The tourism industry has the potential to be a good and powerful force on our planet. When responsibly managed, it enriches lives, and preserves natural resources and cultural heritage. More frequently these days, travelers take this into account and seek authentic holiday experiences, to choose a responsible tour operator, book a hotel with a sustainability certification, read up on local cultures before traveling, research conservation or social projects to possibly engage during their trip, and even go as far as calculating personal carbon footprints and offsetting emissions with a payment contribution.

To correspond with the rising demand of responsible travelers, organizations needed to re-shape their strategy. Over recent years, the travel and tourism industry has reflected an increasing shift in mindset towards a greener agenda. The term sustainability came to be used, introducing principles and practices designed to encourage active preservation of our environment and communities, while promising an attractive economic recovery. Many entities now drive profitability and innovation by implementing sustainability programs across their value chains.

TUI Travel PLC, a leading international leisure travel company and a GSTC member, surveys their own customers to measure sustainability consciousness.. Not surprisingly, the 2012 TUI Travel Sustainability Research Report – with 3000 people surveyed, who have taken at least one holiday of at least 5 days including a flight within the last 2 years – illustrates the importance for tour operators to demonstrate how their supply chain – which consists largely of third-party accommodations – is employing workers under fair conditions and is supporting the local community.

This comprehensive customer research study was undertaken in six major European markets (United Kingdom, The Netherlands, France, Denmark, Germany and Norway) and it revealed how important it is for their customers to be assured that their hotels are treating their people fairly and addressing applicable social and community issues.

Although 65% of the respondents still think sustainable holidays are more expensive than conventional holidays, this share has been reduced by 7% since 2010. The report compared their 2010 findings with the latest survey. In 2010, price perception, difficulty of finding sustainable and apathy in the subject were identified as key barriers for not booking a sustainable holiday. Price perception was reduced as a challenging factor, more respondents are buying sustainable products than two years ago and more regular purchases of sustainable products has started to changed price perceptions in a positive way.

Evidently, the evolution of consumer behavior towards sustainable tourism has affected private and public sectors; local, regional and national government levels and sustainability efforts have reached every facet of most structures. Jane Ashton, GSTC Board Member and Director of Group Sustainable Development at TUI Travel PLC, explained how this sustainability trend had macroeconomic impacts in the markets they surveyed:

“In the UK, the Companies Act 2006 was sharpened in 2013 to require more disclosure from companies on their material environmental, employee and social impacts – in particular human rights were highlighted, following the growing integration into national legislation – across Europe and beyond – of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As we illustrate in our Sustainable Holidays Report, companies are now expected to manage and report on their own human rights impacts including how they influence the actions of their business partners, i.e. in our case: accommodation suppliers. In Germany too, legislation has changed to encompass social impact reporting resulting that German companies have to report against non-financial KPIs relating to environment and worker standards”.

“Increasingly, tour operating companies like ours have Supplier Codes of Conduct showing the social and environmental expectations they have of their major suppliers. In fact, GSTC-Recognized certification scheme gives third-party assurance to companies like TUI Travel that suppliers are performing to these expected standards”.


About TUI Travels PLC

TUI Travel PLC is one of the world’s leading international leisure travel groups operating in approximately 180 countries worldwide. It serves more than 30 million customers in over 31 source markets. Headquartered in the UK, the Group employs approximately 57,000 people and operates a pan-European airline group consisting of circa 140 aircraft. The company is organized and managed through three principal business Sectors: Mainstream, Specialist & Activity and Accommodation & Destinations. In the financial year ended 30 September 2014 TUI Travel had revenues of £14.6bn and an underlying operating profit of £612m.


 The Global Sustainable Tourism Council CEO, Randy Durband, has been named Special Advisor to the creation of the Top 100 Sustainable Destination annual list. The initiative was created by GSTC member Albert Salman (Green Destinations) and Valere Tjolle (TravelMole, VISION for Sustainable Tourism, Totem Tourism).  The Top 100 Sustainable Destinations list aims to encourage stakeholders worldwide to adopt sustainable tourism practices. Also, Green Destinations and Totem Tourism hope to acknowledge best practices, and recognize those authentic, greener, cleaner and more responsible destinations.

The 2014 list will be compiled by Albert Salman and Valere Tjolle, in consultation with the “Green Destinations Selection Panel”, consisting of 30 international experts on tourism and sustainability.

