Sustainability Standards: A tool for tourism recovery (OECD)
This article by GSTC Chairman Luigi Cabrini and GSTC CEO Randy Durband was published on OECD Forum.
Can global sustainability standards be key to a green recovery?
In 2019, tourism accounted for 10% of the global GDP and 1 of every 11 jobs worldwide, with a record 1.5 billion international tourists. But in 2020 and 2021, tourism flows dropped by more than 70% causing huge economic and social problems, with tens of millions of jobs lost all over the globe. However, even before this unprecedented crisis the negative impacts of tourism on the environment, communities and culture were becoming a threat to its growth.
In this context, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) was created in 2007 by a group including UN agencies and NGOs committed to sustainability and private sector. Unlike many other organisations engaged in promoting sustainable tourism, we set and manage standards that establish the environmental, social, economic and managerial requirements to be sustainable. Our global standards—the GSTC Criteria—are guidelines for destinations, hotels and tour operators on how to maximise the benefits and reduce the negative impacts of tourism, and include tools to measure their progress towards more sustainable business models.
We have seen recently, and especially during the pandemic, an increased interest from governments with tourism authorities, with countries as diverse as the Cayman Islands, Japan, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vanuatu, joining GSTC. They see value in a framework that can inform their national sustainable tourism strategies and provide the tools to introduce, implement and monitor the management of destinations. The active engagement of tourism’s leading companies in our programmes is a strong indicator of their interest in becoming more sustainable, and can hopefully drive change across the whole sector.