GijonBiosphere Responsible Tourism Certification, run by Instituto de Turismo Responsible (ITR) recently achieved GSTC Approved Status for their Destination Standards. Previously, ITR had been Approved for their hotel and tour operator standards. This is a landmark accomplishment as ITR is the first to achieve GSTC Approval for both Hotel & Tour Operator and Destination certification standards. Based in Spain, ITR focuses on providing practical tools in order to carry out a Responsible Tourism Policy on a global scale. The tools that the program provides contribute to the maintenance and protection of cultural and natural heritage in various destinations. In addition to this, ITR’s Responsible Tourism System bases its success on the reality that tourists have expectations regarding the destination, and they can only be met if the destination is authentic. They push to raise the quality of life for the host population, by coverage of three sustainability variables: environment, culture, and socio-economic impact.

Stories of Success

Meliá Berlin is a shining example of ITR’s Responsible Tourism Certification program. As an effort to preserve the environment, the hotel practices strict waste sorting. Ecological concerns are consistently addressed through refurbishments, such as monitoring energy use. Installation of induction hobs and the switch to LED lights are some examples of the changes noted at Meliá Berlin. Meliá Hotels International’s fundamental values have always included commitment to the environment, sharing local culture, and contributing to philanthropies such as UNICEF. Meliá also helps provide tools and financial aid to workshops for the disabled as well as child aid. Meliá Berlin sees sustainability as a crucial ingredient for both present and future development.

Gijón is a destination certified under ITR’s Biosphere Responsible Tourism Certification. This Asturian city is surrounded by an enviable green ring and opens itself up to the sea. These resources allow for an ample supply of culture and cuisine unique to this location. The quality of life here is highly valued by its residents, all while practicing a tourism model with a commitment to quality and satisfaction for its tourists. Gijón’s “green lung” and gem within the city is its Atlantic Botanical Garden. This enclosure extends into 25 hectares of about 30,000 plants including 2,000 distinct species cataloged. A noteworthy project which began in 2014 is Gijón Responsible Tourism, Committed Companies (Gijón Turismo Responsible, Empresas Comprometidas). Various tourism businesses in Gijón are collectively working towards conducting more sustainable practices, and drafting a report of good practices for short and long term results for other businesses to follow. Some of the entities include the Office of Tourism Infogijón, cultural and art centers like Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura, and hotels such as Hotel Abba Playa Gijón and Hotel Tryp Gijón Rey Pelayo, which are part of Melía International. The combination of these endeavors is what makes Gijón a destination of high quality sustainability.

Meliá Berlin - Aussenansicht

Leveraging Standards with the GSTC

The certification programs currently aligning themselves with the GSTC Approved standards are already witnessing exceptional results. The GSTC Criteria is setting the bar for sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintenance of cultural heritage, and reduction of environmental impacts. Meliá Berlin continues to adapt and develop its hotel into an energy saving machine. Gijón has already won awards for Best Quality as a Tourist Destination by the Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism of Spain in 2012, and again in 2014 for its Committed Companies project. The clarity, consistency, and credibility provided for sustainable travel and tourism products prove beneficial towards certification programs and sustainable tourism as a whole.

About the GSTC Integrity Program

The world’s most widely accepted sustainable tourism standards have been created through the GSTC Criteria. Through the application of the GSTC Criteria, certification programs are increasingly using the GSTC Integrity Program to ensure that their standards meet or exceed sustainable tourism baseline standards. The newly named GSTC Integrity Program offers the same process of GSTC Recognition, Approval, Accreditation while better reflecting the core mission of the program. The Approval Process comes after GSTC Recognition is achieved, and the certification procedures must largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence. This stepwise process provides benefits by building consumer confidence, promoting efficiency, and fighting false claims.

*Article Written by GSTC Volunteer, Jacquelyn Lopez

With environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef reaching alarming concern, GSTC Recognized standard Ecotourism Australia, is guiding hotels and tour operators towards certification and striving to conserve this asset to the tourism industry in Australia.  Ecotourism Australia represents close to 1,500 ecotourism products in and around Australia. Membership is offered for tourism operators and tourists alike, which is beneficial in informing and involving each entity to their own advantage. Hotels and tour operators certified under Ecotourism Australia actively demonstrate their contributions towards a sustainable future in travel.


