Archive for May, 2011

Herve Houdre

Herve Houdre, Regional Director and GM, InterContinental New York Barclay and Int'l Standards Working Group Chair

The International Standards Working Group will gather at the 2nd Annual GSTC Membership Council Meeting to continue our work on updating the GSTC Criteria. Our Working Group is responsible for managing the GSTC Criteria, specifically the revision process as required by ISEAL standards.

Prior to the annual meeting I wanted to provide a bit of background on our working group, our progress to date and insight into how the process works.

The International Standards Working Group has been meeting regularly since January 2011 to discuss the process and scope of the first round of revisions to the Criteria. In early meetings we discussed, at great length, the possibility of expanding the Criteria to all sectors of the Tourism industry. It was ultimately decided to follow the original mandate of the GSTC Board and focus on the existing criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators. We believe this course of action will strengthen the existing Criteria and build on the existing foundation. Once the original Criteria revision process has been approved through the public consultation process and published, the Working Group will then turn its attention to all other sectors of the industry.

The current Criteria revision process is well under way. We have been collecting feedback and suggestions from the public and industry professionals since the original launch of the Criteria in 2008. Each individual suggestion or comment is analyzed, weighed, researched and discussed by the members of the Working Group. If a comment is found to be material the respective Criteria is amended.

By June 2011 the revised Criteria will be posted for public comment for a period of 60 days on the GSTC website. Final comments will be taken from this process will be analyzed and incorporated in the amended GSTC Criteria. The Working Group is targeting the end of the year to publish the final version.

This hard work is being taken on by a very dedicated group of individuals including:

  • Ghassan Aidi- IH&RA
  • Tricia Barnett – Tourism concern
  • Johanne Barthes – ATR
  • Giulia Carbone – IUCN
  • Guy Chester – Ecosustainability
  • Hervé Houdré (Chair) – InterContinental Barclay
  • Ariane Janer – Ecobrasil
  • Brianda Lopez, Hostelling International
  • Andre Russ (Vice-Chair), EC3 Global

The committee is supported by Amos Bien – GSTC, David Brown – Solimar International and Peter Krahenbuhl – Tourism consultant.

If you are considering membership in the GSTC Council and are interested in serving on the International Standards Committee please indicate so on your application form. Working Groups are limited to 10 members. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the group select members based on an application process and then present their recommendations to the Board for final approval. The selection process occurs during set periods to maintain continuity. The next consideration period will begin at the conclusion of the current revision cycle. If you are a current member of the GSTC please contact for more information about how to apply for a Working Group position.

If you have specific questions about the GSTC Criteria revision process please send questions to the GSTC Technical Director, Amos Bien at

Shannon Stowell

Shannon Stowell - President, Adventure Travel Trade Association and GSTC Board Member

I recently sent a direct invitation to the entire Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) members to join the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Why? Why would I encourage our members to join another organization? Because I believe membership in the GSTC will provide important returns to the ATTA members’ organizations as well as the entire Adventure Tourism industry.

We are all aware of the issues our industry and planet face: from climate change to resource depletion; increasing poverty to unstable political climates; and government regulation to raising consumer awareness of sustainability issues. As an industry we depend on consumer demand and stable environments to succeed. Such large issues cannot be solved by our industry alone. However, we can take positive steps toward a solution.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a place where businesses and organizations can learn how to take action on sustainability issues and contribute to the distribution of best practices. The GSTC can help your organization save money through efficiency programs and make money through market access programs.

The GSTC is working on many projects that will be launched in 2011. A few projects include GSTC Accreditation, GSTC Market Access programs, development of education and online training materials and revision of the current GSTC Criteria. By joining the GSTC you can help shape the outcomes of these projects.

Also, if you join the organization now you will be eligible to attend the 2nd Annual GSTC Membership Council Meeting in Barcelona, Spain at the end of June, 2011.  Not only will you get an opportunity to meet and mingle with your fellow members from around the world, you will hear from travel industry leaders on topics ranging from Sustainable Destinations and Business to advances in Technology. You’ll also get a progress update from the GSTC Secretariat and Working Groups about all the important work that has been accomplished over the past year as well as upcoming projects and programs.

Finally, if you join us in Barcelona, you’ll get a behind the scene view into Barcelona’s sustainable practices which have positioned the city to receive the first BIOSPHERE certification as a World Class Sustainable Destination.

Momentum around this movement is accelerating. The GSTC is the first multi-stakeholder, truly global initiative operating in all regions of the world. It is an exciting time to be at the GSTC and I hope you will take a moment to visit the website, learn more about the organization and become a member.

Please visit or contact Liza Agudelo at or call 202.887.9040.



Amos Bien - Technical Director, GSTC

The GSTC and the Rainforest Alliance are presenting a two-part webinar series for ATTA on using certification to position businesses in the marketplace. Our fabulous Technical Director, Amos Bien, will moderate the sessions.

Session #1, covering terminology and definitions, will be June 9 @ 10am PDT and session #2, covering implementation and branding, will happen June 16th @ 10am PDT.

Usually ATTA webinars are for members only but due to the importance of this issue, the ATTA is making this webinar free! Register here. Space is limited.


Last week at the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Global Summit held in Las Vegas, Nevada, GSTC Executive Director Erika Harms spent some time chatting with TravelMole TV’s Charles Kao.

Erika discusses a number of issues about GSTC’s future education outreach to providers and consumers, the growing demand for sustainable tourism, new partnerships with Amadeus and LOHAS, the applicability of the GSTC Criteria to the various tourism sectors, and what’s in store over the next year, namely the expansion of the GSTC Criteria into the realm of destination management:

“For the first set of Criteria we reached to over 80,000 constituents. Now our network is bigger and we hope to have even more feedback to the process… Because of their characteristics, we’re piloting with several different destinations before we launch the criteria. Once the theoretical part is over, we’ll take it to implementation…”

When asked about the challenges of applying a global standard at the local level, Erika looked to the government of India who has recently engaged on a process of developing a catalogue of regional standards and certification programs. The GSTC Criteria are used as a baseline and stakeholder-driven consultation provides additional criteria as necessary to meet the local context.

The GSTC along with several members attended the WTTC Global Summit in support of the Tourism for Tomorrow awards awarded to businesses, destinations, and organizations making strides in sustainability. Check out the full list of winners and nominees here.

Watch the full interview here (heads up – video begins automatically).

There has been some talk about the GSTC not being responsive to criticism. We’d like to address this and then get back to the collaborative work of helping the travel and tourism sector protect destinations, reduce poverty and create equitable and productive markets.

The GSTC takes feedback and criticism seriously. We posted an open letter in response to some of the concerns that have been raised. We’ve also held personal meetings with our strongest critics in order to hear their concerns and to help correct misconceptions about the mission of the GSTC. Many of our critics, but certainly not all, have in the end become champions of the work the GSTC is doing.

We welcome open, honest dialogue and have done so since the beginning of the GSTC Criteria development process. We now have even more ways for members and non-members alike to raise concerns, ask questions and make their voices heard. For the general public there is Facebook, Twitter and our Blog. Additionally, anyone can provide their feedback on the Criteria in our ongoing survey, open for over two years.

Members also have the additional venue of our Members Only section of the GSTC website to engage in dialogue and debate, the opportunity to join working groups to help drive the direction of the organization and the Annual Meeting (coming up at the end of June) to engage with the GSTC Board and other members.

As always, we welcome your feedback. In the coming weeks we will spend time on the TRAVEL FOREVER blog addressing some of the issues that have been raised about the GSTC Criteria and try to clear up some misunderstandings.

If there is anything specific you would like to see covered please let us know!