Under GSTC’s auspices, a national survey based on the GSTC Destination Criteria (GSTC-D) was conducted by Japan Tourism Agency among Japan’s local governments, to assess the degree of understanding on sustainability issues, and the current activities in developing sustainable destinations.

The survey also aimed to help the development of “Japan Sustainable Tourism Standard for Destinations”, a sustainable tourism standard based on the GSTC Destination Criteria, and its promotion. It is also hoped that the survey would raise and promote awareness of the global standard for making destinations more sustainable.

In the survey, a set of questionnaire was developed from the GSTC Destination Criteria (GSTC-D), turning each indicator to a self-assessment question. 163 questions were formulated under the four sections: (A) Sustainable management, (B) Social and economic sustainability, (C) Cultural sustainability, and (D) Environmental sustainability.

The questionnaire was distributed to local governments throughout Japan with 620 respondents.

Survey overview

■ Target: Local governments (prefecture, city, town, villages)

■ Period: February 10th to March 18th, 2020

■ Method: E-mail Questionnaire

■ Method of response: Multiple choice: ①“No”, ②“Plan to conduct”, ③ “In preparation “, ④ “Yes/Conducting”, ⑤ “Being conducted with regular update”

■ Aggregation method: Simple average

Outline of results

Main findings in the four fields are as below:

A. Sustainable management
“A10 Climate change adaptation” scored low, while “A1 Destination management responsibility”, “A2 Destination management strategy and action plan”, and “A3 Monitoring and reporting” had relatively high scores.

B. Socio-economic sustainability
“B5 Preventing exploitation and discrimination” and “B6 Property and user rights” scored low, while “B3 Supporting local entrepreneurs and fair trade”, “B7 Safety and security”, and “B8 Access for all” had relatively high scores.

C. Cultural sustainability
“C5 Intellectual property”, “C2 Cultural artefacts”, and “C6 Visitor management at cultural sites” scored low, while “C7 Site interpretation” scored high.

D. Environmental sustainability
“D2 Visitor management at natural sites”, “D6 Water stewardship” and “D12 Light and noise pollution” scored low, while “D7 Water quality”, “D8 Wastewater” and “D9 Solid waste” scored high.


In spite of the short period of the survey, 620 local governments responded to the questionnaire, which is quite high. We believe this suggests that there has been a heightened awareness regarding sustainability in Japan, and many are ready to take action.

Some respondents commented that the survey provided an opportunity to recognize various aspects of sustainable tourism, which they had not been aware of. It can be said that this self-assessment survey allowed the respondents to gain global perspectives, against which they recognized strength and weakness.

It is expected that the survey will be an opportunity for local government to implement measures to improve areas of weakness and extend their strengths.

Further, it is hoped that this survey will provide local governments a baseline when they implement practices using the “Japan Sustainable Tourism Standard for Destinations”, to enhance sustainability of the destinations.