The need for the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) was determined in late 2009 by the Destination Stewardship Think Tank co-convened by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Sustainable Travel International. As a result, the GSTC Destination Working Group (the “Destinations WG”) was formed in February 2010. The methodology for the development of the GSTC-D was approved by the Working Group in July 2011, informed by ISEAL guidelines for the development of social and environmental standards.

A working draft of criteria and related performance indicators was proposed in October 2011, incorporating the shared principles from over 37 destination guidelines and standards from around the world. The GSTC Destinations and International Standards Working Groups reviewed the draft and submitted recommendations to the GSTC Board, which approved draft 1 of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) on 7 March 2012, The criteria were subsequently submitted to a public consultation from 2 April  – 4 August 2012  in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, German, Catalan, and Russian, and they were pilot tested in six Early Adopter destinations in North America, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia between May and August 2012. The Draft 1 criteria were revised to incorporate the comments received from the consultation and from the early adopters. All comments were reviewed and addressed, although not necessarily adopted.

Draft 2 was approved by the GSTC Destinations and International Standards WGs in October 2012 and approved by the Board in November. Draft 2 was published for public consultation from December 1, 2012 to April 15, 2013 in English, Spanish, and Mandarin, as very few comments were received to the first survey in other languages. A second round of early adopters was used to evaluate the Draft 2 criteria and indicators between March and August 2013. Once again, every comment and suggestion was evaluated, and Draft 3 of the criteria, incorporating the results of the second public consultation and the second round of early adopters, was submitted to the Destinations WG in September 2013.  After incorporating the recommendations of the WG, the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) were approved by the GSTC Board on 31 October 2013.

A chart of all the requested changes and the responses to them from both rounds of public consultations and the Early Adopter on-site evaluations is available on request and will be posted to our website, along with minutes of all discussions by the GSTC Working Groups.

Next steps

  • A third round of early adopter destinations will be conducted in the first semester of 2014, to help refine the development of a set of associated performance indicators and guidance documents, which will be continually updated and improved.
  • Comments on the criteria will be accepted and held until the next update of the criteria, proposed for 2016 and every five years thereafter.
  • The GSTC procedures for the recognition of sustainable tourism standards will be revised to incorporate the GTC-D and permit the recognition of destination standards, starting in early 2014.