The Global Sustainable Tourism Council® (GSTC®) is pleased to announce that the Qualmark Sustainable Tourism Business Criteria(v1.2 July 2023)has gained GSTC-Recognized status, meaning it has been fully recognized as equivalent to the GSTC Industry Criteria.
Qualmark is the first GSTC-Recognized Standard developed in New Zealand that aims to help tourism businesses become more sustainable from a people, environmental and operational perspective.
The GSTC-Recognized status refers to the standard itself, indicating that a sustainable tourism standard or system has been reviewed by GSTC technical experts and the GSTC Assurance Panel and deemed the content of the standard or system equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism. It shows that the set of standards is based on the four pillars of the GSTC Criteria: Sustainable Management, Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Environmental principles.
GSTC Recognition of Standards does not relate to the process of certification (which is a third-party assessment, through an audit, of a tourism enterprise for conformity to a standard). GSTC Recognition of Standards does not relate to accreditation (formal verification that a certification body operates in a competent and neutral manner according to international standards of how to properly certify, which is the highest level of assurance).
The stated scope of the standard is for accommodations and tour operators and coverage is in New Zealand. The GSTC Recognition is valid until either the standard or the GSTC Industry Criteria are changed.
“Qualmark is very excited to gain official recognition for its standard from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. This is exciting for our members as it supports New Zealand’s transition to a regenerative tourism system,” says Steven Dixon, Qualmark General Manager.
“Qualmark demonstrates its dedication to a broad and global strategy by aligning with the principles of the Four Pillars of the GSTC Criteria, proving its commitment to a more sustainable future for New Zealand,” says Randy Durband, GSTC CEO.
Currently, 15 destination standards, 22 tour operator standards, 43 hotel standards, and 5 systems have achieved GSTC-Recognized status. The status offers the market proof that these standards adhere to international norms. GSTC Recognition does not ensure that a certification process is reliable, only that the set of standards used to certify are equivalent to the GSTC Criteria. GSTC-Recognized standard owners are encouraged to follow and complete the accreditation process, which assures that the certification process used to apply the standard meets international best practices, transparency, and rigor. A list of GSTC-Accredited certification bodies is available here.
About the GSTC
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council® (GSTC®) establishes and manages global sustainable standards, known as the GSTC Criteria. There are two sets: Destination Criteria for public policy-makers and destination managers, and Industry Criteria for hotels and tour operators. These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation.
The GSTC Criteria form the foundation for Accreditation of Certification Bodies that certify hotels/accommodations, tour operators, and destinations as having sustainable policies and practices in place. GSTC does not directly certify any products or services; but it accredits those that do. The GSTC is an independent and neutral USA-registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that represents a diverse and global membership, including national and provincial governments, leading travel companies, hotels, tour operators, NGO’s, individuals and communities – all striving to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism.
Qualmark is New Zealand tourism’s official quality assurance organization. Launched as a joint venture between Tourism New Zealand and the Automobile Association, initially focusing on the accommodation sector and then later extending to include visitor experiences, transport and activities.
In 2015 Tourism New Zealand took full ownership of Qualmark and in 2016 the Sustainable Tourism Business Criteria was introduced, which included an enhanced health and safety criteria, following the introduction of the 2015 Health and Safety in the Workplace Act. Today Qualmark has continued to evolve to meet the ever-changing landscape with the introduction of the Service Delivery and Qualmark Specialist teams, who work directly with members to help ensure their operations are the best they can be, using the Sustainable Tourism Business Criteria. Additionally, the Membership Engagement team provides ongoing support and communications to ensure members always remain connected.