(September 22nd, 2015) – The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN) is a global community formed around showcasing, recognizing and sharing the stories of great conservation enterprises around the world – enterprises that are win-win-wins for people, planet and  profit through the certification of products. WFEN’s effective conservation model can be attributed to their collaborative efforts with various tourism and government stakeholders and the application of GSTC Tour-Operators Criteria alongside best practice methods.

Guhonda , the oldest and largest Silverback Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Credit: Julie Stein.

Guhonda , the oldest and largest Silverback Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Credit: Julie Stein.

The organization defines Wildlife Friendly® Tourism as, “Tourism that truly supports conservation of wildlife and habitat along with economic incentives for communities to support both.” Their innovative work is most recently exemplified by their new certification linking the GSTC Criteria directly to wildlife conservation methods.

Gorilla Friendly™ Tourism Certification

The Gorilla Friendly™ Tourism certification was first applied to Mountain Gorillas in the three range states: Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo through a partnership with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) – one of the oldest and most respected organizations working on the conservation of critically endangered Mountain Gorillas. Primary funding was provided by World Wildlife Fund-Sweden, a coalition partner of IGCP. The new certification standard was built using a combination of IUCN Best Practices and GSTC Tour Operators Criteria jointly.

Mountain Gorilla tourism is widely considered to be one of the most successful wildlife related tourism projects in the world – both in terms of its economic importance to the GDP of the three countries where the Gorillas live but also for the long-term survival of this iconic species. According to the WFEN’s Website, “Mountain Gorillas and tourism are inextricably linked. Arguably, neither has a future without the other…” creating an obvious need for the development of the ‘Gorilla Friendly™ Tourism label – A first-of-its kind species-focused tourism certification.

The timeframe to develop the certification required three years of stakeholder consultation with governments, communities and the private sector of the three Mountain Gorilla range states. WFEN is now now finalizing the final draft of their standards which will apply to the National Parks and Rangers, Hotels and Lodges, Tour Operators and Travel Agents.

Growing Application of GSTC Criteria

Moving forward, WFEN is applying their new certification to other threatened wildlife including Sea Turtles – which interface with tourism and tourists in the marine environment as well as on beaches around the world.

Green Turtle swimming in the Caribbean Credit: Caroline S. Rogers.

Green Turtle swimming in the Caribbean Credit: Caroline S. Rogers.

The first part of the effort has been developed by Dr. Kimberly Stewart, Sara Ramirez, and the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) (St. Kitts is an Early Adopter of the GSTC Criteria) together with stakeholders on St. Kitts and Nevis through a grant from Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP), and will be piloted on St. Kitts incorporating some of the GSTC criteria together with expert input on Sea Turtles.

WFEN is a member of the conservation Network WIDECAST which partners with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Caribbean Sea. WIDECAST is comprised of more than 60 Country Coordinator (CC) residents in 43 Wider Caribbean nations and territories. Each CC works closely with an active national coalition of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, including scientists, natural resource managers, conservationists, policymakers, educators and others. A critical baseline for WFEN is that these efforts are developed for a local context and can then be adapted for at a global scale for far ranging species like the Sea Turtle.

GSTC Criteria

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) establishes and manages global sustainable standards with the aim of increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices among public and private stakeholders. At the heart of our work are the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Sustainability Criteria. There are two sets of GSTC Criteria: Destination Criteria (GSTC-D) and Hotel & Tour Operator Criteria (GSTC-H&TO). These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order 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. Sustainability is imperative for all tourism stakeholders and must translate from words to actions.


(July 28, 2015) An interview with Khiri Travel’s Graham Read about their recent Travel Life certification and sustainability practices.

The Southeast Asia based destination management company and GSTC member Khiri Travel , recently achieved Travel Life Certification for their Tour Operations in Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam. Khiri group’s new certification is a major advancement for creating recognition of Southeast Asia as a region for sustainable tour operators.

