“Navigating the Way Forward” – GSTC 2019 Global Conference in the Azores
The GSTC 2019 Global Sustainable Tourism Conference “Navigating the Way Forward” that took place on December 4th-7th in Terceira Island, the Azores, brought together 250 delegates from 42 countries, along with hundreds of viewers that watched the live broadcasting of the conference.
The Conference themes were: (A) Sustainable Destination Management; (B) Market Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Products; and (C) Tourism Response to Climate Change
“Our challenge is twofold: we need to create effective and practical tools to mainstream sustainability in tourism and to convince those skeptical decision-makers, who are not ready nor convinced, to evolve from their ‘business as usual’ methods. This has been our goal at the Global Sustainable Tourism Council for the last 12 years,” said GSTC Chair, Mr. Luigi Cabrini, mentioned the following achievements of GSTC:
- The Criteria for Destinations and the Industry are widely recognized by the public and the private sectors as relevant instruments to inform strategies and planning of central and regional governments, destinations, hotel chains, tour operators, etc.
- The Accreditation Program for certification bodies is steadily progressing despite its novelty when compared with other sectors and the difficulties deriving from the complexity and the transversal nature of the tourism chain.
- Every year several hundreds of people with responsibilities in tourism receive training, tailored to their needs, on the use of the criteria.
- Finally, the GSTC has made important steps forward to position sustainable tourism in the markets, a key factor for any change to be relevant at the global level.
“Of course, much remains to be done and we are just one of the many organizations committed, in different ways, to promote and to implement more responsible practices in a difficult context,” concluded Mr. Cabrini (full speech).
The opening ceremony celebrated the Azores as the first archipelago to be certified as a sustainable destination by EarthCheck.
“It is with great proud that today we can say that the Azores are certified as a sustainable tourist destination,” said Ms. Marta Guerreiro, Regional Secretary of Energy, Environment and Tourism. “We are the first and only archipelago in the world to have this certification. We are the only region in Portugal with this certification. It was 2 years of hard work, not always visible, and dedication to fulfill a commitment to certify the Azores as a sustainable tourist destination.”
“More than ever, today, this destination sustainability certification requires a commitment from all of us: population, private agents and public sector, in a joint reflection between real necessities and present and future demanding. We speak of responsibility. And ours is to elevate – always – the name of the Azores. Today we made a difference, once more, between those who stay in the past and those who have a leadership role in the building of the future. Proudly, I state hat the Azores are leading this path worldwide,” concluded Ms. Guerreiro (full speech).
Speakers from across the world shared insights and discussed the following topics: Applying the GSTC Criteria in a national scheme; Certification as a driver for destination stewardship; Seasonality: Under- and Over-tourism; (3) Marketing sustainability and influencing travelers’ preferences; Stopping the Flood of Plastic; Sustainable and Responsible Procurement; Destinations adaptation to and mitigation of climate change; Energy, water, and waste in travel and accommodations; Island & Marine Tourism; Slow travel and changing consumers demand.
Recordings of the conference’s sessions can be found on GSTC Facebook page and GSTC Youtube channel. Presentations from each session can be accessed here.
Participants included international and regional tourism stakeholders involved in the development and promotion of sustainable tourism; including the public sector, hotels, tour operators, academia, development agencies, NGOs, consultants, and more. Along with Azorean and mainland Portuguese participants, international participants came from Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
As with previous GSTC Conferences, the carbon footprint of the event was offset through tree planting on the island of Terceira. Other sustainable event practices were carried out, such as reducing paper and plastic usage to a minimum: printing to the minimum, badges were made of recyclable paper, and no single-use plastic was used during the conference. Vegetarian meal was the default meal option, with no lamb and beef (that have the highest carbon-footprint).
Prior to the confernce, a training class of the GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training Program (STTP) took place in Terceira Island, with 40 industry professionals from across Europe and beyond who joined. Using the GSTC Industry and Destination Criteria as the foundation, the training class covered various topics relevant to our industry and the sustainability challenges and opportunities we are facing today.