Stories of Success

The Great Ocean Ecolodge, an accommodation product by the Conservation Ecology Centre, operates on solar power, and uses rainwater collection as the primary source of water. The conservation and research programs that the Conservation Ecology Centre runs offer packages for guests to participate in the projects. Projects include habitat restoration, population surveys, and caring for the precious resident Tiger Quolls. The conservation Ecology Centre also acquires and restores degraded land, and with this has turned the land around by planting more than 80,000 trees. Guests at the Great Ocean Ecolodge may admire the sheer beauty of the landscape it rests on.

Sea Darwin Eco Cruises provides a unique experience showcasing Darwin Harbour’s maritime history, stunning wildlife, expanse of natural beauty, and modern day  intrigue. Four Sea Darwin products have achieved Advanced Eco-Certification under  Ecotourism Australia. These tours are conducted by Darwin locals who are passionate  and knowledgeable of the area. The eco cruises are intimate and nature-minded, with  temporary mooring facilities used between Bare Sand Island and its surrounding reef  leaving the reef untouched and lowering fuel emissions. The Austurtle Research Project  turtle watching protocols are always taught and implemented, and from each Turtle  Tour ticket sale a portion is contributed to Austurtle. On all tours, all verified sightings  of marine mammals are recorded and forwarded to the Coastal Dolphin Research  Project.

 Leveraging Standards with the GSTCSeaTurtle

Through the GSTC Integrity Program, sustainable tourism standard owners use the  GSTC Criteria as a guide to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural  resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation. Achieving GSTC Recognition means that the GSTC has verified that an organization’s standards align with the GSTC Criteria and that any additional clauses do not contradict GSTC Criteria requirements. Recognition is the first fundamental step towards completion of the GSTC Integrity Program.

The GSTC Criteria is setting the guideline for sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintenance of cultural heritage, and reduction of environmental impacts. Both the Great Ocean Ecolodge and Sea Darwin Eco Cruises have further been recognized for their hard work through more than just certification. The Conservation Ecology Centre at the Great Ocean Ecolodge was a finalist for the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2015, and Sea Darwin Eco Cruises was finalist for the Australian Tourism Awards in 2014.

*Article Written by GSTC Volunteer, Jacquelyn Lopez

The iconic Yellow Mountains of Huangshan, China boast the only Global Destination Stewardship Award in the country and an UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Huangshan Scenic Area, China (HSAC) are longtime members of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and past participants of the GSTC Early Adopters Program.  Given these accomplishments, HSAC will be hosting the GSTC’s 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Huangshan this upcoming September.












Partnership with GSTC

With rapidly increasing visitations, HSAC aims to utilize the partnership with GSTC to gain new techniques including reducing noise and sight pollution, improving best practices in water and energy use. Perhaps most important for a site in China, conveying the message of sustainability to the visiting public will prove to be the most impactful change. This inspiring landscape is the perfect backdrop for a lesson in the value of preservation, as well as its economic benefits. HSAC has already capped daily visitor numbers, added alternative trails to alleviate overuse of the most popular ones, promoted winter visits, and closed certain “hot spots” on a rotating basis.

Huangshan_HikeMessage From GSTC CEO, Randy Durband

“Mount Huangshan, often described as the ‘loveliest mountain of China’, has played an important role in the history of art and literature in China since the Tang Dynasty around the 8th century, when a legend dated from the year 747 described the mountain as the place of discovery of the long-sought elixir of immortality.  Mount Huangshan became a magnet for hermits, poets and landscape artists, fascinated by its dramatic mountainous landscape consisting of numerous granitic peaks, many over 1,000 m high, emerging through a perpetual sea of clouds.  During the Ming Dynasty from around the 16th century, this landscape and its numerous grotesquely-shaped rocks and ancient, gnarled trees inspired the influential Shanshui (literally “mountain and water” but with a deeper spiritual meaning) school of landscape painting, providing a fundamental representation of the oriental landscape in the world’s imagination and art. Huangshan was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, designated as a ‘mixed’ inscription based on both cultural and natural heritage attributes.”


















HSAC hosting the GSTC Annual General Meeting

The GSTC encourages current members and other tourism professionals to participate in the 5th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Huangshan, China, September 10-13, 2015.  This annual event will feature keynotes from industry leaders, updates for the GSTC Board, education sessions and more. Discounted prices on accommodations and event registration will be available for GSTC Members. Details of program and registration will be available soon.


