This year marks Solimar’s fifth year working on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria – a groundbreaking set of voluntary guidelines created to provide an international understanding of sustainable tourism. The long term goal: strengthen consumer confidence in the tourism industry’s sustainability claims and provide a clear path for tourism business seeking more sustainability in their offers.
This movement has come a long way since 2007 when Solimar was first contracted to analyze nearly 3000 tourism criteria from around the world. After the original GSTC Criteria for hotels and tour operators were launched in 2008, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) came to life out of the ad hoc coalition of partners such as the United Nations Foundation, UNEP, Sabre/Travelocity and Rainforest Alliance that helped finance and provide guidance to the initiative. Solimar has built websites, managed social media outreach, developed GSTC indicators and supported the ongoing technical review and revision of the GSTC Criteria as the Council has grown from a network of less than 50 to its current 200-strong membership.
Throughout 2011, the GSTC has focused on building a series of recognition processes that will add additional strength to sustainable tourism standards and certification programs by ensuring that they meet global best practices. Standards –may apply to receive GSTC recognition, and several – including those from the Rainforest Alliance, EarthCheck, and Costa Rican Tourism Board have done so. Certification programs with GSTC-recognized standards can then apply to become GSTC Approved. The first GSTC Approved standard is set to be announced soon.
This year, the GSTC is moving into its next phase as they develop a set of global criteria focused on sustainable destination management. Solimar Chaiman, Don Hawkins, has been involved in the development of the criteria set to launch in December. Like the criteria for hotels and tour operators, the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations will serve as an aspirational set of guidelines for places interested in conserving and strengthening their human, cultural, and environmental resources. Five pilot destinations, including the Okavango Delta and Lanzarote have volunteered to pilot test the criteria and ensure that they are attainable and useful in a real context.
The GSTC Criteria have proven to be a useful tool for Solimar’s projects in Bolivia and the Western Balkans where they provide a previously unavailable starting point to assess current sustainable tourism efforts and a clear path for operator training, product management, and targeted marketing.
The GSTC hosted its 3rd Annual Meeting this week in Washington, DC, featuring an impressive line up of speakers from the travel industry.