The GSTC criteria serve as a global standard for sustainability in travel and tourism. The criteria are used for training and raising awareness, policy development for business and government agencies and other types of organisations, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification.
They are the result of a global effort to develop a common language on sustainability in tourism. They are organised into four pillars:
The GSTC criteria have been built on decades of previous work and experience around the world, and take into account the many guidelines and standards for sustainable tourism from every continent. During the development process, they were widely consulted around the world, in both developed and developing countries, in several languages. They reflect the goal of achieving a global consensus on sustainable tourism. The process of developing the Criteria was designed to adhere to the standard-setting code of the ISEAL Alliance, the international body providing guidance for the development and management of sustainability standards for all sectors.
Public sector tourism decision-makers and destination managers around the world look to the GSTC criteria for guidance on policy development, awareness-raising and training, and to use them as a framework for national or local sustainability standards (see more information on the GSTC page for governments and destinations).
Many national tourism organisations formally use the GSTC framework in different ways. If a country is going to use standards for sustainable tourism, it will most likely use the GSTC framework in some way.
For example, earlier this year the European Travel Commission (ETC), representing 32 national tourism organisations in Europe, recommended the use of the GSTC framework.
Other examples of countries using the GSTC framework are: Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Malta, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway, Mauritius, Japan, Indonesia, Bahamas, Costa Rica and many others.
Not only do governments and destinations use the GSTC framework, but also large and small companies use the GSTC criteria to improve their performance. Here are some concrete examples of the implementation of the criteria that refer to pollution reduction and energy conservation (criteria D1 through D10 of the Industry criteria):
Thousands of hotels and tour operators are using the GSTC criteria to improve their operations and become more sustainable, whether or not they achieve certification.
The GSTC criteria provide the pathway and description of what 'sustainable' means. Operating more sustainably saves money in the long run. For example, an analysis by the world's largest travel company, TUI, has shown that hotels certified for sustainability outperform non-certified hotels in terms of environmental performance and offer superior quality and customer satisfaction.
All recent surveys show that travellers want and expect companies to operate sustainably (Booking.com 2021, Booking.com 2020, Trivago, Agoda). Online travel agencies (OTAs) are highlighting certified sustainable hotels (Booking, Hotelbeds, Google, etc.). Hotel space buyers prefer certified sustainable hotels. For example:
Cruise lines offer preferential contracts to certified sustainable tour operators (e.g. Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises).
Here is a small – non-exhaustive – summary of the participants' comments, collected during the seven training sessions: