Why Become a Certified Tour Operator? 

Being certified by an Accredited Certification Body (CB) means that your operations comply with the highest social and environmental standards on the market. As public concern grows about the harmful effects and the positive impacts of travel and tourism, certification provides a credible solution to complex environmental and social issues.

        Logo for businesses certified to the GSTC Criteria

Travel providers proudly display information regarding their certificate and the certifying body that issued it. Doing so informs your stakeholders — from customers to ownership and to your supply chain — that your business is operated with sound management that looks to the future and not merely at today.

Businesses certified by an Accredited CB can use the GSTC logo along with the CB’s mark.

Increasingly, luxury travelers as well as regular travelers, and your fellow travel provider clients are seeking confirmation that sustainability practices are in place. Also increasingly, travel companies are looking for a product that is not only certified sustainable, but certified sustainable by a certification program that is GSTC Accredited. For example, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced on July 1st, 2016 that by being certified by a Certification Body that carries a GSTC mark, operators of shore excursions will gain preferential buying treatment, when feasible. Other travel providers also give preferential buying treatment to suppliers that are certified sustainable.

Join the growing number of tour operators throughout the world that have become certified sustainable, here is how.


How To Become Certified: Key Stages

1. Compare and select a certification body
Choose from the list below, of certification bodies that are Accredited. Tour operators are encouraged to shop for a certification body that can provide certification at a competitive price and offer strong customer service to the tour operator during the certification process.

2. Register and/or contract with a certification body
The certification body may require tour operators to officially register, fill out an application and pay a one-time fee. Some certification bodies may require tour operators to enter into a contract with the certification body. Contracts should always be read carefully prior to an agreement.

3. Self-Assessment or Pre-Assessment (optional)
Prior to starting the certification process, some certification bodies offer the option to conduct a short self-evaluation to determine if certification is worth the time, money and effort. Costs may be associated with this step.

4. Submit application/documentary evidence to certification body
Once ready to formally start the certification process, the tour operator will submit an application. The certification body will request information and various business documents to see how the tour operator’s practices and procedures comply with the GSTC standard. The documents should be submitted within the deadline stipulated by the certification body.

5. Desktop assessment and consultation
The certification body will review all documentation submitted and compare to their GSTC Recognized standard. During this period the certification body will consult the tour operator to clarify any questions about its operations. The length of this process can vary depending on the extent of the tour operator’s documented policies.

6. Onsite audit
The Certification Body will visit the tour operator’s office to see how its policies are put into action. A part of the certification body’s process should also audit a sample of tours offered by the operator, to ensure that those tours are in line with its declared business practices.

7. Certification Body reports
After the Certification Body’s assessment, the tour operator should have a chance to view a draft report and voice any factual objections. This period allows the operator to contest or provide any supporting information to support certification. The certification body’s report will then be finalized, shared with the tour operator, concluding whether certification can be awarded.

8. Certification issued
Certification is issued once the certification body has confirmed that the tour operator meets the GSTC standard. A formal certificate will be issued by the certification body.

9. Logo use
As part of becoming certified, the certification body will notify GSTC, and the tour operator will be eligible to use the GSTC’s worldwide-recognized logo in its marketing materials upon signing a licensing agreement with the GSTC and paying a modest licensing fee.

10. Non-Conformities
If the certification application is not approved right away, the assessor would provide the tour operator with recommendations and corrective actions. Tour operators can then work with the certification body’s dedicated customer service representative to show the certification body that these corrective actions have been followed, so the tour operator can achieve certification.

11. Annual audits
The certification body will review the progress and improvements made for any corrective actions that were requested as the tour operator nears the date for renewal of certification. Audit duration and frequency can depend on the tour operator’s size and complexity of operations. GSTC Accredited certification bodies require an onsite audit at least once every 2 years. The certification body can conduct audits at their discretion and unannounced if they feel there is a need. Tour operators should check with the certification body to understand how frequently audits may occur.

12. Certification renewal
Tour operators should check with the certification body to see when the certification renewal process should begin. It generally is between 4-6 weeks prior to expiration of certification.


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Certification for Tour Operators

Tour Operators and tourism land transport providers may gain certification to the GSTC Criteria by contacting one of the organizations here. These certification providers fall into two types: Certification Bodies that are accredited to certify, and Certification Schemes that provide pre-certification consulting and training and guide the client to an accredited Certification Body to complete the certification. As such, these certification programs and their certificate-holders are authorized to display the designated GSTC Logo (per the terms of formal licensing agreements with the GSTC.

Bureau Veritas

Bureau Veritas is a world leader in testing, inspection and certification services. Since its creation in 1828, Bureau Veritas has been supporting its clients on every continent to continually improve their performance via certification of management systems, product certifications and customized audits. The Group has more than 78,000 employees located in more than 1,500 offices and laboratories around the globe. Bureau Veritas helps its clients improve their performance by offering services and innovative solutions, in order to ensure that their assets, products, infrastructure and processes meet standards and regulations in terms of quality, health and safety, environmental protection and social responsibility. Get certified by Bureau Veritas

Control Union

control unionControl Union Certifications offers a global one-stop-shop for a wide range of certification programmes. We understand the importance of impartiality and objectivity, and how to professionally manage conflicts of interest. From the beginning, sustainability has been the main focus of our certification services. Control Union Certifications presents a wide range of programmes in agriculture, food, feed, forest products, textiles and bio energy. In 2016, Control Union Certifications became the first Accredited CAB for the GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which provides the highest level in terms of credibility within the GSTC Integrity program. This means that Control Union Certifications can certify hotels and tour operators directly against the GSTC Criteria. Get certified by Control Union

Travelife for Tour Operators

Travelife for Tour operators is a leading global sustainability scheme for the tour operator sector with more than 500 members from 80 countries across all continents. Travelife provides an integrated set of trainings, best practices, implementation, suppliers and certification tools specifically designed for tour operators and accessible through its state of the art IT system. The Travelife certification standard follows the management logic of a travel company and is in compliance with ISO 14001, OECD, The Global Reporting Initiative, ISO 26000 and the GSTC Industry criteria.

Get certified by Travelife through one of their designated partner accredited Certification Bodies*

United Certification Systems Limited