GSTC Glossary of Sustainable Tourism Terms

Words and phrases can often convey different meanings depending on circumstances, application, location, and several other factors. The following glossary clarifies many of the concepts illustrated in the GSTC Criteria and terms related to certification of businesses and destinations, accreditation of certification bodies, and recognition of standards.

For Recognition and Accreditation related terms, refer to the GSTC Glossary of Accreditation Terms.

Some definitions were drawn or adapted from organizations or reference materials related to the most universally-recognized meaning.

AccessPermission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, or pass to and from a place or to approach or communicate with a person or thing.
AccessibleProviding for the ability of individuals with varied capabilities the opportunity to reach, participate, or understand.
AccurateFree from error especially as the result of care; conforming exactly to truth or to a standard.
Active travelMaking journeys by physically active means, such as walking or cycling.
AdolescentA young person who is developing into an adult.
AdvancementPromotion or elevation to a higher rank or position.
Air pollutionThe presence of chemicals or compounds in the air which are usually not present and which lower the quality of the air. The transport sector is responsible for a large proportion of urban air pollution.
Animal welfareAnimal welfare means how an animal is coping with the conditions in which it lives. The universally recognized “Five Freedoms”, published in 1965, describe the right to welfare of animals under human control. According to this concept, an animal’s primary welfare needs can be met by providing: freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.
Appropriate behaviorBehaviour of any individual involved with a tourism business that is characterized by respect for the sociocultural and ecological fabric of a location.
Archaeological artefactsAny object manufactured, used or modified by humans. Common examples include tools, utensils, art, food remains, and other products of human activity.
ArtefactSomething created by humans usually for a practical purpose; especially an object remaining from a particular period
AssuranceDemonstrable evidence that specified requirements relating to a product, process, system, person or body are fulfilled (adapted from ISO 17000).   Synonyms: certification, verification
AuthenticWorthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact; not false or imitation : real, actual; true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character; made or done the same way as an original;
Basic servicesIncludes primary education, health care, clean water supply, sanitation, solid waste and energy supply
BenefitTo add positive value
BiodiversityVariability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems
CapacityThe potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating (GSTC-D C6/D2)
Capacity (2)The ability or facility to act (GSTC-D A5)
CaptiveConfined; kept within bounds
Carbon DioxideA greenhouse gas produced through respiration and the decomposition of organic substances.   Combustion of fossil fuels is primarily responsible for increased atmospheric concentrations of this gas.
Carbon FootprintThe total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Carbon NeutralAchieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference.
CertificationVoluntary, third party assessment, through an audit, of a tourism enterprise for conformity to a standard.
ChildYoung human being, boy or girl; person who has not reached age of discretion.
Child LabourWork that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development. It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children; and interferes with their schooling by depriving them of the opportunity to attend school; obliging them to leave school prematurely; or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work
Climate ChangeClimate change refers to a statistically significant variation in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for an extended period (typically decades or longer). Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.
Climate change adaptationAnticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise.
Climate change mitigationActions to limit the magnitude or rate of long-term climate change and its related effects. Climate change mitigation generally involves reductions in human (anthropogenic) emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Climate NeutralThe concept of reducing or offsetting any greenhouse gases produced by any entity (individual, business, country, etc.) so as to create a ‘neutral’ effect on global warming for that entity
CO2 OffsetsA carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere
Code of conductA set of rules that guide what is and is not acceptable or expected behaviour in a given situation
Code of practiceSet of guidelines and/or regulations to be followed by members of some profession, trade, occupation, organization etc.; does not normally have the force of law
CollaborationThe act of working together with other people or organizations to create or achieve something
Communal rightsRights held in common by members of a community
Community consentOften annotated as free, prior, and informed, consent, community consent indicates approval of any outside incursion or development into community lands or practices. Consent does not require unanimity among all of the members of a community. Rather, consent should be determined pursuant to customary law and practice, or in some other way agreed upon by the community.
ComplianceConformity in fulfilling official requirements.
ConcessionA grant of land or property especially by a government in return for services or for a particular use; the right to undertake and profit by a specified activity.
