Sustainable Tourism for Destinations: Insights from the GSTC Destination Criteria 2.0 for Sustainable Tourism (Part 3 of 4)
Sustainable Tourism is a set of complex activities. The complexity comes from many different individuals working towards the corresponding goal. Despite the complexity, the benefits of sustainable tourism in destination communities outway the challenges. As communities grapple with the positive and negative effects of tourism, guidance on how to implement sustainable tourism has never been more important.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the leading organization on sustainable tourism accreditation, recently released their Destination Criteria 2.0. It provides a common framework for examining destination-level sustainable tourism certification. The GSTC Criteria are organized in four sections: sustainable management, socio-economic sustainability, cultural sustainability, and environmental sustainability. With these 4 sections there are 38 criteria and 174 indicators that destinations may use to assess their progress on achieving the criteria.
A New Perspective
This report (Part 3 of 4) will focus on the:
Programs and Systems
Tourist destinations are complex systems. In this report, we use the term “destination” without designating a specific actor. It is important to note that we are not implying that either the local Destination Stewardship Organization (A1) or Destination Management Organization (DMO) is the sole responsible party.
Programs and Systems to Ensure Sustainable Tourism Development
Building a Sustainable Tourism “Ecosystem” in the destination 
The destination should provide support programs to encourage the adoption of sustainable practices. Examples include programs that:
Connecting local businesses and fair-trade operations
Informing, educating and training locals and residents on the importance of sustainable tourism
Educating visitors on issues relevant to the destination and sustainable solutions
Measuring and managing visitor volumes, activities, and patterns of tourists
A core principle of sustainable tourism development is engagement. Engagement programs should encourage collaboration throughout all stakeholders. The GSTC criteria requires programs that engage with:
One of the fundamental components of sustainable tourism is that stakeholders have a role in determining how tourism is developed within the destination community.
Visitor Management Systems 
Sustainable tourism developments should include measuring and managing visitors volume and activities. The GSTC requires destinations to limit and spread visitation to balance the needs of the:
In addition to requiring visitor management in the destination as a whole, the GSTC criteria highlights the need for visitor management at cultural sites and natural sites, as well.
Protecting the environment of a destination is a critical element of sustainable tourism management. Sustainable destination communities should provide programs that:
Protect natural sites and sensitive environments 
Protect biodiversity, reduce species exploitation and encourage animal welfare 
Minimize light and noise pollution 
Encourage the adoption low impact transportation 
Environmental Resource Management Programs
Sustainable destination communities should have programs that support sustainable use of natural resources. Such programs include:
Energy conservation 
Water stewardship and quality 
Waste management programs 
Climate change adaptation and mitigation 
Cultural and Heritage Programs
Sustainable destination communities should have programs that recognize the importance of culture and heritage in the destination. These programs include:
Visitor management at cultural sites that take into account the characteristics of, capacity, and sensitivity of the site and reduces adverse impacts 
Rehabilitation and conservation of cultural assets
Communication and education of cultural heritage sites, celebration experiences (events, products, etc.)
Guidelines and behaviors for visitors at heritage sites and events
Code of conduct and practices for tour operators & guides at heritage sites and events
Proper training of operators and guides
Programs supporting the celebration of intangible cultural heritage including local traditions, arts, music, language, gastronomy and other aspects of local identity 
Culturally and Environmentally Appropriate Promotion and Information 
The effective promotion of a destination is critical in order to gain benefits from sustainable development. Marketing and advertisements released should have accurate information about the destination.
Promotion materials should be developed in consultation with local communities, environmental and cultural bodies to ensure proper content. Marketing messages should treat local communities and natural and cultural assets with respect.
Programs that ensure interpretation at cultural sites informs visitors of the significance of the sites they are visiting and is presented in a culturally appropriate manner.
Decent Work and Career Opportunities – Workforce Development Programs 
Destinations must encourage and support career opportunities and training possibilities within their tourism sector for the local community. Employment should include:
Training and skill courses to enable locals to pursue career opportunities
Equal opportunity for all including women, young people, minorities and people with disabilities
Safe and secure working conditions
Decent and fair living wage
Fair Trade and Local Business Support programs 
A core principle of sustainable tourism is retaining the revenue within the local economy. Programs should promote fair trade principles and encourage the following:
Purchases at local tourism enterprises
Advice and financial guidance be provided to local tourism enterprises for pricing and marketing
Support for the Community 
Destinations should facilitate support for local communities and sustainable initiatives through the local tourism enterprises. This can include encouraging tourism businesses and visitors to support local issues. One example of such programs is reliable volunteer programs through the tourism industry that really benefit the local community.
Risk Management and Crisis Response Program 
Risk management and crisis management programs are critical in achieving a sustainable tourism plan. Destinations face a variety of risk factors including natural disasters, terrorism, public health issues, and others unique to their location. Sustainable Destination communities should have programs including the following:
Identifying and mitigating risks
Crisis response programs (communication protocols and training for stakeholders, including tourism businesses, locals and visitors)
Safety and Security 
The destination will have a program to ensure the safety needs of visitors and residents. This will be done by developing systems that monitor, prevent, publicly report, and respond to any crime, safety and health hazards.
 A4: Enterprise engagement and sustainability standards  A5: Resident Engagement and Feedback  A6: Visitor Engagement and Feedback  A8: Managing Visitor Volumes and Activities, C6: Visitor Management at Cultural Sites, D2: Visitor management at natural sites  D1: Protection of the Environment  D4: Species Exploitation and Animal Welfare  D12: Light and Noise Pollution  D11: Low Impact Transport.  D5: Energy Conservation  D6: Water Stewardship, D7: Water Quality, D8: Wastewater  D9: Solid Waste  A10: Climate Change Program  C6: Visitor Management at Cultural Sites  C3: Intangible Heritage  A7: Promotion and Information, C7: Site Interpretation  B2: Decent Work and Career Opportunities  B3: Supporting Local Entrepreneurs and Fair Trade  B4: Support for Community  A11: Risk Management  B7: Safety and Security