The GSTC Criteria for Destinations

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 which 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

Download the GSTC Criteria

Download the GSTC Destination Criteria v2

You can download the Revision Report that highlights the main changes made from GSTC-D v1 to GSTC-D v2.

Criteria translations to other languages

View the GSTC Destination Criteria v2

Criteria Indicators SDGs
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.