GSTC Approved means that a certification program is using a GSTC-Recognized standard and is following processes and procedures that have been reviewed and approved by the GSTC Accreditation Panel. Businesses certified by an approved certification program can also use the GSTC Certified language and logos and can expect favorable positioning in the market place, among other benefits.

In broad terms it means that the GSTC has recognized that the standard used for certification is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC-Recognized) and that the certification procedures largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence. The process of approval is faster, simpler, and less expensive than accreditation, because not all accreditation requirements will be required. 

Who can apply?

Any certification program that uses an already GSTC-Recognized Standard may apply for GSTC-Approved status. The program should also have rules for the application of the standard, transparent and impartial verification procedures, and auditors who are technically competent in sustainable tourism and conformity assessment. GSTC follows ISO trends in verification and conformity assessment procedures.

Why Apply?

The purpose of the GSTC Integrity Program is to recognize and reward genuine practitioners of sustainable tourism, which in turn builds confidence and credibility with consumers. Based on this, many travel and tourism organizations and major distributors have publically committed to offering sustainable products and service that have been through the GSTC Integrity Program exclusively. The GSTC-Approved products will be eligible for distribution through these channels.


  • All the benefits of GSTC-Recognized, plus the following:
  • International credibility that the certification is Approved as having fulfilled the requirements of an expanded and thorough verification process.  Certification standard has been found to be in compliance with universal criteria for sustainable tourism and its procedures meet international principles for transparency, impartiality and competence.
  • Use the approved GSTC-Approved or GSTC-Certified logo for the Certification Body’spurposes, with a licensing agreement, at no additional cost
  • Certified hotels, tour operators and destinations may choose to use the GSTC-Approved logo or the GSTC-Certified logo, for a modest annual fee
  • Certified hotels, tour operators and destinationswill be displayed (with a hyperlink to the individual hotel) on the GSTC website
  • Individual hotels certified by GSTC-Approved standards will be given prioritysearch results placement within the GSTC hotel index
  • Development and publication on GSTC website of case studies of individual certified businesses
  • Announcement of GSTC-Approved status made via a Press Release to GSTC media contacts and placement in GSTC website’s News & Announcements section


A certification program/scheme submits an application and other documentation to the GSTC ( for a desk audit. The fee for evaluation must be paid in advance and does not guarantee approval. If the audit team finds non-conformities they will contact the certification to discuss the issue(s).

The audit team prepares a report either indicating recommendations for improvement or for approval. If no serious non-conformities are detected, the report will be submitted to the GSTC Accreditation Panel for final approval. The Accreditation Panel may require an on-site witnessed audit. 


GSTC Approved status is valid for only two years, at which time it is renewed, or until the program becomes GSTC-Accredited.  


The time required from application through approval should be no more than three months. Timeline changes will depend on the non-conformities that are found and corrective actions taken by the certification program, as well as the number of programs awaiting review.


US $8,000 application fee for non-members; $7,000 application fee for GSTC members. An optional pre-application (pre-lodgement) 3-hour advice session with a GSTC tehcnical director is available for $500.

The Accreditation Panel may determine that an on-site witnessed audit is required. In that case, the applicant will be required to pay an additional fee and costs as follows: $1,000 per day (1 day audit is typical) + $1,000 travel time for the GSTC auditor (charged at half-day rate) + travel expenses of the GSTC auditor including hotel, meals, transport, etc.)

Renewal after 2 years:

  • Minor changes: $800
  • Major changes: $5,000 for non-members and $4,000 for members, plus the potential for a witnessed audit (see above for those fees and costs)

Licensing and sublicensing agreements

Approved certification program must make a separate sub-license agreement with their clients for the use of the GSTC Approved logo for certified businesses. This agreement specifies the terms of use of the GSTC name and approved seal as well as the royalties to be paid, and the conditions for use and withdrawal of the GSTC trademarks.

GSTC Approved Manual

Download the GSTC Approved Manual here.  

GSTC Approval application

Download the GSTC Approval application here.

How to Apply?

Complete the application and submit to the GSTC at   An invoice will be sent to you for payment. Upon receipt of both the completed application and payment in full, the application will be accepted and acted upon.