The GSTC Destination Criteria (GSTC-D) have been built on decades of prior work and experience around the world, and they take into account the numerous guidelines and standards for sustainable tourism from every continent. During the process of development, they were widely consulted throughout the globe, in both developed and developing countries, in several languages. They reflect certification standards, indicators, criteria, and best practices from different cultural and geo-political contexts around the world in tourism and other sectors where applicable. Potential indicators were screened for relevance and practicality, as well as their applicability to a broad range of destination types. They were field-tested around the world. The process of developing the Criteria was designed to adhere to ISO codes of conduct and the standards-setting code of the ISEAL Alliance, the international body providing guidance for the development and management of sustainability standards for all sectors.
The GSTC Destination Criteria v2.0 is the first revision to GSTC Destination Criteria. The GSTC-D v2 includes performance indicators designed to provide guidance in measuring compliance with the Criteria. Application of the criteria will help a destination to contribute towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Against each of the Criteria, one or more of the 17 SDGs is identified, to which it most closely relates.
What are the Criteria for?
Some of the expected uses of the criteria by tourism management organizations include the following:
Serve as basic guidelines for destinations that wish to become more sustainable
Help consumers identify sound sustainable tourism destinations
Serve as a common denominator for information media to recognize destinations and inform the public regarding their sustainability
Help certification and other voluntary destination level programs ensure that their standards meet a broadly-accepted baseline
Offer governmental, non-governmental, and private sector programs a starting point for developing sustainable tourism requirements
Serve as basic guidelines for education and training bodies, such as hotel schools and universities
The GSTC Destination Criteria v2.0 includes performance indicators designed to provide guidance in measuring compliance with the Criteria. Against each criterion, one or more of the 17 SDGs is identified.
There are two sets of the GSTC Criteria. The other set is the GSTC Indusry Criteria, for the Tourism Industry, including performance indicators for hotels and tour operators. GSTC Industry Criteria
GSTC Criteria Translations
The GSTC Criteria are used for a variety of applications (education and awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses and government agencies and other organization types, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification). Therefore, the GSTC Criteria have been translated into many languages, available to the public to download on the GSTC website:
The GSTC Criteria is being revised every few years, in a manner to comply with the ISEAL Alliance standard-setting code. The revision process includes two public consultations, allowing anyone interested to comment.
The GSTC Criteria are available from the GSTC website free of charge for their non-commercial use. As the owner of the GSTC Criteria, the GSTC reserves the right to assess and charge fees for the commercial use of the GSTC Criteria.
View the GSTC Destination Criteria v2:
SECTION A: Sustainable management
A(a) Management structure and framework
A1 Destination management responsibility
The destination has an effective organization, department, group, or committee responsible for a coordinated approach to sustainable tourism, with involvement by the private sector, public sector and civil society. This group has defined responsibilities, oversight, and implementation capability for the management of socio- economic, cultural and environmental issues. The group is adequately funded, works with a range of bodies in delivering destination management, has access to sufficient staffing (including personnel with experience in sustainability) and follows principles of sustainability and transparency in its operations and transactions.
a. Documentary evidence showing relevant make-up and responsibilities of the group.
b. A financial plan and budget showing current and future funding sources.
c. Evidence of links and engagement with other bodies.
d. Records of permanent staff and contracted personnel, indicating relevant experience.
e. Management guidelines and processes, which demonstrate awareness and adherence to sustainability principles and transparency in operations and letting of contracts.
A2 Destination management strategy and action plan
The destination has established and is implementing a multi-year destination management strategy and action plan that is publicly available, is suited to its scale, was developed with stakeholder engagement and is based on sustainability principles. The strategy includes an identification and assessment of tourism assets and considers socio-economic, cultural and environmental issues and risks. The strategy relates to and influences wider sustainable development policy and action in the destination.
a. A published document setting out the current destination strategy and action.
b. The strategy/plan clearly visible and available on-line.
c. Evidence of stakeholder consultation, meetings etc. in developing the plan.
d. Reference to sustainability principles and an assessment of assets, issues and risks, contained in the strategy and action plan.
e. Specific references in the strategy/action plan to wider sustainable development policy (including pursuit of the SDGs), and vice versa.
A3 Monitoring and reporting
The destination is implementing a system to monitor and respond to socio-economic, cultural and environmental issues and impacts arising from tourism. Actions and outcomes are regularly monitored, evaluated and publicly reported. The monitoring system is periodically reviewed.
a. Specific quantifiable socio-economic, cultural and environmental indicators and targets identified.
b. Measurement against these indicators, with results recorded and publicised at least annually.
c. Written evidence of monitoring and reporting of actions and outcomes.
d. Previous reviews of monitoring system and schedule for future reviews.