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Tropical_Surfer(July 9, 2015) A record 1.1 billion tourists traveled to international destinations in 2014, and the World Tourism Organization predicts that international travel will increase by 4% by the end of the year. The tourism industry continues to have an enormous impact on the environment and on communities in and near popular travel destinations – many of which are located in ecologically fragile areas like coral reefs. Luckily, the sustainable tourism movement is growing, as more travelers are making smart choices that help to protect and support the planet.

There are a lot of different ways to be a sustainable traveler, and many of them are easier than you’d think. We picked three green travel tips that are easy but effective enough to be a great starting point for the average traveler.

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Fjord_Norway(June 18, 2015) Innovation Norway continues to champion sustainable tourism with their recent launch of the country’s Sustainable destination standard. Since May, four destinations in Norway have achieved the new label and one has received the prestigious World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Destination Stewardship. Innovation Norway has successfully advanced their standard rapidly due to the nation’s foundation in love for  nature and their unique ability to unite a broad range of stakeholders toward the common goal of sustainable tourism.

Innovation Norway’s Sustainable Destination Standard

Innovation Norway’s Sustainable destination standard includes 45 criteria and 108 indicators to be measured, registered and monitored. The standard covers nature, culture, environment, social values, community involvement and economic viability. Measurable and continuous development are ensured through performance counts and renewing the brand every three years.
Once a destination is chosen, Innovation Norway applies the standard through a series of implementation and monitoring methods. Then, a committed resolution is formed by the municipal council to support sustainable development in tourism and similar commitments are made by the tourism operators. After that, the implementation of the standard can occur.  This includes tasks like establishing internal transport, energy saving initiatives, local food and cultural projects, signposts and building recreation trails. Jointly, a monitoring process occurs that includes documenting the overall use of local food, local culture, energy, waste production, and cultural assets in the destination. The entire process takes approximately two years. It’s the comprehensive nature of Innovation Norway’s standard and the application to broad stakeholders that make their standard successful and easier to implement.

Contributions to sustainable tourism

With the new label of ‘Sustainable destination’, Norway takes a lead in the international efforts to promote sustainability in tourism and destination development. In order for a destination itself to achieve certification as ‘sustainable’, a broader set of criteria must be met. A consistent effort to plan for sustainable tourism and support and strengthen environmental programs over time is required, as well as working to preserve the destination’s history, character and nature. In addition, certification places demands on the development of the destination’s businesses and society following principles of sustainability.

Inguun Sørnes, a special advisor to Innovation Norway remarked, “As a nationally implemented certification for destinations, ours was the only one we could find at the time we developed and launched in early 2013. At that time we had been working for 3 years on developing sustainability as a base for local destination development, and prior to that we ran a development program for single enterprises and sectors in tourism in finding a way to increase sustainability in the industry. The industry pointed at competence and certifications as core elements in increased sustainability focus, and we built both competence programs and increased awareness on the use of certifications.”

In 2012, Destination Røros, Norway received the prestigious WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Destination Stewardship. The awards are among the highest accolades in the global travel and tourism industry, giving international recognition to best practice examples of sustainable tourism in action.


Advancing sustainable tourism

The variety of different industries that form Innovation Norway allow for a cohesive network unlike any other National Travel Organization. Innovation Norway’s standard contains specific criteria and indicators asking the destination to increase the number of single enterprise certifications (hotels and tour operators), thus enabling the destination certifications to not compete, rather support the other certifications. Also a division of Innovation Norway is ‘Visit Norway’ which provides a listing of all tourism products and enterprises that are environmentally labelled with a tag named “Green Travel” and most closely resembles the GSTC Criteria. Today, this covers five independent certifications.  Innovation Norway collects the information and makes the identification of the label available for the users of the site. Innovation Norway’s ability to integrate their sustainability standards into other industries has allowed them to advance sustainable tourism beyond other National Travel Organizations. To date, four destinations in Norway have achieved the Sustainable destination label.

