• Sabi Sabi

    Photo credit by Sabi Sabi Game Reseve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

  • Tswalu

    Photo credit by Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

  • IMG_3851

    Photo credit by !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre, Western Cape, South Africa

  • Amakhala

    Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

GSTC Integrity Program: Guiding the Standards of Sustainability


Sustainable tourism certification programs have increasingly become an important strategy for encouraging the sustainable production of travel & tourism goods and services. However, the overwhelming number of existing sustainable tourism certification programs create both market and consumer confusion regarding what is to be expected from a sustainable tourism product or experience. Since 2008, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) is addressing these issues with the creation of the world’s most widely accepted sustainable tourism standards.

The GSTC Criteria, a globally recognized set of sustainable tourism standards for Hotels, Tour Operators and Destinations, help build consumer confidence, promote efficiency, and fight false claims. Through the application of the GSTC Criteria, certification programs are increasingly using the GSTC Integrity Program to ensure that their standards meet or exceed these sustainable tourism baseline standards. The GSTC Integrity Program is a step-wise process for certification programs to complete GSTC Recognition, Approval and Accreditation of their sustainable tourism standards.

GSTC Integrity Program
Recognition, Approval and Accreditation of Sustainable Tourism Standards

The GSTC Integrity Program is a step-wise process created to ensure that sustainable tourism standards and certification programs meet or exceed the global baseline standards of sustainability. At the heart of this, the GSTC strives to uphold and improve the quality of sustainable tourism standards that are implemented around the globe.

The first step in the GSTC Integrity Program is GSTC Recognition. A sustainable tourism certification standard is GSTC Recognized when the program provides a written and published standard that is aligned with the GSTC Criteria. GSTC Recognized standards are publicized on the GSTC website, promoted to key partners, and mentioned in presentations and publications. GSTC Recognized Standards can also be used for certification, verification, and the validation of the tourism supply chain, affiliates, or franchises.

Once a certification program completes the GSTC Recognition program, they are eligible to move on to GSTC Approval. When granted the label as GSTC Approved, this means that the certification program follows processes and procedures that have been reviewed and approved by the GSTC. The program applying for Approval must use their Recognized standard, and once granted Approved status, the certification program may look forward to the benefit of using the approved seal, along with preferential market recognition.

The GSTC Accreditation Program is the final step in the process, and is the most formal and reliable portion of the GSTC Integrity Program. This is a more rigorous process, which will gain confidence and credibility with consumers. The certification program must work with an endorsed accreditation body that is a member of the ISEAL Alliance or member of IAF, as well as compliance with ISO and GSTC prerequisites. The GSTC recently appointed Accreditation Services International (ASI) to undertake Accreditation. This exclusivity will take a program far with the offering of sustainable products and services that have been through the GSTC Program exclusively, along with the use of GSTC-Approved language and seal, and favorable market positioning.

Special Offer Pricing for Recognition and Approval

The GSTC Integrity Program provides the necessary clarity, consistency, and credibility for sustainable travel and tourism products, consumer experiences, and sustainable tourism as a whole. The GSTC is now offering discounted pricing for sustainable tourism standards seeking GSTC Recognition, and for existing Recognized standards seeking GSTC Approval. Contact GSTC Technical Director, Guy Chester (td@gstcouncil.org) for more details.

About the GSTC

The GSTC is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; and educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council sets of Criteria. This is done as an effort to create a common language within the realm of sustainable tourism, and is the cornerstone of the initiative. The GSTC Criteria focus on guiding businesses and destination programs on how they should provide sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintain cultural heritage, and reduce environmental impacts.

 Source: Jacquelyn Lopez, GSTC Communications Volunteer

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