A(b) Stakeholder engagement
A4 Enterprise engagement and sustainability standards
The destination regularly informs tourism-related enterprises about sustainability issues and encourages and supports them in making their operations more sustainable. The destination promotes the adoption of sustainability standards, promoting the application of GSTC-I Recognized standards and GSTC-I Accredited certification schemes for tourism enterprises, where available. The destination publicizes a list of sustainability certified enterprises.
a. Evidence of regular communication of sustainability issues to tourism-related businesses (Media, meetings, direct contact etc.).
b. Sustainability support and advice to tourism-related business – available and promoted.
c. Number and percentage of businesses certified against tourism sustainability standards (and whether GSTC recognised/accredited), with targets for wider outreach.
d. Evidence of promotion of certification schemes.
e. List of tourism-related certified enterprises, kept up to date.
A5 Resident engagement and feedback
The destination enables and promotes public participation in sustainable destination planning and management. Local communities’ aspirations, concerns and satisfaction with tourism sustainability and destination management are regularly monitored and publicly reported, and action is taken in response to them. The destination has a system to enhance local understanding of sustainable tourism opportunities and challenges and to build the capacity of communities to respond.
a. Evidence of the promotion and facilitation of public participation in destination planning/management.
b. Information on the type and level of such participation.
c. Surveys of residents and other systematic feedback mechanisms, covering tourism issues.
d. Evidence of action taken in response to residents’ feedback.
e. Programme of information, education and training on tourism provided for residents.
A6 Visitor engagement and feedback
The destination has a system to monitor and publicly report visitor satisfaction with the quality and sustainability of the destination experience and, if necessary, to take action in response. Visitors are informed about sustainability issues in the destination and the part that they can play in addressing them.
a. Visitor surveys (and other feedback mechanisms) – carried out and reported.
b. Surveys and feedback includes visitor reaction to sustainability issues.
c. Evidence of actions taken in response to visitor survey/feedback findings.
d. Examples of visitor information that covers sustainability issues and how to respond to them.
A7 Promotion and information
Promotion and visitor information material about the destination is accurate with regard to its products, services, and sustainability claims. Marketing messages and other communications reflect the destination’s values and approach to sustainability and treat local communities and natural and cultural assets with respect.
a. Current information and promotional material with appropriate content.
b. A process exists for checking the accuracy and appropriateness of destination promotion and information.
c. Evidence of consultation with local communities and environmental and cultural bodies on communications content and delivery.
A(c) Managing pressure and change
A8 Managing visitor volumes and activities
The destination has a system for visitor management which is regularly reviewed. Action is taken to monitor and manage the volume and activities of visitors, and to reduce or increase them as necessary at certain times and in certain locations, working to balance the needs of the local economy, community, cultural heritage and environment.
a. The destination management strategy and action plan addresses seasonality and spread of visitation.
b. Variation in visitor volumes throughout the year is monitored, including in the most visited locations.
c. Impacts of visitor volumes and activities are identified through observation and community and stakeholder feedback.
d. Actions taken to manage visitor flows and impacts.
e. Marketing strategy and selection of target markets takes account of visit patterns, the impact of activities and destination needs.
A9 Planning regulations and development control
The destination has planning guidelines, regulations and/or policies which control the location and nature of development, require environmental, economic, and socio-cultural impact assessment and integrate sustainable land use, design, construction, and demolition. Regulations also apply to operations, including property rental and concessions for tourism purposes. The guidelines, regulations and policies were created with public participation and are widely communicated and enforced.
a. Specific policies/regulations/ guidelines which control development – documented and identified by title and date.
b. Impact assessment requirements are set out, covering environmental, economic, and socio-cultural impacts, at sufficient scale to address long term issues for the destination.
c. Specific regulations on property rental and operation for tourism, with evidence of their application and enforcement.
d. Evidence of public participation in the development of policies/regulations/guidelines.
e. Evidence of consultation with, and consent from indigenous people or minority ethnic groups when tourism development has been proposed or has occurred in their territories.
f. Evidence of communication and enforcement of the policies/regulations/guidance, at planning, development and implementation stages.