CongestionA situation in which there is too much traffic and movement is difficult
ConservationPlanned management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect
Conservation managementConservation management is a planned intervention in order to maintain a species or habitat in a favourable condition
Continuous improvementAn ongoing effort to make incremental improvements to products, services or processes over time. Processes are constantly audited and modified based on their efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability
Corrective Action PlanCorrective action provides that a problem has been recognized, corrected, and proper controls installed to make sure that it does not happen again.
Crisis managementThe application of strategies designed to help an organization deal with a sudden and significant negative event.
CriterionA standard, rule, or test on which a judgment or decision can be made
CulturalOf or relating to a particular group of people and their habits, beliefs, traditions, etc.
Cultural artefactAny object manufactured, used or modified by humans that expresses the particular characteristic of a people or peoples, including way of life, spiritual beliefs, or a collective sense of history.
Cultural assetsInherited assets which people identify and value as a reflection and expression of their evolving knowledge, beliefs and traditions.  Cultural assets may be tangible or intangible.
Cultural heritageCultural heritage is the legacy of physical artefacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations.
Cultural landscapeLandscapes, regardless of scale, that have been affected, influenced, or shaped by human involvement
Culturally appropriateRespecting and accepting cultural difference
Culturally or historically sensitive sitesSites which, by reason of their cultural or historical significance, call for tact, care, or caution in their treatment.
Cumulative impactThe impact of a series of repeated or different events or actions which may be greater than the sum of their individual impacts.
Customer satisfactionA measure of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation.
Decent workDecent work involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
DestinationA destination is a geographical area consisting of all the services and infrastructure necessary for the stay of a specific tourist or tourism segment. Destinations are the competitive units of incoming tourism.
Destination Management OrganizationOrganization responsible for the implementation of strategic tourism policies, product development and co-ordinated management of all the elements that make up a destination (accommodation, attractions, access, marketing, human resources, image). The form and structure of a DMO can vary, depending on the context in which it operates.
Direct economic contributionThe direct effects from initial spending which creates additional activity in the local economy
DiscriminationUnequal treatment of persons on grounds which are not justifiable in law
Economic benefitAny benefit(s) that can be quantified in terms of money generated, such as net income, revenues, etc.  It can also be money saved when discussing a policy to reduce costs.
EcosystemAll the living things in an area and the way they affect each other and the environment
Emergency response planA set of written procedures for dealing with emergencies that minimize the impact of the event and facilitate recovery from the event
Environmental certificationMeans by which a product, process, business or service is publicly identified as having been certified or verified in compliance with an environmental standard.
Environmental Impact AssessmentEnvironmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making. It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
Environmentally sustainableA factor or practice is environmentally sustainable if it contributes to the quality of environment on a long-term basis. It is a rate at which renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, or non-renewable resource depletion can be continued indefinitely without damage to the environment.
EquitableDealing fairly and equally with all concerned
EstablishedAccepted or respected because of having existed for a long period of time
ExploitationThe act of treating people unfairly in order to benefit from their efforts or labour
Fair and just compensationCompensation for property that places a property owner in the same position as before the property is taken.  Just compensation is usually the fair market value of the property taken.
Fair tradeFair trade is based on dialogue, transparency and respect, seeking greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. ‘Fairtrade’ or ‘Fair Trade’ standards comprise minimum social, economic and environmental requirements, which producers must meet to be certified.
Free prior and informed consent A specific right that pertains to indigenous peoples and is recognised in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), allowing them to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories.  UNDRIP gives specific meaning to the terms ‘free’, ‘prior’, ‘informed’ and ‘consent’.
Free roaming wildlifeUndomesticated animal species that live wild in an area
GastronomyCulinary customs or style
GHG emissionsA measurement associated with a specific set of gases associated with human activities that alter the Earth’s energy balance and thus its climate.   Greenhouse gases (GHG) include water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.  Application of the global warming potential (GWP) of each GHG allows all such emissions to be translated into a common unit, Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e,) which compares and relates all GHG emissions and can be reported as a single combined quantity.
Global Sustainable Tourism CriteriaThe Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria serve as the global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The GSTC Criteria are used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making and as a basis for certification. The Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, which businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability.
