Photo Credit: Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) conducted its Early Adopter program from 2012 through early    2014. During the program, a diverse group of fourteen forward-thinking destinations worldwide pilot tested the  Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations.

Each Early Adopter underwent a baseline destination sustainability assessment applying the Criteria, and  received recommendations to address any gaps. Early Adopters also provided their feedback on the Criteria. This  input from the fourteen diverse destinations was critical to ensuring that the GSTC Criteria for Destinations are  appropriate and applicable as the global performance standard for destination sustainability.

Several Early Adopter representatives joined us in Bonito, Brazil, in April during the GSTC’s 2014 Annual General  Meeting (AGM), and discussed their experiences. They shared their insights about tourism planning, economic  development, community involvement, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. They discussed the considerable progress their destinations have made on sustainability issues and the challenges they currently face.

Richard Malesu, Environment & Safety Coordinator at Botswana Tourism Organization, described the difficulties his destination faces, including “finding balance betweeen community and farming” in an effort to sustain natural and cultural integrity in the Okavango Delta.

Riviera Maya’s brand slogan is paradise is forever. Beatrice Barreal, who directs Sustainable Riviera Maya, explained: “For a paradise forever,” she “it has to be for everyone, as there are no private paradises.” Barreal outlined the challenges the organization she directs faces in ensuring a long-term tourism model to benefit all Riviera Maya stakeholders.

Similarly, Jorge Moller, who represented Lake Llanquihue, Chile, at the AGM, explained the intricate relationships between the Lake Llanquihue DMO and local farmers regarding “what to do with its beautiful landscapes” in the Northern Patagonia region.

It is now several months—and, in some destinations’ cases, two years—since the Early Adopters received their GSTC baseline sustainability assessments. As a result of the GSTC interaction during the AGM, we are now gearing up to check in with the Early Adopters again, in a blog series called, “GSTC Early Adopters, Revisited.” As part of this series, about every few weeks, we will showcase one of the Early Adopters—briefly profiling their destination stewardship activities post-GSTC assessment.

Have the GSTC’s recommendations served as a catalyst for sustainable development and management of the Early Adopter destinations? What have the fourteen participating destinations been up to in destination stewardship since the Early Adopter program? Stay tuned.

 

About the GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. Housed within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the GSTC 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 Criteria. The Criteria, a set of voluntary principles that provide a framework for the sustainability of tourism businesses and destinations across the globe, is the cornerstone of our initiative. For more information, visit www.gstcouncil.org.

About the GSTC Destination Criteria

A panel of business owners, academics, government officials, and other experts, who examined the UN World Tourism Organization’s Indicators of Sustainable Development and other such guidelines currently in existence, developed the GSTC’s Destination Criteria. Because the Criteria are intended to describe a globally applicable set of minimum steps needed to approach sustainability, the criteria are seen as a baseline that each destination should add to or adjust as needed.

The GSTC does not aim to certify destinations as sustainable; rather, the Council reviews existing certification standards and acknowledges those that meet its Criteria. However, any destination may use the new Criteria as a guide to improve environmental, cultural, and social practices.

 


 Tourism has been a crucial economic driver on St. Croix for many years and the island has been careful to avoid over-  development that might detract from its varied natural and cultural assets. As part of the island’s strategic plan to increase  visitation, St Croix has been exploring ways to differentiate from its competitors by offering a diverse tourism product aligned  with today’s travel trends, focused on its authentic heritage.

Within this framework, St. Croix applied the recently developed GSTC Destination Criteria, assessing current sustainability  levels and taking initiative through participation in the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Destination Early Adopter  Program (GSTC-D EA). The Early Adopter Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and implemented by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International.

“The US Virgin Islands are an extraordinary destination; St. Croix has exhibited leadership in sustaining its diverse natural and cultural attractions for those visiting the islands.  Taking this step to coordinate sustainable tourism as a destination is not only strategic for the heritage conservation of the island of St. Croix, it will likely inspire and be a catalyst for positive change across the entire region” expressed Dr Kelly Bricker, GSTC Chair, Board of Directors.

