The GSTC Destination Criteria (GSTC-D) were revised last year with global public consultation. The criteria were first developed through a stakeholder consultation process leading to their initial publication (Version 1.0) on 1st November 2013. In 2018 the first revision of the GSTC-D began. The process has taken over a year to complete, including two rounds of global public comment, with final approval reached in December 2019. GSTC’s International Standards team explains what the criteria are, what they are for, how the revision process worked, and the main changes that have resulted.
The Elaborate Process of Revising Your GSTC Destination Criteria
By Kelly Bricker, Richard Denman, and Jackie Denman
In this article:
- To whom do the criteria apply?
- What are the criteria for?
- What standard revision process has been followed?
- Stakeholder engagement
- Targeted stakeholder consultation
- Key themes emerging from the consultation
- A structure toward increased understanding
- New for 2.0 – Performance indicators and SDGs
The GSTC Destination Criteria (GSTC-D) were first developed through a stakeholder consultation process leading to their initial publication (Version 1.0) on 1st November 2013. In 2018 the first revision of the GSTC-D was initiated. The process has taken over a year to complete.
Oversight of the revision for the GSTC-D has been provided by the GSTC’s International Standards Committee (ISC). The group is comprised of a small number of tourism professionals with experience of sustainability standards and certification, drawn from across five continents. A final version of the revised GSTC-Destination-Criteria-v2.0 was approved by the GSTC Board at their meeting on December 6th 2019.
The purpose of this article is to summarise and provide a formal statement of the process that has been followed in undertaking the revision. But first, a brief introduction is required.
To whom do the Criteria apply?
The GSTC-D have been designed for destinations. The criteria do not relate to a single body but rather to a named place that can be uniquely identified. The criteria simply require that the condition described pertains in that destination, irrespective of what body may be responsible for it or how or by whom any related action is implemented.
The scope of the GSTC-D is broad and the criteria can be applied to a wide range of destinations. They may be in any part of the world and of any type (e.g. urban, rural, mountain, coastal or mixed). The criteria can relate to large destinations (e.g. sizeable cities or regions) and to small ones (e.g. national parks, clusters of local communities, etc.).
While the GSTC-D relate to the place, not to a body, many of the criteria may nevertheless be taken up by and applied through a destination management organisation which is responsible for a coordinated approach to sustainable tourism within the destination. The existence of such an organisation is a central requirement of the GSTC-D. It should be noted that this organisation is not necessarily a local authority or public sector body and requires the involvement of both the public and private sector.
Some of the criteria refer to enterprises. These may be individual businesses but they may also be other forms of facility, operation and undertaking. For example, they could include museums, festivals, public buildings and monuments, not only commercial businesses such as hotels or paid attractions.
What are the criteria for?
Uses of the criteria include the following:
- Serve as the basis for certification for sustainability
- Serve as basic guidelines for destinations that 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 tourism schools and universities
- Demonstrate leadership that inspires others to act.
The Criteria indicate what should be done, not how to do it or whether the goal has been achieved. This role is fulfilled by performance indicators, associated educational materials, and access to tools for implementation, all of which are an indispensable complement to the GSTC Criteria.
What standard revision process has been followed?
ISEAL is a non-governmental organisation whose mission is to strengthen sustainability standards systems for the benefit of people and the environment. The GSTC is committed to following the guidance of ISEAL in developing and implementing the global sustainable tourism criteria. The GSTC-D revision process has been informed by the ISEAL Code of Good Practice: Setting Social and Environmental Standards, Version 6.0 – December 2014. This is referred to as the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code.
At their first meeting on the GSTC-D revision, held on 21st September 2018, the ISC was presented with a paper containing a systematic review of the outcomes, requirements, guidance and aspirational good practice as contained in the ISEAL Code. Broadly, these covered:
- Transparent procedures
- Published Terms of Reference, covering the need for, and scope of, the standard, stated outcomes and associated risks
- Stakeholder identification
- Public availability of a summary of the process
- Public consultation, giving stakeholders sufficient time to provide input and opportunity to see how their input has been considered
- A consultation process which is open to all and seeks to achieve balance of interests
- Seeking to address constraints faced by disadvantaged stakeholders
- Striving to achieve consensus
- Clear decision-making procedures and protocols.
In reviewing the requirements of the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code, the ISWG has focussed on Section 4 (General Provisions) and Section 5 (Standards Development Revision). The process that was subsequently followed has been based on the requirements contained therein.
The key stages of the revision process are set out below.
||Systematic assessment and presentation of the requirements of the ISEAL Standard Setting Code
|21st September 2018
||Meeting of the ISC to consider the ISEAL requirements, consider the revision process and request preparation of the Terms of Reference
||Planning of the process and timetable. Drafting of Terms of Reference and initial consultation questionnaire.
|27th November 2018
||Publishing Terms of Reference for GSTC-D revision
|December 2018 – 31st March 2019
||First round public consultation, via Survey Monkey. The survey was framed around the then current GSTC-D (Version 1.0), seeking comments and suggestions for improvement overall and for each of the criteria.
|January – March 2019
||Direct inputs invited and received from key stakeholder organizations.
|March – May 2019
||Review of first round consultation, with assessment and resolution of all comments received.
|16th May 2019
||Meeting of ISWG, to receive report on first round consultation and consider first draft of proposed revised GSTC-D.
|16th June – 18th August, 2019
||Second round consultation via Survey Monkey. The survey was framed around the proposed revised GSTC-D, seeking comments on the re-organised structure and on each of proposed revised criteria.
|September – October 2019
||Review of second round consultation, with assessment and resolution of all comments received.
|18th October 2019
||Meeting of ISC, to receive report on second round consultation and consider proposed amendments of the draft revised GSTC-D.
||Completion of final draft of revised GSTC-D, with addition of preamble, performance indicators and cross-reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
|30th October 2019
||Circulation of final draft of revised GSTC-D to ISC and Destination Stewardship Working Group (DSWG) for comment
||Review and resolution of final comments and suggestions from members of the ISC and DSWG; preparation of final amended revised GSTC-D (GSTC-D v.2)
|27th November 2019
||Proposed GSTC-D v.2 circulated to members of ISC
|6th December 2019
||Proposed GSTC-D v.2 put to GSTC Board for approval
The revision process has been fully documented. Key documents relating to each of the stages include the following:
- GSTC Criteria Revision and ISEAL Compliance, September 2018.
- Revision of GSTC-D: Terms of Reference, 27th November 2018.
Includes: GSTC-D need, scope, objectives and uses, outcomes risks; key requirements of the process, program stages and timetable, stakeholder mapping, outreach and promotion.
- Report of first round consultation and suggested criteria revision, 3rd May 2019.
Includes: details of respondents; handling of comments, key topics raised; draft revised GSTC-D.
- Report of second round consultation and suggested criteria revision, 26th September 2019.
Includes: details of respondents; comments on structure and individual criteria; proposed final revision of criteria
- Report of final draft of criteria revision, with indicators and reference to SDGs, 29th October 2019.
Includes: note on drafting of additional elements.
- GSTC-D Vs2.0 final draft, November 2019.
Separate documents, as Excel spreadsheets or Word tables, were also produced after each round of consultation, showing all the individual comments received and the response to each of them.
The importance of stakeholder engagement in the revision process has been fully recognised by the GSTC. Information on the communication activity and the level and nature of the response is summarised below. The revision of the GSTC-D has been heralded and documented on the Council’s website. https://www.gstcouncil.org/gstc-criteria/criteria-revisions/