Greenhouse GasAtmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and sustain life on earth. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are altering the habitat humans evolved to thrive in; this is a process called global warming or climate change. Greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, ozone, methane, and CFCs
Grey waterCollected rainwater and wastewater generated by household processes, such as washing dishes, laundry, and bathing
GSTC-CertifiedWe use the term “GSTC-certified” as shorthand for “certified by a Certification Body that is GSTC-accredited”
GSTC-I AccreditedApproved by GSTC as a certification body competent to certify organisations to a GSTC-Recognized standard
GSTC-I RecognizedApplies to a sustainable tourism standard which has been deemed equivalent to the GSTC-I / D Criteria for sustainable tourism
HabitatA terrestrial, freshwater, or marine geographical unit or airway that supports assemblages of living organisms and their interactions with the non-living environment.
HarassmentUnwanted behaviour that is found offensive by the recipient
Harmful substancesChemical substances that could pose a threat to the environment and human health.
HarvestingThe activity of picking or collecting plants, animals, or fish to eat or for other human use
HazardA potential source of harm or adverse effect on a person or persons
High Biodiversity ValueA concentration of biological diversity including endemic species, and rare, threatened or endangered species, that is significant at the global, regional or national level.
Historical significanceSignificance is defined as the importance of a property to the history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture of a community, a State, or the nation. Significance may be based on association with historical events; association with a significant person; distinctive physical characteristics of design, construction, or form; and potential to yield important information.
Human rightsHuman rights are the basic rights and freedoms that all humans should be guaranteed. They are universal, apply equally to all, and are founded on the principle of dignity for every human being. They are elaborated in the thirty Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).
Human traffickingThe recruitment, harbouring or transporting of people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced labour
ImpactThe contribution of an action or intervention to an outcome or change in social, economic or environmental condition. The contribution may be intended or unintended, positive or negative, long-term or short-term.
IndicatorQuantitative or qualitative factor or variable that provides a simple and reliable means to measure achievement of outcomes, to reflect the changes connected to a standards system, or to help assess the performance of an organization.
Indigenous communitiesTribal peoples in independent countries whose social, cultural, and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community, and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations
Indigenous peoplesUsually considered to include cultural groups and their descendants who have a historical continuity or association with a given region, or parts of a region, and who currently inhabit or have formerly inhabited the region either before its subsequent colonization or annexation, or alongside other cultural groups during the formation of a nation-state, or independently or largely isolated from the influence of the claimed governance by a nation State, and who furthermore have maintained, at least in part, their distinct linguistic, cultural and social / organizational characteristics, and in doing so remain differentiated in some degree from the surrounding populations and dominant culture of the nation State. Also include people who are self-identified as indigenous, and those recognized as such by other groups
Indigenous rightsThe individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.  The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples, and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them.
Indirect economic contributionMultiplier effects which result from spending with suppliers by a sector or industry
InfrastructureConstruction needed to support the proper functioning or economic development of an area, including: roads, railway lines, harbours, airport runways, water, electricity, other power supplies, sewerage disposal systems and other utilities.
Intangible heritageTraditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
IntegrityThe quality of being whole and complete.   Ecological integrity is defined as the full potential of indigenous biotic and abiotic factors, and natural processes, functioning in sustainable communities, habitats, and landscapes.
Intellectual propertyIntellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.   IP is protected in law. Special considerations apply to indigenous and local communities concerning the protection, promotion and preservation of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources.
InterpretationAn educational process that is intended to stimulate and facilitate people’s understanding of place, so that empathy towards conservation, heritage, culture and landscape is developed, revealing the significance and meanings of natural and cultural phenomena to visitors, usually with the intent of providing a satisfying learning experience and encouraging more sustainable behaviour
Invasive speciesSpecies which has been introduced to an environment where it is non-native, or alien, and whose introduction causes environmental or economic damage or harm to human health.
InventoryAn itemized list of current assets; a stock take of natural resources at a given point in time.
IUCN Red ListA compendium of information on the taxonomy, conservation status and distribution of plants, fungi and animal species that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction, and the main purpose of the IUCN Red List is to catalogue and highlight those plants and animals that are facing a higher risk of global extinction.