St. Croix is a destination teeming with natural beauty, rich culture, flavorful cuisine, and a complex but fascinating history.  “Unique” and “authentic” are words that locals will happily throw around, and with good cause; St. Croix is the only island on its continental plate, providing a topographical contrast to its volcanic neighbors. In addition to its stunning beaches, rainforests, and bioluminescent bays, one can experience various historical and cultural sites, including the African and Danish-influenced Christiansted National Historic Site and Salt River Bay, the only known site where members of a Columbus expedition set foot on what is now a U.S. territory.

The site evaluation was conducted by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International and implemented through a joint effort of the US Virgin Islands’ Department of Tourism, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and Economic Development Authority.

 

“Sensing an opportunity to stand out in both the Caribbean region and on the global stage, St. Croix elected to take a leadership stance through participation in the Early Adopters Program. As a result, the destination had a chance to benchmark its sustainability performance and identify methods to grow thoughtfully, while writing a new chapter of its unique story to share with industry and visitors alike.” revealed Jeremy Sampson, Senior Destination Specialist, Sustainable Travel International, who also conducted the evaluation.

The GSTC-D EA process was framed by the destination as a collaborative evaluation and discussion to generate a snapshot of sustainability performance. During a 10-day span, the assessor met with key representatives to discuss tourism planning, sustainable development management, heritage preservation, and environmental protection. The assessment determined the destination’s readiness to demonstrate GSTC-D adherence summarizing good practices and areas where the destination can improve.

“The GSTC Assessment report provides crucial feedback on our best practices and detailed guidance for the sustainable growth of tourism. The outcome of the GSTC Early Adopter Program will help us to refine our strategy towards sustainability and prioritize actions needed for the future of St Croix, and more broadly in the USVI. This, in turn, will provide assurance to all stakeholders that we are performing to the highest international standard for sustainability” disclosed Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner, U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.

About the GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. Housed within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the GSTC 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 Criteria. The 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. For more information, visit www.gstcouncil.org.

About the GSTC Destination Criteria

A panel of business owners, academics, government officials, and other experts, who examined the UN World Tourism Organization’s Indicators of Sustainable Development and other such guidelines currently in existence, developed the GSTC’s Destination Criteria. Because the criteria are intended to describe a globally applicable set of minimum steps needed to approach sustainability, the criteria are seen as a baseline that each destination should add to or adjust as needed.

The GSTC does not aim to certify destinations as sustainable; rather, the Council will review existing certification standards and acknowledge those that meet their criteria. However, any destination will be able to use the new criteria as a guide to becoming environmentally, culturally, and socially sustainable.

About Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization with a purpose. Founded in 2002, we enable our partners to harness the power of tourism to leave the world a better place. We build partnerships, share knowledge, and design tools to make tourism more beneficial for everyone. We connect people in destinations and help communities, businesses, and travelers to develop the tools and relationships they need to build a better future through tourism.

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Media Contacts: 

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Jimena Moses and Anja Eckervogt

Strategy and Communications Committee

info@gstcouncil.org

 

Sustainable Travel International

Jeremy Sampson

Senior Director, Marketing and Communications

jeremys@sustainabletravel.org

Mexican coastline destination adopts criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1st, 2014) – One of Mexico’s iconic tourism destinations, the Riviera Maya in the State of Quintana  Roo, has become the first destination on the Mexican Caribbean coast to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s  (GSTC) Early Adopter Program.

“At the GSTC we welcomed the decision of Riviera Maya to carry out the Early Adopters program and are proud to have  contributed to the advancement of a sustainability agenda in one of the most renowned destinations in the world. We look  forward to continuing our support for the organization which spearheaded the EA program, Sustainable Riviera Maya, in its future initiatives,” expressed Luigi Cabrini, Chair of the GSTC Board of Directors.

