Cathy Parsons – Chair, GSTC Accreditation Panel

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council announced the launch of the GSTC Process this week. This announcement marks the culmination of over two years of work by dedicated volunteers, consultants and general practitioners of travel.

The Process itself is accomplished in three stages. First, standard owners or hotels and businesses that have created their own standard apply to the GSTC technical team to have their standard GSTC-Recognized. This means their standard is equivalent to the GSTC Criteria, the global minimum of sustainable tourism practices. Stage 2 involves certification bodies using these GSTC-Recognized standards to develop certification programs and submitting their program to the GSTC. The GSTC reviews their process and procedures to ensure compliance with global best practices for transparency. Stage 3 is the final stage where certification bodies move to Accreditation, the most reliable and credible state. For a more detailed description you can visit the GSTC Process section of the GSTC website.

The elements of the process itself have gone through much iteration in an effort to provide our community with a process that accomplishes our common mission of mainstreaming sustainable tourism while being affordable, accessible and credible.

I am the chair of the Accreditation Panel and our group was responsible for developing the GSTC Process. The group comprises people with past experience both in the development of sustainable tourism standards and their implementation. As the development process evolved we struggled with all of the elements one would imagine: Is the program too stringent? Does it hold organizations and business accountable? Is it cost effective and priced in a way that ensures the viability of the program but is obtainable for smaller organizations? Does it lend itself to establishing the credibility we know the traveling consumer wants? Is it complex enough to achieve what is mentioned above while at the same time clear enough to be implemented well? Will standard owners and certification bodies as well as travel and tourism businesses find the process appealing?

We believe the staged approach we developed will allow for more people to come into contact with the concept of the GSTC Process and sustainable tourism in general. It will allow them to work towards achieving better practices and compliance over time and prepare their organizations for the important step of accreditation.

In other words, the GSTC Process helps us all learn to crawl before we walk, walk before we run.

We hope you agree.

If you have comments, concerns or questions please leave them below and we will answer you as soon as possible. If you’d like to reach the GSTC directly with your questions please email


Cathy Parsons

Chair, GSTC Accreditation Panel