JeopardizeTo expose to danger or risk
Key resourcesThe assets (both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living
Labour rightsLabour rights or workers’ rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights having to do with labour relations between workers and their employers, usually obtained under labour and employment law. Since 1919, the International Labour Organization has maintained and developed a system of international labour standards aimed at promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity.
LGBTAcronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.  An umbrella term for use when labelling topics pertaining to sexuality orientation and gender identity.
LicenseLegal permission granted to an individual, business, or organization to do something. The licence confers a right which the person or firm did not previously possess and is a legal agreement which may contain restrictions as to how the licence is employed.
Light pollutionThe excessive, misdirected, or invasive use of outdoor artificial lighting
LivelihoodA livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living.
Living cultureLiving culture, or intangible cultural heritage, refers to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills handed down from generation to generation. This heritage provides communities with a sense of identity and is continuously recreated in response to their environment
Living organismAny living system (such as animal, plant, fungus, or micro-organism)
Living wageThe remuneration received for a standard work week by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Elements of a decent standard of living including food, water, housing, education, health care, transport, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events.
LocalThe area of and immediately around the destination or location of business operations. The size of the area can vary depending on the physical geography and population density and distribution.
Local communityThe collection of people living in the immediate area of a destination or tourism business and potentially affected socially, economically, or environmentally by its presence or operation.
Local distinctivenessThe essence of what makes a place special: the sum of landscape, wildlife, archaeology, history, traditions, buildings and crafts – everything that makes somewhere truly unique.
Local minoritiesA social group or category of people from within a specified area in relation to the destination or tourism business (see definition for “local”) who are different from the larger group in the country or area in some way. Often refers to groups that suffer from disparities of power or unequal treatment on the basis of that identity or to situations in which such groups are numerical minorities with respect to dominant cultural or ethnic majorities.
Local residentsThose living in the immediate area of a destination or tourism business and potentially affected socially, economically, or environmentally by its presence or operation.
Local supplierAn individual or an enterprise from within a specified area in relation to a tourism business (see definition of “local”) that provides a good or service to the tourism business
Locally appropriateCommensurate with the sociocultural and ecological norms of a particular area, especially as it pertains to avoiding damage to local aesthetics, customs, or biodiversity
Low-impact transportationA transport system that uses less fossil fuel, which may involve a combination of: moving from private to public transport; reducing the overall amount of travel; fuel efficiency; and alternative fuels (including muscle power).
ManagementThe organization and coordination of activities in order to achieve defined objectives.
Management positionA position within a business responsible for one or more of the following activities: planning, directing and overseeing the operations and fiscal health of a business or operating unit within an organization; overseeing and leading the work of a group of people; planning and maintaining work systems, procedures, and policies that enable and encourage the optimum performance of people and other resources.
MaximizeTo make the most of; to increase to a maximum level
MinimizeTo reduce; to keep to a minimum
Modern slaveryComprises slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking.  The common factors are that a victim is, or is intended to be, used or exploited for someone else’s (usually financial) gain, without respect for their human rights.
Multi-stream collectionThe process of separating recyclables by material type prior to collection
Native speciesPlants, animals, or other living organisms that are found, or are known to have been found, as part of local natural ecosystems.
Natural areaAn area with a characteristic association of wildlife and natural features. Each natural area has a unique identity resulting from the interaction of wildlife, landforms, geology, land use and human impact.
Natural assetsAssets of the natural environment, including biological and physical assets
Natural heritageNatural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view; geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation; natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty
Neighboring communitiesA community that is located immediately adjoining or relatively near to a tourism business or to the areas in which the tourism business operates
Noise pollutionAny disturbing or unwanted noise that interferes with or harms humans or wildlife
Non-invasiveHaving no tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.  Some native species may be invasive.
OffsettingOnce GHG emissions have been calculated and reduced where possible, a number of schemes exist to offset what cannot be reduced, through the purchase of certified emission reductions. The offsets are credits for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions made at another location, such as a wind farm or a clean cook stove project, and each credit represents one ton of emissions avoided or captured.
PesticideAny substance or mixture of substances that is used to prevent, destroy or control unwanted pests — harmful insects, small animals, wild plants, and other unwanted organisms including vectors of human or animal disease. Pesticides are used because of their toxic properties towards target species but may also cause harm to non-target species. The mode of action which makes them effective pesticides also makes them hazardous to humans and / or the environment, often in subtle ways. It is important to understand associated risks and to limit use of these substances to necessary situations and limit potential damage to human health and the environment.