Nominations will be accepted until 31 October, 12:00 CET. Submit your Destination Nomination Form to

The procedure for the compilation of the list is as follows:

Cities, towns, small regions, national parks, or even lakes can be nominated, not accommodations or single buildings

A very important source for list are the contents and the scores that are calculated by the Global Sustainable Tourism Review (GSTR) database that includes data for 1200 destinations.,

The GSTR database makes use of ca. 60 indicators, plus the GSTC Criteria for Destinations. Since the total number of destinations worldwide is huge, this database is not complete. Therefore, representatives of a large number of international programs for tourism sustainability have been invited to add destination information to the database, and to nominate destinations for inclusion in the Top 100. To this end, a standard nomination form has been used, enabling experts nominating destinations to provide their “Personal assessment” on the following criteria (corresponding to the six themes of the GSTR):

Criteria for selection of destinations

1. Quality of nature, wildlife experience, and landscape in the destination

2. Environment quality (air, water) and environmental care in the destination

3. Cultural heritage, local identity and tradition

4. Social issues – People & Hospitality, incl. the human rights situation, and human respect

5. Green Economy (business involvement & innovation, green & clean energy, climate adaptation, waste & water management)

6. Green Policy (GSTC-D compliance; innovation; and successful green benchmarking):

Any other element, innovation, best practice, etc. specify:

“Personal assessments” are done in the form of a rating from 1 to 5 (“5″ expressing an ideal situation / performance, corresponding to the 20% best destinations in the continent; “1″ expressing an unfavorable situation / performance, corresponding to the 20% worst destinations in the continent), for each of the above selection criteria.

Calls for nominations are made through social media, and key international experts were invited to join the Green Destinations Selection Panel. Panel members, and others, can nominate cities, towns, small regions, national parks, or even lakes.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) has been considered of major importance in compiling the list. For this reason, the nomination form also asks experts to indicate whether nominated destinations have been assessed on the GSTC-D (by an independent body) or have been certified through an independent 3rd-party auditor procedure.

In connection to this, it should be clarified that the Global Sustainable Tourism Review (GSTR) is not an eco-label or a certification system, but a destination sustainability support system that has been developed to make the GSTC-D operational ,and to harmonise and compare any destination assessment or certification.

Whilst there are already 1200 destinations in the GSTR database, the limitation of the GSTR database is that it mainly holds data on visible sustainability (from a range of other databases and maps), whilst the local situation and the GSTC-D policy compliance is only assessed for some 60 destinations.

The Team is aware that rates will always be somewhat subjective, so transparency is important here. This is why the listing shows:

• The GSTR Score.

• Excellence indicators: the six selection criteria for which the destination is considered very good (rate 4 or 5 out of 5).

The Team is also aware that it was very difficult to assess criterion 6 (especially GSTC-D compliance), which requires a Green Destinations verification, or certification program (e.g. Biosphere, QualityCoast, QualityDestination).

It should be mentioned that lists per continent were maximized in order to be able to present a truly global Top 100. So lists were compiled for each continent, the length of the lists more or less corresponding to the relative number of international arrivals in each continent.

For our Top 100 the following numbers were chosen:

European destinations: 50.

African destinations (incl. Libya and Egypt): 10

Asia-Pacific destinations (incl. Asian parts of Russia and Turkey, and Arabian Peninsula): 25.

American destinations: 15.

The compilation and publication of this Sustainable Destinations Global Top 100 is a unique collaborative effort of the leading international organisations and programs for tourism sustainability. It is intended to repeat this every year, and to improve the methodology and the documentation, through the GSTR. Suggestions for improvements concerning this follow-up are welcome at



Photo Credit: St. Kitts Tourism AuthoritySt. Kitts and Nevis, located in the northern Leeward Islands in the West Indies, was one of the first destinations in the world to be selected as a GSTC Early Adopter, and the first in the Caribbean. St. Kitts still retains “hidden gem” status, not being a mass-market Caribbean destination. However, development on St. Kitts is advancing swiftly, with significant new infrastructure under development, including five-star resorts, luxury residential properties, a marina, and with plans being made for a second cruise port.

Recognizing that the small island nation is at a critical turning point to ensure that its growth balances development interests with safeguards for the local environment, culture, and community livelihoods, St. Kitts has begun pursuing innovative destination stewardship programs under the leadership of Minister of Tourism and International Transport Ricky Skerritt—himself a keen environmentalist and Rhodes scholar. “I pledge continued support from the Tourism Ministry as part of our national quest for achieving global sustainable standards in tourism product preparation and delivery,” Minister Skerritt has said of efforts such as St. Kitts and Nevis’ participation in the GSTC Early Adopter Program.

In this post, we look at just few of these efforts St. Kitts and Nevis has launched in the last two years since its July 2012 GSTC assessment.