The Riviera Maya’s rich cultural and natural heritage attracts approximately 4 million tourists a year. It is a world-class destination featuring the best of ancient and living Mayan culture. The Riviera Maya is home to both beautiful beaches and biodiversity, including the Mesoamerican Reef System, which is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Tourism is the key pillar of the local economy, representing 95% of Quintana Roo’s Gross Domestic Product.

The phenomenal tourism growth experienced in the Riviera Maya over the past 20 years has resulted in  significant impacts  to its natural and cultural environment.  To respond to this challenge, NGOs and the local government have actively implemented a wide range of sustainable practices in the region, including improved state-level policies and regulations for environmental protection and certification programs for hotels and tourism businesses, all aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of tourism and maximizing positive ones.  The results of the destination assessment conducted as part of the GSTC Early Adopter Program showed some significant areas of success, as well as risks that require immediate attention.

The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner, leading destination specialist, and global NGO, Sustainable Travel International. While the evaluation recognized some of Riviera Maya’s significant successes in planning regulations and sustainability standards, it also highlighted the urgent need for shared responsibility of destination-level management. Since the program’s completion, the Quintana Roo Ministry of Tourism has acted quickly and convened a multi-sector destination committee, which will be tasked with developing an action plan and implementing the recommended next steps.

“We recognize the leadership role that Quintana Roo’s Ministry of Tourism played in this process. The destination assessment marks an important step taken by tourism leaders to ensure the fulfillment of the destination’s tagline—Riviera Maya, paradise is forever, “ remarked Seleni Matus, Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean for Sustainable Travel International, who conducted the 10-day on-site assessment

The final evaluation report included key sustainability areas covered by the GSTC Destination Criteria, including destination management, economic and social issues, cultural heritage, and environment. Various organizations and local leaders in tourism were consulted during the process and were given the opportunity to provide their feedback on the destination’s performance.

“The multi-sector committee, comprised of the regions tourism leaders, will work to facilitate an inclusive process for crafting a shared vision for Riviera Maya and shared management of the destination,” proudly voiced Beatriz Barreal, CEO and Founder, Sustainable Riviera Maya. Beatriz was the project liaison for the GSTC-EA and has played a key role in Riviera Maya’s development as a tourism destination.

Riviera Maya’s participation in the GSTC-EA was funded by TUI Travel,  the Futouris foundation, Quintana Roo’s Ministry of Tourism (SEDETUR), Riviera Maya Hotel Association, local tourism businesses and service providers, and a philanthropist.

“The Global Criteria for Destinations, and its recommendations, have provided us with vital guidance on the pathway to more sustainable growth in Riviera Maya” added Manuel Paredes, Riviera Maya Hotel Association, General Director.

About the GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. Housed within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the GSTC 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 Criteria. The 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. For more information, visit www.gstcouncil.org.

About the GSTC Destination Criteria

A panel of business owners, academics, government officials, and other experts, who examined the UN World Tourism Organization’s Indicators of Sustainable Development and other such guidelines currently in existence, developed the GSTC’s Destination Criteria. Because the criteria are intended to describe a globally applicable set of minimum steps needed to approach sustainability, the criteria are seen as a baseline that each destination should add to or adjust as needed.

The GSTC does not aim to certify destinations as sustainable; rather, the Council will review existing certification standards and acknowledge those that meet their criteria. However, any destination will be able to use the new criteria as a guide to becoming environmentally, culturally, and socially sustainable.

About Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization with a purpose. Founded in 2002, we enable our partners to harness the power of tourism to leave the world a better place. We build partnerships, share knowledge, and design tools to make tourism more beneficial for everyone. We connect people in destinations and help communities, businesses, and travelers to develop the tools and relationships they need to build a better future through tourism.

###

Media Contacts: 

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Jimena Moses and Anja Eckervogt

Strategy and Communications Committee

info@gstcouncil.org

 

Sustainable Travel International

Jeremy Sampson

Vice President of Marketing and Communications

jeremys@sustainabletravel.org


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