Planning guidelinesGuidance on development in or affecting a specified area, aimed primarily at planners, developers, builders and householders
PollutionPresence of matter (gas, liquid, solid) or energy (heat, noise, radiation) whose nature, location, or quantity directly or indirectly alters characteristics or processes of any part of the environment, and causes (or has the potential to cause) damage to the condition, health, safety, or welfare of animals, humans, plants, or property.
Population viabilityThe ability of a population or sub-population of a species to persist in an area
Preferred supplier listA complete list of businesses and organizations that provide the tourism business with goods and supplies
PromotionAction taken to make people aware of something or somewhere in order to increase its sales or popularity
Promotional materialsAny sales promotional, marketing or advertising materials (including websites) produced or distributed by or on behalf of the tourism business in connection with its products or activities, or which otherwise make reference to or express or imply a connection with the tourism business.
Properly managedAdministered in a way that eliminates or minimizes risk in order to avoid internal and external harm or destruction
Protected AreasA clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.
Public participationA process that directly engages the public in decision-making and gives full consideration to public input in making that decision
Purchasing policyDocumented system and procedures for acquiring goods and services, including rules and guidelines, sourcing policies, and favored or approved suppliers.
QualityThe degree of value or excellence of a product or service; can sometimes refer to a high level of value or excellence.
Recycling systemSystem to collect and process waste materials that would otherwise be thrown away and turn them into new products and services
Regular basisWith a routine frequency
RegulatedUnder the control of law or constituted authority
RehabilitateProcess of returning something to its original condition
Renewable energyRenewable energy is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly. In its various forms, it derives directly or indirectly from the sun, or from heat generated deep within the earth. Included in the definition is energy generated from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower and ocean resources, and biofuels and hydrogen derived from renewable resources.
ReplicationThe act of making or doing something again in exactly the same way
ResettlementThe process of moving people to a different place to live, because they are no longer allowed to stay in the area where they used to live
RespectProviding consideration and deference to the actions, beliefs, or existence of another person or thing
Responsible consumptionA concerted effort to purchase and use goods and services that have low environmental footprints and provide a positive economic impact where feasible
RestorationRestoration is the ecological process of restoring a site to a natural landscape and habitat, safe for humans, wildlife, and plant communities, following some form of ecological degradation or destruction.
Risk managementThe identification, analysis, assessment, control, and avoidance, minimization, or elimination of unacceptable risks.
Risk reductionAddressing a set of risks so as to reduce either the likelihood of their occurrence, or the consequence of their occurrence, or both
Run-offWater flow over the ground surface to the drainage system or direct to watercourse. This occurs if the ground is impermeable, is saturated or if rainfall is particularly intense.
SensitivityDegree to which a site may be readily affected or changed by external influences
Sexual exploitationSexual exploitation is the sexual abuse of men and women of all ages through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life, and/or money
SignificantOf a noticeably or measurably large amount; having or likely to have influence or effect
Single-use itemA product or packaging intended to throw out after only one use
Social Impact AssessmentThe process of analysing, monitoring, and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projected) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment
Soil contaminantsSoil contaminants are chemicals, nutrients or elements that are more than normally or naturally concentrated in the soil as a result of human action. Solvents, pesticides and petroleum products are localized contaminants found in a small geographic area, for example from a leaking fuel storage tank.
Solid Waste Management PlanA strategy to reduce the quantity of solid waste that is delivered to landfill, by reducing the sources of waste and reusing or recycling as much as possible of the remainder. As a management plan, it should have concrete goals and objectives, as well as performance indicators
Special needsThe individual requirements of a person with a mental, emotional, or physical disability
SpeciesA class of animals, plants or other organisms whose members have the same main characteristics and are able to breed with each other
Spiritually important sitesA site, object structure, area or natural feature or area, held by national Governments or communities to be of particular importance in accordance with the customs of an indigenous or local community because of its religious, spiritual or cultural significance
StakeholderIndividual or group that has an interest in any decision or activity of an organization.
