GSTC: Spearheading Efforts to Make Tourism More Sustainable

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is a multi-stakeholder global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism around the world. The GSTC works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. The GSTC Criteria, a set of voluntary principles that provide a framework for the sustainability of tourism businesses across the globe, is the cornerstone of our initiative.

Momentum around this movement is growing. The GSTC is currently active in all UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) regions – Africa, the Americas, Middle East, and East Asia and the Pacific, with countries like Egypt, Costa Rica and India, and others progressing forward. Please see the GSTC website for more information on members and partners around the world.

The GSTC offers a great opportunity for tourism businesses and organizations to get involved as members, and to be part of the global movement towards sustainable tourism. TIES joined the GSTC in September 2010 to contribute to a vision that encourages and stimulates the travel and tourism sector worldwide toward more sustainable tourism operations. The GSTC’s work to position the tourism sector as a contributor to conservation and poverty alleviation is in line with TIES mission, and I believe that these efforts are changing the way in which we think about tourism. Ecotourism, in part, has been an impetus for creating a more sustainable tourism industry – and we are very encouraged about the potential for the GSTC to build these efforts for all tourism.

GSTC CSR Session

GSTC Executive Director, Erika Harms, addresses the ITB-Berlin audience, Corporate Social Responsibility Day (March 2011)

Opportunities for Tourism Stakeholders
We are all aware of the issues our industry and planet face: from climate change to resource depletion; increasing poverty to unstable political climates; and government regulation to raising consumer awareness of sustainability issues. As an industry we depend on consumer demand and stable environments to succeed. Such large issues cannot be solved by our industry alone. However, we can take positive steps toward a solution.

The GSTC is a place where tourism stakeholders can support action on sustainability issues, extend their networks to work with other like-minded companies and organizations, and enjoy a competitive advantage over those who are slower to come around. The GSTC is working on many projects that will be launched in 2011, including: GSTC Accreditation, GSTC Market Access programs, development of education and online training materials and revision of the current GSTC criteria. I encourage you to join the GSTC and help shape the outcomes of these projects.

The GSTC is the first multi-stakeholder, truly global initiative operating in all regions of the world. It is an exciting time to be at the GSTC and I hope you will take a moment to visit the website, learn more about the organization and become a member.