
A native of Costa Rica, Ronald Sanabria has worked with the tourism industry on certification, productivity, quality assurance and sustainability since 1992. From 1992 to 2015, he taught at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Costa Rica. In 1998, he joined the Rainforest Alliance, first working with the Sustainable Agriculture Division; two years later, he began leading the development of its Sustainable Tourism program. At the Rainforest Alliance, Ronald coordinated projects in a dozen Latin American countries, supporting sustainable tourism training and technical assistance for hundreds of tourism businesses and community-based operations while also connecting them with the marketplace. He led the creation of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas and chaired its secretariat from 2003 to 2010. He assisted the creation of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and sat on its board of directors from 2010 to 2012. Currently, as an independent consultant, he supports governmental and UN agencies, NGOs like Fundecooperación and companies in sustainability-related projects. In 2020, Ronald joined IDH – The Sustainable Trade Initiative as senior program manager on living wages. A Fulbright scholar, Ronald holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Costa Rica and an M.A. in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University.