The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria and Suggested Indicators for Tour Operators were created in an effort to come to a common understanding of sustainable tourism, and are the minimum that a Tour Operator (a provider, operator, and/or seller of travel products) business should aspire to reach.

The Tour Operator Criteria are organized around four main themes: effective sustainability planning, maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community, enhancing cultural heritage, and reducing negative impacts to the environment.

The Criteria for Tour Operators are the same as for Hotels, and both are identical to the GSTC Industry Criteria, but the Performance Indicators vary between Tour Operators and Hotels. NOTE: Prior to December 2016, GSTC offered the combined Hotel & Tour Operator Criteria, but have now separated them for two reasons: 1) to create distinct Performance Indicators for each; and, 2) to create a framework for future additional subsector Criteria (examples may include Attractions, Cruise, MICE, Transport, etc.)

Download Tour Operator Criteria and Performance Indicators

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Download the Revision Report that highlights the main changes made from the H&TOv2 Criteria to the Industry Criteria.

 GSTC Industry Criteria for Hotels – suggested performance indicators Version 3, 21 December 2016

The performance indicators presented here are designed to provide guidance in measuring compliance with the GSTC Criteria for Hotels.This draft set of indicators will be updated periodically, as new information is developed.

SECTION A: Demonstrate effective sustainable management
GSTC INDUSTRY CRITERIA INDICATORS FOR TOUR OPERATORS
A1 Sustainability management system

The organization has implemented a long-term sustainability management system that is suitable to its size and scope, addresses environmental, social, cultural, economic, quality, human rights, health, safety, risk and crisis management issues and drives continuous improvement.

  1. The Sustainability Management System is clearly documented.
  2. The SM System covers environmental, social, cultural, economic, quality, human rights, health and safety issues.
  3. The SM System includes consideration of risk and crisis management.
  4. Documentary evidence shows implementation of the SM system.
  5. The SM System includes a process for monitoring continuous improvement in sustainability performance.
A2 Legal compliance

The organization is in compliance with all applicable local, national and international legislation and regulations including, among others, health, safety, labour and environmental aspects.

  1. An up to date list of all applicable legal requirements is maintained.
  2. Certificates or other documentary evidence show compliance with all applicable legal requirements.
  3. Legal requirements in all countries of operation are understood and met.
A3 Reporting and communication

The organization communicates its sustainability policy, actions and performance to stakeholders, including customers, and seeks to engage their support.

  1. Regular reports are made available on sustainability performance.
  2. Sustainability policies and actions are reported in external and internal communication material.
  3. Communications contain messages inviting consumer and stakeholder support.
A4 Staff engagement

Staff are engaged with development and implementation of the sustainability management system and receive periodic guidance and training regarding their roles and responsibilities in its delivery.

  1. Evidence is available of staff involvement with the SM System.
  2. Records of courses and on-the-job training, with attendance levels, are available.
  3. Staff training and guidance materials are available in accessible format (including use of minority languages where needed).
  4. Staff hold certificates and qualifications in relevant disciplines/skills.
A5 Customer experience

Customer satisfaction, including aspects of sustainability, is monitored and corrective action taken.

  1. A customer feedback system is in place, together with analysis of the results.
  2. Negative feedback and responses made to this are recorded.
  3. There is evidence of corrective actions taken.
  4. Feedback from customers is provided to tourism businesses and destinations contracted/visited.
A6 Accurate promotion

Promotional materials and marketing communications are accurate and transparent with regard to the organization and its products and services, including sustainability claims. They do not promise more than is being delivered.

  1. Images used in promotion are of actual experiences offered and places visited by customers.
  2. Marketing about wildlife or cultural events does not promise sightings which cannot be guaranteed.
  3. Sustainability claims are based on records of past performance.
A7 Buildings and infrastructure

Planning, siting, design, construction, renovation, operation and demolition of buildings and infrastructure…

Indicators for A7 criteria relate to the buildings and infrastructure owned and operated by the organization or over which they have direct influence/control.
A7.1 Compliance

…comply with zoning requirements and laws related to protected and sensitive areas and to heritage considerations.

  1. Awareness of, and compliance with, laws relating to land use and activities in the local area is demonstrated.
  2. All required licences and permits are up to date.
  3. Awareness of, and compliance with, non-statutory area management plans and guidance (e.g. for particular zones, design, etc.), is demonstrated.
A7.2 Impact and integrity

…take account of the capacity and integrity of the natural and cultural surroundings.

  1. Site selection, design and access have taken account of visual amenity, landscape, cultural and natural heritage.
  2. Site selection, design and access have taken account of the protection of biologically sensitive areas and the assimilative capacity of ecosystems.
  3. The integrity of archaeological, cultural heritage, and sacred sites has been preserved.
  4. The integrity and connectivity of natural sites and protected areas has been preserved.
  5. Threatened or protected species have not been displaced and impact on all wildlife habitats has been minimized and mitigated.
  6. Water courses/catchments/wetlands have not been altered and run-off is reduced where possible and any residue is captured or channeled and filtered.
  7. Risk factors (including climate change, natural phenomena, and visitor safety) have been assessed and addressed.
  8. Impact assessment (including cumulative impacts) has been undertaken and documented as appropriate.
A7.3 Sustainable practices and materials

…use locally appropriate and sustainable practices and materials.

  1. Local materials, practices and crafts have been used in buildings and design where practicable and appropriate.
  2. Native and endemic plants obtained from sustainable sources have been used in landscaping and decoration, avoiding exotic and invasive species.
  3. Plants have been selected for their ability to tolerate prevailing or anticipated conditions eg drought tolerant plants
  4. Sustainable design, materials and construction practices have been used in buildings, with appropriate certification where possible.
  5. Waste from construction is sorted and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
A7.4 Access for all

…provide access and information for persons with special needs, where appropriate.

  1. Sites, buildings and activities are accessible to persons with physical disabilities and other special needs, as appropriate to the nature of the operation.
  2. Clear and accurate information is provided on the level of accessibility.
  3. Accessibility is certified or checked with relevant experts/user bodies.
A8 Land water and property rights

Acquisition by the organization of land and water rights and of property is legal, complies with local communal and indigenous rights, including their free, prior and informed consent, and does not require involuntary resettlement.

  1. On sites owned and operated by the organization or over which they have direct influence/control, land ownership and tenure rights are documented.
  2. User and access rights for key resources, including land and water, are documented where applicable.
  3. There is documentary evidence of comm