Achieve GSTC Recognition of Standard


GSTC-Recognized means that a sustainable tourism standard has been deemed equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism and is administered by a standard owner that meets GSTC requirements. This designation is made by GSTC’s independent Assurance Panel. This means that the GSTC has verified that the standard aligns with the GSTC Criteria and that any additional clauses do not contradict GSTC Criteria requirements.

The GSTC considers it desirable for all sustainable tourism standards to be aligned with the GSTC Criteria to ensure that an overall global baseline is set for sustainable tourism. The GSTC Criteria are developed and maintained according to the principles laid out in the Standards Setting Code of the ISEAL Alliance, utilizing a highly inclusive development process that produces globally-relevant outcomes.

GSTC-Recognized does NOT mean that the owner of the standard is accredited. In other words, Recognition is of the set of standards, not of an organization or a certification scheme.

Who can apply?

The owner of any standard that is applied to more than one organizational unit. Those standards can be applied in a variety of manners: for training, education, and awareness; for a certification or verification program, for internal hotel chain programs, tour operator for its commercialization chain, etc.

A Standard is defined as “a document that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods.”

Why Apply?

The GSTC Criteria are regarded as universal standards for sustainable tourism, developed by a rigorous and highly inclusive process, meaning that complying with them adds a layer of credibility to other standards.

Well-known standards have already been recognized:


  • International credibility that the standard is Recognized as a standard that aligns with universal criteria for sustainable management, social and economic benefits to the local community, cultural heritage preservation and the reduction of pollution.
  • GSTCs Market Access Program includes promotion of individual certified hotels through sharing the information with prominent online travel agencies (OTA’s) and offline to various travel providers to use for purposes of preferential buying
    * this is relevant only to standards used for 3rd-party verification, not for internal standards, participation in the Market Access program is not automatically granted, eligibly will be reviewed after gaining Recognition
  • Qualification for GSTC Accreditation of the certification program with the Certification Body’s own branded set of standards (any Certification Body is a candidate to gain accreditation to certify to the GSTC Criteria)
  • Announcement of achievement in GSTC newsletter, GSTC website, and GSTC social media outlets

Recognition Process

Note: Due to the backlog of applications, we may not be able to begin processing new applications promptly. It may take more than five months to complete the application process rather than the normal three to four months. (Updated 10th July 2023)

The standard owner submits an application to the GSTC technical team for review. There is an optional consultation with a GSTC Technical Director prior to the submission of an application.

The GSTC team evaluates the standard against the GSTC Criteria. If the standard meets GSTC requirements, a report is prepared and sent to the GSTC Assurance Panel for final review and approval. If the standard does not meet the requirements the standard owner will be informed and an attempt will be made to help them meet the requirements. If the non-conformities cannot be remedied, the Assurance Panel will decline the petition. Standard owners can resubmit once they have complied with the requirements.

Standard owners will be notified via email whether their standard has been recognized, recognized with conditions for future improvement, or rejected with an explanation of the areas that must be improved.

GSTC Recognition Manual

The GSTC Recognition Manual guides the processes and procedures whereby owners of other sustainable tourism standards voluntarily seek formal verification by GSTC that their standard includes and complies with the GSTC Criteria.

Download GSTC Recognition Manual v5.0

Download Interpretation Document 2021INT01 RMv5.0 for clarification of the scope of GSTC Recognition.

GSTC Recognition Applications

Download Application for Recognition of Standards for Destinations

(New) Download Application for Recognition of Standards for Hotel and Tour Operators

Maintaining Recognition Status

Recognition status is maintained in perpetuity as long as the following apply:

(1) GSTC Recognized status will be valid until either your standard or the GSTC Criteria are changed. In the latter case, a two-year period for adjustment to the revised GSTC Criteria will be allowed from the date of being recognized. In either case, any changes must be resubmitted for evaluation to ensure continued recognized status.

(2) The Standard maintains its GSTC Membership (which covers the annual Recognition maintenance fee)

(3 New!) As of February 1st 2023, GSTC has imposed a new limit on the duration of Recognition of certain types of Standards as follows.

Standards types for which there is no time limit to maintaining GSTC Recognition Status:

  • GSTC Recognized Standards that fit one of these criteria:
    • Standards used for certification by a GSTC Accredited Certification Body
    • National programs of legitimate national public authorities (or in some cases provincial/state) or their designated agents that operate in only one country
    • Standards used in compliance to GSTC’s “Certification Scheme” (see more information in GSTC Accreditation Manual for Hotel/Accommodation & Tour Operator v.3.1, Annex A page 67-68)
    • Standards based on the GSTC Destination Criteria
    • Standards used for awards or similar marks that are NOT marketed as “certification” nor are implied to exist as a form of certification or verification.
  • GSTC shall consider petitions from small-scale programs or those confined to developing economies for consideration of waiving the time limitation requirement

Definition of ‘Certification’: Certification is defined as a voluntary, third-party assessment, through an audit, of a tourism enterprise or destination for conformity to a standard.

Interpretations of ‘Award’: Awards are a mark given in honor of an achievement associated with a standard. Awards are given once, without reference to continued verification such as expiry date, renewals, etc.

Awards are not eligible to participate in the GSTC Market Access program. Standards used for verification that are marketed as “awards” but are considered as certification by the abovementioned definition of certification, will be regarded as certification and not as awards.

Standard types with time limitations on maintaining GSTC Recognition Status:

Any standard based on the GSTC Industry Criteria used in a program that promotes itself as a form of “certification” of businesses that is described as sustainable, responsible, green, etc. (which do not fall under the categories mentioned in the section above).

By December 31, 2024, owners of existing Recognized Standards used for “certification” need to either (1) formally open an application to pursue accreditation; or (2) enter into the arrangement with GSTC whereby they act as a “Certification Scheme”.

If the accreditation application is closed after December 31, 2024, or an existing accreditation status lapses after that date, the Recognition status shall be immediately terminated.

The Recognition status shall be reinstated at no cost if the accreditation is re-established within 6 months of the lapsed accreditation status.

Subject to the above, Recognition is maintained in perpetuity as long as the following apply: (1) formally open an application to pursue accreditation; or (2) enter into the arrangement with GSTC whereby they act as a “Certification Scheme”.

Why the time limits?

GSTC is aware of approximately 200 labels globally for accommodations, most of which are described as “certification” but in fact many do not comply with international norms on the definition of certification. GSTC Recognition is generally misunderstood to be a mark on a program including its auditing process, when in fact it looks only at the words in a standard and not the process by how the standard is used. GSTC wishes to remove the extensive confusion in the marketplace surrounding this lack of understanding and misleading assurance.

The GSTC Market Access program is designed to reward and encourage excellence and rigor; as such any confusion regarding the technical aspects of programs needs to be removed as explained from the start to all OTAs and other partners participating in the GSTC Market Access program.


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