For inquiries or questions regarding the AGM, please email


Based in Quito, Ecuador, CarpeDM Adventures is an adventure company committed to meeting the needs of the community, clients and business partners through innovative programs that enhance the delivery of quality adventure travel. Building the social consciousness of the world one tour at a time, CarpeDM adapted the “DM” in CarpeDM to represent “Doing More”. Since inception, CarpeDM always believed that giving back to the community would always be part of doing business. In 2014, they took the “Doing More” philosophy one step further by implementing the 3.3.3 Program. Inspired by the simple idea: of leveraging, product, equity and time. Taking a page out of the Salesforce Foundation handbook, CarpeDM adopted the giving back philosophy into their own by increasing the percentage of company commitment. CarpeDM hopes to continue to grow the 3.3.3. Program while inspiring other businesses to follow suit, as there is no better feeling in the world. It’s easy to get started and the benefits grow exponentially as a company grows.

The 3.3.3 Program


 3% staff time during company hours is spent supporting a non-profit initiative      that they feel is near and dear to the heart. As a team of 5, CarpeDM staff commit 60    hours each per year to the following projects: VillaTicca Foundation, which  provides childcare to poor families in the south of Quito; Senior support at Ancianos  de Cotocollao, Casa Hogar Conocoto and PROVIDA; In the next year, staff time will  also be spent volunteering to help neglected animals in the city.

 3% profit get funneled back into community projects and events that are important   to staff. Since CarpeDM is a small company in a developing country, contributions    are not as high as most would expect but they are still proud to have contributed over $2,000 US in several initiatives over the year. This past year, CarpeDM provided a micro-loan to an indigenous community in the Amazon, and then donated the money instead of asking for it back. For Mother’s Day CarpeDM staff combined a special excursion for seniors to the Equator full of fun activities and food. Over Christmas staff visited villages outside of Quito to provide gifts, clothes, and school supplies for the children of the community. CarpeDM strives to visit areas where no support is usually given.

3% product is leveraged that directly benefits the community. CarpeDM currently manages one program that is 100% community based. All generated revenue for this program goes directly to the community. The Tschallias of Santo Domingo is an indigenous community that CarpeDM works with and actively sends travelers to. A 2-day program allows travelers to have an authentic experience with the community and experience their culture first hand. CarpeDM staff also volunteers time to translate for the groups that decide to visit for no additional cost. For 2 days the cost is $50 US and travelers must pay their own transport to get to the community. The family provides; meals, activities and accommodation.


In their commitment to grow community-based programs, CarpeDM is currently in the process of finalizing contracts to partner with the Caiman Lodge in the Cuyabeno Reserve. The Cuyabeno Reserve is the second largest reserve of the 45 national parks and protected areas in Ecuador. Home to more than 5 Indigenous communities, the plots of land owned by the indigenous groups are leased over a 10-year period to businesses that agree to build lodges and promote the area. In addition, the families that own the land are guaranteed that they will be allowed to work using their canoes to transport groups up and down the river and throughout the duration of the tours. Also part of the cultural experience includes visiting the local family to share traditional customs. CarpeDM hopes by the beginning of March to officially be a partner of the Caiman Eco-Lodge, which will solidify continued commitment to support the local community through the 3.3.3 program.

Paul Snyder, IHG Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and GSTC Board Member

Paul Snyder, IHG Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and GSTC Board Member

An interview with IHG’s Paul Snyder about the successful Green Engage program.  

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is the newest sponsor of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), and one of the leading hotel companies, with 4,700 hotels around the world. You are probably familiar with their well-known hotel brands, including InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza® and Holiday Inn®. IHG’s Corporate Responsibility programs focus on environmental sustainability, sustainable communities and disaster relief.

IHG’s environmental sustainability program, IHG Green Engage, is a system that measures the impact IHG-branded hotels have on the environment, and helps them manage costs. At the beginning of this year, IHG made a powerful demonstration of their ongoing commitment to protecting the environment and rolled out the program across the company’s global estate of over 4,700 hotels.

IHG Green Engage measures and monitors the daily usage of energy, carbon, water, and waste, as well as creating action plans to reduce resource usage while benefitting the bottom line. Additionally, IHG Green Engage is aligned with third-party certification programs to help streamline the process for IHG-branded hotels to achieve these recognitions. This includes GSTC Recognized Standard and Member- Green Globe and GSTC Member Green Key Global. The program’s sustainability system is also aligned with LEED® building standards.