Community Action Planning

In 2012, following the GSTC assessment benchmarking St. Kitts and Nevis’ policies and practices against the GSTC Criteria for Destinations, the Ministry of Tourism set in motion a process to start implementing the GSTC recommendations. The first step was an inaugural Sustainable Tourism Forum, held in November 2012 by the Ministry of Tourism and facilitated by Sustainable Travel International, which conducted the destination assessment on behalf of the GSTC. The forum brought together approximately 50 St. Kitts and Nevis stakeholders from across sectors such as tourism, agriculture, culture, investment, sustainable development, and environment, to collectively prioritize the GSTC’s recommendations and plan action projects to advance those priorities. In addition to identifying steps to begin implementation, the forum discussion aimed to raise awareness among the broad group of participating stakeholders about the importance of sustainable development of tourism, St. Kitts and Nevis’ top economic sector.

Sustainable Destination Management Council, and Stakeholder Training

One of the GSTC focus areas identified by St. Kitts and Nevis stakeholders as high priority was improvement of capacity building and coordination among key destination decision-makers—especially public sector—regarding sustainable tourism development. Stakeholders envisioned an interagency sustainable tourism governance body with wide representation across offices of government, and including private sector membership. The interagency council would receive training in sustainable destination management, and meet regularly to collaborate on advancing sustainable development priorities.

Originally envisioned at the Sustainable Tourism Forum in November 2012, the St. Kitts Inter-Agency Sustainable Destination Management Council (“IASDMC”—pronounced “I as DMC”) officially launched one year later in November 2013. The IASDMC is chaired by Diannille Taylor-Williams, Assistant Permanent Secretary of the St. Kitts and Nevis Ministry of Tourism and International Transport. In addition to Tourism, the IASDMC includes representation from organizations such as the Bureau of Standards, the Ministry of International Transport, the Investment Promotion Agency, Ministry of Sustainable Development, and Departments of Water Services, Culture, Marine Resources, Constituency Empowerment, and Environmental Health. Private sector representatives include electricity provider SKELEC, the Hotel and Tourism Association, and Kittitian Hill, a sustainability mission-oriented new luxury resort development on St. Kitts.

Last year, members of the IASDMC, along with an additional group of St. Kitts stakeholders, received USAID-developed online sustainable tourism training, as well as in-person capacity building in sustainable destination management. An additional training is scheduled for another group of destination stakeholders this year, as well as continuing education for members of the IASDMC, provided by Sustainable Travel International.

In addition to the cross-sector collaboration of the full council, the IASDMC has established three working groups to implement projects in three priority areas:

(1) Tourism Workforce Development—enlisting both demand and supply sides to attack the challenges of developing a Kittitian workforce with the necessary skills to succeed in today’s tourism sector;

(2) Public Awareness—focused on raising the public profile of sustainability throughout St. Kitts and Nevis; and

(3) Visitor Philanthropy—designing programs for travelers and residents alike to give back to the community, with an initial project creating opportunities to contribute to coconut tree replanting on island.

The IASDMC is a cutting-edge mechanism to build capacity among a broad-based, cross-sector body of key destination decision-makers, and engage their commitment and influence to achieve sustainable development goals. Sustainable destination management is still a relatively new field. Forward-thinking destinations—beginning with the Early Adopters—that recognize the value of implementing the concerted policies and practices in the GSTC Criteria are truly innovators. It will be important to monitor the results from structural approaches like the IASDMC, and apply the lessons learned.

“Tourism can have a positive impact on the surrounding community and environment, but that doesn’t happen by accident,” says Minister Skerritt. “Sustainable development of tourism that benefits hardworking people living in local communities, and nurtures authentic culture and environmental protection—that is the kind of development it has been my Ministry’s priority to pursue on St. Kitts. That kind of responsible development is what delivers the best possible island experience to our visitors, while ensuring that our own residents continue to enjoy living and doing business here in this country that we love so dearly.”

The St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism has been named one of two finalists for the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (“CTO”) 2014 Sustainable Tourism Award in Destination Stewardship. CTO will announce this year’s Sustainable Tourism Award winners at the State of the Industry Conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands later this month.


Note:  GSTC Early Adopter St. Kitts did win the 2014 CTO Sustainable Tourism Award in Destination Stewardship. The award was presented to St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Patricia Martin and Assistant Permanent Secretary Diannille Taylor-Williams at CTO’s State of the Industry Conference in September. The award goes to a country that demonstrates improved sustainable tourism planning, widespread adoption of good sustainable tourism management practices, multi-stakeholder engagement, the preservation of cultural heritage, and protection of the environment, among other accomplishments.

Photo credit: St. Kitts Tourism Authority.


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

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.