World Standards Day is observed globally on October 14th to celebrate the importance of standards-related activities and honor the collaborative effort of individuals and standardization bodies involved in the development of voluntary standards. This commemorative day aims to raise awareness to the importance of standardization in the global economy among regulators, industries, and consumers.

Importance of Standards

Standards systems are built on a collaborative effort. There is a strong relationship between the GSTC Criteria and the SDGs. Economic, environmental and societal dimensions are all addressed by the GSTC Criteria. The GSTC Criteria provide effective guidance to help face sustainability challenges and contribute toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Luigi Cabrini, Chairman of GSTC, said “ A group formed by UN agencies, prominent tourism companies and NGOs committed, back in 2007, to fill an important gap in the tourism sector: the creation of standards that would define sustainable tourism and provide the tools to achieve it. 15 years later the GSTC Criteria are a main reference for governments, destinations and leading companies in their sustainable tourism strategies.”

Developing International Standards – the GSTC Criteria

The GSTC Criteria serve as the global standard for sustainability in travel and tourism. The two sets of Criteria, GSTC Industry Criteria and GSTC Destination Criteria, are used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses and government agencies and other organization types, measurement and evaluation, and act as a basis for certification.

The Criteria are the result of a worldwide effort to develop a common language about sustainability in tourism. They are aligned with SDGs and based on the four pillars of sustainability:

  1. Sustainable management
  2. Socioeconomic impacts
  3. Cultural impacts
  4. Environmental impacts (including consumption of resources, reducing pollution, and conserving biodiversity and landscapes)

The GSTC Criteria have been built on decades of prior work and experience around the world, and they take into account the numerous guidelines and standards for sustainable tourism from every continent. During the process of development, they were widely consulted throughout the globe, in both developed and developing countries, in several languages. They reflect our goal of attaining a global consensus on sustainable tourism. The process of developing the Criteria was designed to adhere to the standards-setting code of the ISEAL Alliance, the international body providing guidance for the development and management of sustainability standards for all sectors. That code is informed by relevant ISO standards.

Global Impact of GSTC Criteria

The Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, which businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs, and laws, the Criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and supplemented by additional criteria for the specific location and activity.

Intended impacts and outcome

  • provide guidelines for businesses and destinations of all sizes and all over the world to become more sustainable.
  • Provide guidance for travelers and travel providers in choosing suppliers and sustainable tourism programs
  • Provide a common denominator for media to recognize sustainable tourism providers
  • Help certification and other voluntary programs ensure that their standards meet a broadly-accepted baseline
  • Governmental, non-governmental and private sector programs have a framework for developing sustainable tourism requirements
  • Provide guidelines for education and training bodies such as hotel schools and universities

GSTC Recognition of Standards

GSTC-Recognized Standards are sustainable tourism standards that adhere to and are equivalent to the GSTC Criteria. This means that the GSTC Criteria are included within the set of standards owned by a Certification Body or a local, national, or specialized tourism organization.
The GSTC-Recognized status refers to the standard/system itself and means that a sustainable tourism standard or system has been reviewed by GSTC technical experts and the GSTC Assurance Panel and deemed the standard or system equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism. 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. It shows that the set of standards are based on the 4 pillars of the GSTC Criteria: Environment, Social, Cultural, and Management principles. This does not relate to the process of certification, nor to accreditation.

The following standards have been Recognized as aligned with the GSTC Criteria:
GSTC-Recognized Standards for Destinations
GSTC-Recognized Standards for Hotels
GSTC-Recognized Standards for Tour Operators

Note: GSTC-Recognized Standards refers to, as the name suggests, standards only. GSTC has NOT analyzed the quality of the process of certification of these standards except those that have been accredited by GSTC.

Learn more about the difference between the certification of businesses, accreditation of certification bodies, and recognition of standards.