About Innovation Norway

Innovation Norway is the result of a merger between four organisations; The Norwegian Tourist Board, The Norwegian Trade Council, The Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund, SND and the Government Consultative Office for Inventors, SVO. The Norwegian Tourist Board operates as the nation’s National Travel Organization (NTO) and provides support to the tourism industry including the national brand Visit Norway.












Sustainability-Leaders.com is a website and project with the aim to encourage sustainability in travel and tourism by telling the stories of change makers – businesses and destinations around the world.

Grand Tour 2015

Their most recent project is the Grand Tour 2015, designed to inspire and encourage travel and tourism professionals to embrace sustainability and “get on with it”.  From June to December 2015, Florian and Natalia, editors of Sustainability-Leaders.com, will visit, review and tell the stories of leading sustainable hotels, tours and destinations worldwide.

Sustainability Leaders is still accepting expressions of interest from destinations, hotels and tour operators interested in forming part of the Grand Tour 2015, in collaboration with GreenDestinations.info, eTN and TravelMole’s VISION on Sustainable Tourism.  This includes finalists of an international sustainable tourism award, or certification bodies that have achieved GSTC Recognition or Approval.   Preference will be given to destinations or businesses who can help arrange a destination-wide visit.

If you would like to support the initiative and benefit from exposure alongside world’s leading sustainable tourism businesses and destinations, please email editor@sustainability-leaders.com.

The Impact of Sustainability Leaders

Florian Kaefer and his partner Natalia Ferrer Roca started Sustainability-Leaders.com (Spanish version: SostenibleYa.com) in 2014 out of a desire to learn from those already successful in implementing sustainability, and to help others in travel and tourism to follow suit.

“There is no shortage of information on how to make your hotel more energy-efficient or how to reduce waste production and water consumption. What’s missing are examples and stories of businesses and persons already working towards sustainability: stories that reach our hearts and guts, and not just our brains”, stated Florian Kaefer.

“The thing is, travelers, tourism businesses, service providers and destinations – we are all in this together. Tourism products are intangible and based on promises of great, authentic experiences, which need intact environments and welcoming communities.”

The GSTC is excited to support the Sustainability-Leaders.com project, which has been endorsed by UNEP, Rainforest Alliance, Sustainable Travel International, TIES, among others.

For more, visit sustainability-leaders.com or follow on Twitter & Facebook

(June 4, 2015) For their contributions to the successful planning and execution of the Latin American Regional Meeting in Quito, Ecuador, the GSTC would like to thank our Country and Regional Representatives: Natalia Naranjo Colombia and Ecuador; D’Arcy Dornan for Brazil and Jorge Moller for Chile and Argentina. Without their outstanding efforts and regional knowledge, the GSTC would not have been able to gain such a valuable outcome.

The GSTC Latin America Regional Meeting took place on April 26th with great success. The gathering gave 75 travel and tourism professionals from over 12 countries a foundational list of tools, contacts, and references to improve overall sustainability of their operations. Structured in part like a workshop, presentations and round-table discussions centered on sustainable tourism standards, destination management, industry best practices, and the GSTC Destinations Program. The Latin America Regional Meeting was held in cooperation with The International Ecotourism Society’s- Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC15), and took place the day prior to the start of the conference.

GSTC Country Representatives uphold a variety of responsibilities to ensure the continued growth and support for the GSTC. One of these responsibilities and a crucial component of ensured growth is actively participating and planning of at least one GSTC event per year – the Annual General Meeting (AGM) or an authorized Regional Meeting. The expertise and regional knowledge of the country representative enriches the event and ensures that planning and communication coincide with the location of the meeting.

Becoming a GSTC Country Representative adds to the continued growth of the GSTC mission. A Country Representative serves regionally or nationally and is a qualified and approved sustainable tourism expert. Representatives benefit professionally from the prestige and exposure of holding this title and position among the elite group of global thought leaders promoting sustainable tourism that is the GSTC community. As member of the GSTC, you can become a Country Representative. To learn more about opportunities to become a GSTC Country Representative click here.