What is “GSTC-Recognized”?

  • Recognition by the GSTC means evaluating a written, published sustainable tourism standard to ensure that it contains all of the elements of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC Criteria). We call this being aligned with or equivalent to the GSTC Criteria. The standard can contain more criteria and should reflect local conditions and the industry sector of its scope, but it cannot contain less.
  • Recognition does NOT indicate that the quality of the process by which a standard is applied. It relates only to the inclusions within the standard; not how they are used or applied.
  • Recognition does NOT allow for use of a GSTC logo either by the standard-holder or any hotels, tour operators, or destinations that are certified by a Recognized certifying body.

What are “GSTC-Approved” and “GSTC-Accredited”?

  • Both are internal technical terms for two different paths to the level of “GSTC Certified”. The businesses, activities, and destinations that have been certified by an Accredited or Approved organization are also Accredited or Approved and can use the GSTC name and logo for marketing and promotion.
  • Accredited applies to sustainable tourism certification programs that follow internationally accepted procedures for third-party certification; using either a GSTC-Recognized standard for certification or the GSTC Criteria and Indicators (plus an internal Evaluation Tool) for certification.
  • Approval applies to sustainable tourism certification programs that use a GSTC-Recognized standard and that follow internationally accepted procedures for third-party certification.

What is the difference between Recognized and the two higher marks that attain GSTC Certified status?

  • The GSTC will “Recognize” standards that are fully aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Because this says nothing about how the standard is verified in the field, an additional process (either Accredited or Approved) is required to ensure that certified businesses, activities, and destinations comply with the standard and that the certification program complies with good practice in third-party certification.
  • Certifying Bodies that attain the GSTC Certified status (through completion of either the Accredited or Approved process) are able to use the GSTC logo, as are the businesses that they have certified.

Who can apply for Recognition?

  • The owner or developer of any formal sustainable tourism standard that is applied in more than one site can apply for recognition that it is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC Criteria). The standard can be a certification or verification standard, a national or international standard within the ISO system, a private standard developed by a hotel chain or tour operator, or a destination standard applied to multiple businesses and activities. A standard for use within a single hotel, resort or tour is not eligible.

What are the GSTC Criteria?

  • There are two sets of GSTC Criteria:

           1) GSTC-H/TOv2 refers to version 2, released in the year 2012, of the GSTC Sustainability Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators

              NOTE: GSTC-T/TOv2 are currently under revision; the release of the new version is expected in November or December 2016 under the new names

              “GSTC Hotel Industry Criteria” and “GSTC Tour Operator Industry Criteria”

           2) GSTC-D refers to version 1 of the GSTC Sustainable Destination Criteria, released November 2013

Can an environmental management standard be GSTC-Recognized?

  • To be Recognized by the GSTC, a standard should contain performance-based criteria based on the triple bottom-line: economic, sociocultural, and environmental. The standard must have at least one criterion that matches each of the 37 GSTC-H/TOv2 or the 41 GSTC-D (see above regarding the two sets of GSTC Criteria). Because a simple environmental management standard only considers the environmental section of the GSTC Criteria and generally does not contain performance-based criteria, it cannot be GSTC-Recognized.

Must the criteria of the standard that correspond to the GSTC Criteria be mandatory?

  • A standard can be recognized, even if the criteria are not mandatory. However, for the certification program to be GSTC-Approved and use the GSTC logo and name, the criteria that match each GSTC Criterion must be mandatory, and the program must demonstrate that all certified businesses and activities comply with all the GSTC Criteria.

What if specific GSTC Criteria are not applicable?

  • In some cases, a specific GSTC Criterion might not be applicable, given the scope of the standard and its location. For example, a standard with a scope of urban hotels in Paris would not need to require a code of conduct for indigenous communities. However a standard with a scope of all Europe would need to do so. Another example is that some criteria for lodging establishments might not be applicable for a standard whose scope is specific guided tours.

What if specific GSTC criteria are well fulfilled through legislation and practice in the territory where the standard is used?

  • Standards that are used in more than one country must have criteria that match each GSTC Criterion. However standards that are used in only one country or a smaller region may be able to demonstrate with convincing evidence that (a) the criterion is covered by legislation, (b) the specific laws must be identified, (c) the laws are enforced, and (d) the standard or the auditors’ verification manual requires demonstrated compliance with applicable laws.

Who can use the GSTC logo?

  • The GTSC name and logo can and should be used by a certification program that is Approved or Accredited. All the hotels, tour operators, and destinations that they have certified to a GSTC-Recognized standard should also use the GSTC-Accredited or Approved logo for promotion. Other benefits include participating in the GSTC’s market access program.
  • A GSTC logo can NOT be used with a GSTC-Recognized standard if the certification program has not been Approved or Accredited.

How long does it take to achieve any of the Integrity Program marks of a certification program?

  • Typically two to three months from the time that the completed application and materials are received to a formal response of acceptance or rejection. If the standard or program does not comply with GSTC requirements, the Secretariat will request additional information and the process may take longer than three months. A completed application does not guarantee Recognition, Accreditation, or Approval.