Biosphere Responsible Tourism Certification, run by Instituto de Turismo Responsible (ITR) recently achieved GSTC Approved Status for their Destination Standards. Previously, ITR had been Approved for their hotel and tour operator standards. This is a landmark accomplishment as ITR is the first to achieve GSTC Approval for both Hotel & Tour Operator and Destination certification standards. Based in Spain, ITR focuses on providing practical tools in order to carry out a Responsible Tourism Policy on a global scale. The tools that the program provides contribute to the maintenance and protection of cultural and natural heritage in various destinations. In addition to this, ITR’s Responsible Tourism System bases its success on the reality that tourists have expectations regarding the destination, and they can only be met if the destination is authentic. They push to raise the quality of life for the host population, by coverage of three sustainability variables: environment, culture, and socio-economic impact.

Stories of Success

Meliá Berlin is a shining example of ITR’s Responsible Tourism Certification program. As an effort to preserve the environment, the hotel practices strict waste sorting. Ecological concerns are consistently addressed through refurbishments, such as monitoring energy use. Installation of induction hobs and the switch to LED lights are some examples of the changes noted at Meliá Berlin. Meliá Hotels International’s fundamental values have always included a commitment to the environment, sharing local culture, and contributing to philanthropies such as UNICEF. Meliá also helps provide tools and financial aid to workshops for the disabled as well as child aid. Meliá Berlin sees sustainability as a crucial ingredient for both present and future development.

Gijón is a destination certified under ITR’s Biosphere Responsible Tourism Certification. This Asturian city is surrounded by an enviable green ring and opens itself up to the sea. These resources allow for an ample supply of culture and cuisine unique to this location. The quality of life here is highly valued by its residents, all while practicing a tourism model with a commitment to quality and satisfaction for its tourists. Gijón’s “green lung” and gem within the city is its Atlantic Botanical Garden. This enclosure extends into 25 hectares of about 30,000 plants including 2,000 distinct species cataloged. A noteworthy project which began in 2014 is Gijón Responsible Tourism, Committed Companies (Gijón Turismo Responsible, Empresas Comprometidas). Various tourism businesses in Gijón are collectively working towards conducting more sustainable practices, and drafting a report of good practices for short and long term results for other businesses to follow. Some of the entities include the Office of Tourism Infogijón, cultural and art centers like Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura, and hotels such as Hotel Abba Playa Gijón and Hotel Tryp Gijón Rey Pelayo, which are part of Melía International. The combination of these endeavors is what makes Gijón a destination of high quality sustainability.

Leveraging Standards with the GSTC

The certification programs currently aligning themselves with the GSTC Approved standards are already witnessing exceptional results. The GSTC Criteria is setting the bar for sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintenance of cultural heritage, and reduction of environmental impacts. Meliá Berlin continues to adapt and develop its hotel into an energy saving machine. Gijón has already won awards for Best Quality as a Tourist Destination by the Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism of Spain in 2012, and again in 2014 for its Committed Companies project. The clarity, consistency, and credibility provided for sustainable travel and tourism products prove beneficial towards certification programs and sustainable tourism as a whole.

About the GSTC Integrity Program

The world’s most widely accepted sustainable tourism standards have been created through the GSTC Criteria. Through the application of the GSTC Criteria, certification programs are increasingly using the GSTC Integrity Program to ensure that their standards meet or exceed sustainable tourism baseline standards. The newly named GSTC Integrity Program offers the same process of GSTC Recognition, Approval, Accreditation while better reflecting the core mission of the program. The Approval Process comes after GSTC Recognition is achieved, and the certification procedures must largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence. This stepwise process provides benefits by building consumer confidence, promoting efficiency, and fighting false claims.

*Article Written by GSTC Volunteer, Jacquelyn Lopez