Facing the need to grow sustainability as the long-term competitive advantage of rural areas – and in fact, of any type of tourism destinations and businesses – the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG RRD) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), within the jointly implemented regional project  Support to Economic Diversification of Rural Areas in Southeast Europe (SEDRA) supported the translation of the GSTC Criteria into the languages of this emerging region.

In November 2019, at the 13th Annual Working Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture from South-Eastern Europe (SEE) in Pristina, the Ohrid Agenda was presented, including the outcome which links the EU policies with sustainable rural development and tourism: “As EU policies are supporting diversified economic approaches, rural tourism becomes one of the new sources of sustainable development and income generation in the rural communities. While rural tourism constitutes a growing source of revenue for the Western Balkan countries/territories, much of that growth has been restricted by poor infrastructure, education and promotion activities, often with adverse environmental effects. To support economic diversification, the tourism sector requires efficient educational and management systems and improved coordination of rural tourism value chains. Furthermore, to bring together rural development and tourism policies the GSTC Criteria are available.”

In December 2019, at the GSTC 2019 Global Conference on Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal, GSTC CEO Randy Durband announced the good news in front of 250 participants from 42 countries. “The GSTC Criteria play an important role in sustainable travel and tourism throughout the world,” said Randy Durband, GSTC CEO. “Because it is important that the technical language of sustainability be well understood by travel and tourism professionals, we are very glad the GSTC Criteria were translated by the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group, and GIZ in the project SEDRA.»

Following the good implementation example of the Azores and other GSTC partner regions and countries, the project group and the GSTC are supportive of the suggestion to define pilot destinations in the Western Balkans that would be interested in starting the systematic path to a more sustainable tourism future.

From Montenegro as the first destination to make the move, Tivat has chosen to improve in all aspects of sustainability – in cooperation with the GSTC-Accredited Certification Body Green Destinations, which is already working in this region. The National Tourism Organisation is planning to present the program to all local tourism organizations in the country as soon as personal work meetings are possible.

The translations of the GSTC Criteria are free for download here.

For further information, please contact

  • GIZ, SEDRA: Benjamin Mohr, Team Leader, benjamin.mohr@giz.de; Anica Palazzo, Advisor, anica.palazzo@giz.de
  • SWG RRD: Boban Ilic, Secretary-General, boban.ilic@swg-seerural.org; Dori Pavloska Gjorgjieska, Project Manager, dori.pavloska@swg-seerural.org
  • GSTC: Dr. Ioannis Pappas, Mediterranean Director, ioannis@gstcouncil.org
  • Green Destinations: contact@greendestinations.org

About the GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) establishes and manages global sustainable standards, known as the GSTC Criteria. There are two sets: Destination Criteria for public policy-makers and destination managers, and Industry Criteria for hotels and tour operators. These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation.

The GSTC Criteria form the foundation for GSTC’s role as the global Accreditation Body for Certification Programs that certify hotels/accommodations, tour operators, and destinations as having sustainable policies and practices in place. GSTC does not directly certify any products or services; but it accredits those that do. The GSTC is an independent and neutral USA-registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that represents a diverse and global membership, including UN agencies, NGO’s, national and provincial governments, leading travel companies, hotels, tour operators, individuals and communities – all striving to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism.

Information for media and the press: https://www.gstcouncil.org/about/for-the-press/