WASHINGTON, D.C. (March, 2014) – Samoa is the first South Pacific destination to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early Adopter Program and the second destination in the world to do so at the national level. Since the late 1990s, Samoa has held a pivotal leadership role in Sustainable Tourism practices and the Early Adopter Program provided the destination with an opportunity to benchmark its performance in the international context.
The Early Adopter Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and implemented by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International. It applies the recently developed GSTC Destination Criteria in assessing current sustainability levels and providing direction for future improvements. These guidelines complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.
“Samoa has demonstrated exemplary management in the South Pacific. Through their participation in the Early Adopter program, Samoa sets a clear and distinctive sustainable tourism process for small island nations. We look forward to their participation and knowledge sharing as they participate on the global stage in sustainable tourism initiatives”, expressed Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC.
The Independent State of Samoa is made up of 10 islands in the Polynesia, covering a total area of 2,831 square-kilometers. Remarkably beautiful, Samoa showcases breathtaking coastlines, white sandy beaches, coral reefs, marine wildlife, and rainforest covered volcanic peaks. Samoans are known for their traditional “Fa’a Samoa” way of life which values family and an authentic communal lifestyle.
The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner and leading destination specialist Sustainable Travel International. “Samoa was an early pioneer in the concept of sustainable destination management. The evaluation demonstrates that sustainable tourism is at the very core of Samoa’s efforts. This includes a tourism product successfully built around natural and cultural heritage, and considerable frameworks in place at the national level to manage and monitor the impacts of tourism” added Jeremy Sampson, Senior Destination Specialist at Sustainable Travel International, responsible for conducting the on-site evaluation.
The assessment was an initiative in collaboration with the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), which provided guidance and facilitated resources to meet with the stakeholders. Present at all stages, STA demonstrated considerable understanding and commitment to the process. “Sustainable tourism is the only form of tourism that ensures we are balancing all that is wonderful in our lives, from our pristine environs and our vibrant Samoan culture, to visitor satisfaction that exceeds expectations. Samoa has long supported these objectives and the monitoring and evaluation of indicators. These efforts help know where we are doing well, and alert us to areas of concern that we must immediately address,” stated Sonja Hunter, CEO, Samoa Tourism Authority.
During a 10-day span, the assessor met with key representatives to discuss tourism planning and management, sustainable development, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. The assessment determined the destination’s readiness to demonstrate GSTC-D adherence outlining a number of good practices and areas where the destination can improve.
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.
Global Sustainable Tourism Council
Anja Eckervogt and Jimena Moses
Strategy and Communications Working Group
Sustainable Travel International
Senior Director, Marketing and Communications