UPDATE – The application period is now closed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) will select up to 10 destinations to pilot test the second phase of its new Destination Criteria, and encourages applications before the February 15, 2013 deadline. 

Overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and managed by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Criteria for Destinations are designed to orient destination managers, communities, and businesses toward the steps that are needed to sustain their natural and cultural assets, while benefitting local communities. The Destination Criteria complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which have become the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses. 

The pioneering group of destinations selected as Early Adopters for Phase 2 will help to test and provide feedback on the Destination Criteria. Early adoption of baseline sustainable tourism criteria and indicators will also offer these destinations improved decision-making frameworks, providing an increased ability to evaluate progress in the sustainable development of tourism. 

“After learning so much from Phase One, we are ready to see the Destination Criteria implemented again in a diverse group of destinations around the world,” said GSTC Board Chairperson Kelly S. Bricker, Ph.D. “This will once again be a real-world test, incorporating the voices of multiple stakeholders: local communities, government agencies, NGOs, and the tourism industry itself. We aim to enhance the criteria in Phase Two while further building consumer confidence, promoting business prosperity, fostering community benefits, and fighting false claims.” 


The first round of Early Adopters included Fjord Norway; Teton County, Wyoming; Huangshan, China; St. Kitts and Nevis; Lanzarote, Spain; Okavango Delta, Botswana. 

Each of the participants received a GSTC good-practices evaluation and was provided with a set of recommendations to assist the destinations’ adoption of sustainable tourism practices. Destination leaders helped to validate the range, applicability, and clarity of the criteria and indicators. 

“Teton County, Wyoming, also known as Jackson Hole and the southern half of Yellowstone, was very pleased to have been selected by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council to participate in its first Early Adopter Program for sustainable tourism destination criteria,” said Timothy O’Donoghue, Teton County’s GSTC Early Adopter Program Coordinator. “The expertise provided by the team and the results of the Early Adopter program's process have been greatly appreciated by the sustainability stakeholders of Teton County. The findings and recommendations from this process have provided Teton County with a valuable, objective baseline evaluation of our destination's sustainability programs, policies, and practices, while developing a foundation for moving forward toward greater levels of sustainability.” 

“In addition, we felt that we provided valuable feedback on the draft sustainable tourism destination criteria that will contribute to the final version,” he added. “We highly recommend that other destinations wishing to strengthen both the GSTC criteria and their sustainability efforts apply for participation in the GSTC Early Adopter Program.” 

In the second round, Sustainable Travel International’s team will once again visit each of the Early Adopter destinations to meet and consult with key stakeholders, including the destination management organization, tourism private sector, and other government agencies. 

Destinations interested in becoming an Early Adopter are encouraged to contact destinations@gstcouncil.org as soon as possible for an application. The deadline to apply is February 15, 2013. 

The GSTC is also requesting public feedback on the current draft of the criteria, and invites all interested parties to comment on or suggest improvements to the Destination Criteria until February 15, 2013. The survey is available in English and Spanish. These comments, along with feedback received via Early Adopter destinations, will inform a final version of the Destination Criteria. 

About the GSTC 

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC – http://new.gstcouncil.org/) is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. Housed within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the GSTC works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; and educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The Criteria, a set of voluntary principles that provide a framework for the sustainability of 

tourism businesses across the globe, is the cornerstone of our initiative. For more information, visit www.gstcouncil.org. 

About the GSTC Destination Criteria 

The GSTC’s Destination Criteria were developed by a panel of business owners, academics, government officials, and other experts, who examined the UN World Tourism Organization’s Indicators of Sustainable Development and other such guidelines currently in existence. Because the criteria are intended to describe a globally applicable set of minimum steps needed to approach sustainability, the criteria are seen as a baseline that each destination should add to or adjust as needed. The GSTC does not aim to certify destinations as sustainable; rather, the Council will review existing certification standards and acknowledge those that meet their criteria. However, any destination will be able to use the new criteria as a guide to becoming environmentally, culturally, and socially sustainable. 

About Sustainable Travel International 

A global non-profit and industry thought leader since 2002, Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) offers innovative programs that support sustainable development through responsible travel. Our practical solutions help destinations and businesses of all sizes respond to sustainability challenges, while strengthening the positive impacts of tourism worldwide. 


Media Contacts: 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council 

Elise Timothy or Gwen Migita 



Sustainable Travel International 

Jeremy Sampson, Senior Director, Marketing and Communications