StandardA document that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for products or related processes and production methods.
Supply chainThe many components, including accommodation, transport and excursions, and also bars and restaurants, handicrafts, food production, waste disposal, and the infrastructure that supports tourism in destinations
SustainabilityUsing resources in an environmentally responsible, socially fair and economically viable manner, so that by meeting the needs of current users, the possibility of their use by future generations is not compromised
Sustainability Management SystemA management system (set of interrelated elements) to establish a sustainability policy and objectives and processes to achieve those objectives.
Sustainable Destination StrategyA sustainable destination strategy is a plan of action , based on stakeholder consultation and engagement, which sets out the agreed vision, objectives and direction for sustainable tourism in a destination and designed to be used as a basis for identifying destination management actions.
Sustainable investmentAn investment approach that considers social and environmental good as well as financial return
Sustainable materialsSustainable materials provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.
Sustainable practicesSustainable practices are employed in order to eliminate negative environmental impacts in the design, construction, restoration or demolition of a building or structure. Examples include incorporating energy efficiency, minimizing the carbon footprint over the life cycle of a structure, making use of natural light and low impact materials and connecting users with the natural environment.
Sustainable tourismSustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity; respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance; ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socioeconomic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.
Sustainable utilizationUse in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term degradation of the environment, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations
Threatened SpeciesUmbrella term for any species categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Tourism assetsA facility or feature of value for its benefit or utility to the visitor experience
Tourism-related enterprisesEnterprises delivering any of a range of products which together comprise the visitor experience.  These may include transport, accommodation, catering, natural resources, cultural, recreational, entertainment and other facilities and services, such as shops and banks, tour guides and other tour operators.
TraditionAn inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behaviour
TransparentFree from pretence or deceit
ValuesStable long-lasting standards by which people order their lives and make their choices
VerificationVerify: to prove, show, find out, or state that (something) is true or correct
Visitor managementManaging visitor movements and influencing visitor behaviour in order to protect the values and attributes of a destination or site and contribute to a high quality visitor experience
WastewaterWastewater is any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influence. Wastewater can originate from a combination of domestic, industrial, commercial or agricultural activities, surface runoff or stormwater, and from sewer inflow or infiltration.
Water qualityThe physical, chemical, biological and aesthetic (appearance and smell) characteristics of water
Water riskThe probability and severity of an entity experiencing a deleterious water-related event. The Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas maps aggregated scores of 12 key water indicators in 15,000 watersheds around the world. Alternatively, WWF has a Water Risk Filter at Overall water risk identifies areas with higher exposure to water-related risks and is an aggregated measure of all selected indicators from the Physical Quantity, Quality and Regulatory and Reputational Risk categories.
Water stewardshipWater stewardship is about taking action to help ensure that water is managed sustainably as a shared, public resource. It can be defined as the use of water that is socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial, achieved through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site- and catchment-based actions.
Wild animalA member of any animal species known to be, or to have once been, capable of living in a natural, undomesticated state
WildlifeLiving things that are neither human nor domesticated
Wildlife interactionAny human encounter or contact, intentional or otherwise, with a species of animal living, or plant growing, in its natural environment

Sources: Aimee Russillo, American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Amos Bien, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), David Callum Lee Brown, Environmental Protection Agency – US (EPA), European Commission (EC), Global Development Research Center (GDRC), International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), International Labor Organization (ILO), Hitesh Mehta, International Organization of Standards (ISO), International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL), Merriam-Webster, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Princeton University, Province of Ontario Ministry of Environment, Programa de Certificação em Turismo Sustentável, Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), United States National Park Service (USNPS), United Nations (UN), United Nations Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Resources Institute (WRI)

Learn more of the GSTC Criteria

The GSTC Criteria serve as global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The Criteria are used for education, policy-making for businesses and government agencies, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification. They are the result of a worldwide effort to develop a common language about sustainability in tourism.

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The GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training Program (STTP) offers practical insights and effective steps to help you improve your sustainability practices led by expert GSTC Trainers.

Join GSTC as a Member

Becoming a GSTC Member means actively participating in our global community that represents a wide range of tourism stakeholders – leading international tour operators, government organizations and national tourism boards, and local and international hospitality brands.