A10 Climate change adaptation
The destination identifies risks and opportunities associated with climate change. Climate change adaptation strategies are pursued for the siting, design, development and management of tourism facilities. Information on predicted climate change, associated risks and future conditions is provided for residents, businesses and visitors.
a. The destination management strategy and action plan identifies and addresses climate issues.
b. Regulations, guidelines and zoning for tourism development and activities accommodate the consequences of climate change.
c. A climate risk assessment, covering current and future risks – undertaken and made publicly available.
d. Evidence of consideration of impact on, and contribution of, local ecosystems to climate change adaptation.
e. Information on climate change that has been made publicly available.
A11 Risk and crisis management
The destination has a risk reduction, crisis management and emergency response plan that is appropriate to the destination. Key elements are communicated to residents, visitors, and enterprises. Procedures and resources are established for implementing the plan and it is regularly updated.
a. A documented risk reduction, crisis management and emergency response plan for tourism in the destination.
b. The plan recognises a wide range of risks, including natural disasters, terrorism, health, resource depletion, and others appropriate to the location.
c. Communication procedures identified for use during and after an emergency.
d. Programme for local delivery of information and training on risk and crisis management.
SECTION B: Socio-economic sustainability
B(a) Delivering local economic benefits
B1 Measuring the economic contribution of tourism
The direct and indirect economic contribution of tourism to the destination’s economy is monitored and publicly reported. Appropriate measures may include levels of visitor volume, visitor expenditure, employment and investment and evidence on the distribution of economic benefits.
a. Programme of economic data gathering.
b. Annual reports on the direct and indirect economic contribution of tourism in the destination.
c. Data covering a range of measures of economic impact (e.g. volume, expenditure, employment, investment and spread of economic benefit in the destination).
B2 Decent work and career opportunities
The destination encourages and supports career opportunities and training in tourism. The destination’s tourism enterprises commit to providing equality of opportunity for local employment, training and advancement, a safe and secure working environment, and a living wage for all.
a. Provision of relevant skills training programmes/courses, available locally.
b. Statements of commitment by tourism enterprises to the provision of decent work/ career opportunities.
c. Training and employment opportunities promoted to and taken up by local people, including women, young people, minorities and people with disabilities.
d. Channels for checking working conditions and receiving/handling grievances (e.g. involvement of labour unions).
B3 Supporting local entrepreneurs and fair trade
The destination encourages the retention of tourism spending in the local economy through supporting local enterprises, supply chains and sustainable investment. It promotes the development and purchase of local sustainable products based on fair trade principles and that reflect the area’s nature and culture. These may include food and beverages, crafts, performance arts, agricultural products, etc.
a. Advice, finance or other support – available in the destination for tourism-related SMEs.
b. Assistance with market access for local tourism-related SMEs.
c. Action to encourage and assist local tourism enterprises to purchase goods and services locally.
d. Initiatives to help local farmers, artisans and food producers to engage in the tourism value chain.
e. Local produce and crafts identified, promoted and available for sale to visitors in the destination.
B(b) Social wellbeing and impacts
B4 Support for community
The destination has a system to enable and encourage enterprises, visitors, and the public to contribute to community and sustainability initiatives in a responsible manner.
a. Support for local community and sustainability initiatives by local tourism enterprises is encouraged and facilitated.
b. Schemes exist, and are promoted, for visitors to support local community and sustainability initiatives.
c. Volunteering and engagement with the community does not involve intrusion or exploitation.
B5 Preventing exploitation and discrimination
The destination upholds international standards on human rights. It has laws, practices and an established code of conduct to prevent and report on human trafficking, modern slavery and commercial, sexual, or any other form of exploitation, discrimination and harassment of or against anyone, particularly children, adolescents, women, LGBT and other minorities. The laws and established practices are publicly communicated and enforced.
a. Reference (title, date) to specific laws that pertain in the destination regarding human rights, exploitation, discrimination and harassment.
b. Evidence of communication and enforcement of above laws and related good practice (including to tourism enterprises and visitors).
c. Risk and impact analysis regarding human rights, including human trafficking, modern slavery and child labour – conducted regularly.
d. Destination and key tourism players are signatories to the Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism.
B6 Property and user rights
Laws and regulations regarding property rights and acquisitions are documented and enforced. They comply with communal and indigenous rights, ensure public consultation and do not authorize resettlement without free prior and informed consent and fair and just compensation. Laws and regulations also protect user and access rights to key resources.
a. Reference (title, date) to specific laws that pertain in the destination regarding property rights and acquisitions and user and access rights to resources.
b. Reference in the above laws to communal and indigenous rights, public consultation and resettlement.
c. Evidence of enforcement of the above laws in the context of tourism development and activity.
d. Evidence of community consultation, consent and compensation.