Rooftop garden on Hotel Indigo, San Diego, California

Rooftop garden on Hotel Indigo, San Diego, California

More about IHG Green Engage

IHG’s decision to sponsor the GSTC was influenced by Paul Snyder, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility. In an interview, Snyder explains why IHG joined the GSTC as a sponsor and how the IHG Green Engage program works-

Why did IHG choose to support the GSTC?

The leadership initiative that the GSTC has taken on, as well as the quality and scope ofmembership were important factors that we considered in the decision. GSTC is a group that we felt we could both contribute to and also learn from.

How does IHG fit into the GSTC mission, principles, and community?

IHG has a franchise business model, and many IHG hotel owners and operators around the world are committed to environmentally sustainable business practices. Part of IHG’s Corporate Responsibility focus is to empower our owners and operators to create a sustainable hotel and business, so we put the strategies, systems and tools in place to help them achieve their goals at .

Overall, Corporate Responsibility is a part of the way IHG does business and at the heart of everything we do. We go beyond environmental sustainability, and also make an impact at the community level, where our hotels operate in more than 100 countries around the world. IHG Academy is designed to meet that need by providing collaboration between IHG hotels and local education providers to give local people skills training to help them find work and opportunity at IHG or in the hospitality industry.

Also, when disaster strikes, we help our hotels respond effectively and quickly to the needs in their local community through the IHG Shelter in a Storm program.

Solar panels on Holiday Inn Express & Suites El Centro

Solar panels on Holiday Inn Express & Suites El Centro

 How does the IHG Green Engage program make the “business case” to encourage participation, engagement, and promotion of the program? What about the “sustainability case”?

Honestly, the business case makes itself. We have performance, cost and impact data from 2,800 hotels, over half of our global estate. Because of the tool’s ability to compare similar hotels, it is easy to see what solutions work to reduce energy, waste and water. This reduction of resource use directly translates to financial savings, so hotels also see the impact to the bottom line

IHG Green Engage is divided into levels, and Level 1 certification has been proven to pay back in less than a year and have a significant positive impact.  Most importantly, we have many hotel owners and operators that deeply care about the environment and community, and they are motivated to build a better hotel that is more sustainable. It’s just the right thing to do.

 Since the inception of the IHG Green Engage program, is there a hotel that came up with an innovative and exciting solution to improve environmental standards?

Sometimes it is about just getting down to the basics and changing simple practices that can have a big impact. For example, a number of years ago we started planting climate appropriate foliage to save water. This may seem obvious, but it is a practice that can go unnoticed.

We have hotels that get creative and add roof top gardens and beehives. They are able to harvest and incorporate this food into hotel restaurant menus, and that also provides a way for guests to learn about the hotel’s sustainability program. Also, in 2012, IHG partnered with Clean the World that recycles soap and shampoo products discarded by the hospitality industry. Through the distribution of products to at-risk people, we are able to help prevent deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses. With over 200 Green Solutions, IHG Green Engage is a very comprehensive program that has a true impact on environmental sustainability and our business.


The GSTC’s Chair of the Board, Luigi Cabrini, is featured in the February edition of the Travel & Tour World online magazine.  The Travel & Tour World magazine is a B2B travel magazine with online global readership of over 2 million.   The article entitled “GSTC Making Advances in Tourism Sustainability” focuses on the history, objectives, and application of the GSTC Criteria. In an excerpt from the article, Mr. Cabrini gives a foundational explanation of sustainable tourism and why it is pertinent to all sectors of the tourism industry:

“Sustainable tourism is one that takes into full more effective sustainable practices and to help account the current and future, economical, social create a common understanding of sustainable and environmental impacts, addressing needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and also communities. The definition takes basis from the International Rio Conference in 1992. Sustainable tourism advocate for a wise use of resources, making sure that they are available for the next generation. One important approach that we have on sustainable tourism is that it should be spread across all the various segments of tourism. We are not satisfied in limiting sustainable tourism in small niches of eco-tourism or nature tourism but we do believe that it should permeate the whole tourism chain including mass destinations. This is one point that is clearly embedded in the global sustainable tourism criteria. We also give equal importance to environmental, economical, social and cultural aspects of tourism development and make sure that there is a right balance between all of them.”

Additionally, the article addresses the role that sustainable tourism and the GSTC has in combatting global issues such as poverty and climate change. The GSTC Sustainability Training Program was highlighted as a tool for travel and tourism stakeholders to use in order to effectively deal with such pressing problems. For more information on this 1-5 day on-site program, please visit here.


You can view or download the full article by visiting Travel & Tour World online and clicking “download latest magazine”.