Archive for May, 2012

Herve Houdre

As we come to the close (June 2, 2012) of the first 60-day round of feedback on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) draft Destination Criteria we take a step back to look at the structure and meaning behind the Destination Criteria feedback process. To do this, we spoke with Hervé Houdré, GSTC board member and Chair of the International Standards Working Group, about the value of a thorough, formal, inclusive process for evaluating GSTC criteria.

Here’s what Hervé had to say:

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This past April, SITC (Saló Internacional del Turisme a Catalunya) in Barcelona hosted, for the first time,
The Smart Destinations Forum, a seminar exclusively dedicated to Sustainable Tourism.  GSTC Executive Director, Erika Harms, joined other responsible travel leaders in a discussion regarding What Smart Destinations can do in order to become competitive.  The goal was to share experiences and come up with new initiatives to promote “smart” destinations by incorporating innovative technology and sustainability.

There is no question that tourism is a top economic sector in the world, but with the many benefits that it can bring to an area (development, resources, jobs) it can cause just as much harm (destroying heritage, land, local values and nature).  Consequently, all destinations must think about how to incorporate sustainable technology into their cultural, economic, environmental, social, administrative and political systems. Increased sustainability for destinations also means an extraordinary opportunity for many activity sectors, such as construction, water, energy, mobility, waste and marketing.

The city of Barcelona, where the SITC is held, is no stranger to these concepts.  In 2011 Barcelona was awarded the first Biosphere World Class Sustainable Destination certification by the Responsible Tourism Institute, granting it the title of the first city in the world to be a certified sustainable urban destination.

The GSTC Criteria for Destinations was designed as an effort to come to a common understanding of sustainable destinations, and are the minimum that any tourism management organization which wishes to be sustainable should aspire to reach.  With these guidelines and through the work of our Early Adopters Program the GSTC hopes that more tourism destinations will (i) demonstrate sustainable destination management; (ii) maximize social and economic benefits for the host community and minimize negative impacts; (iii) maximize benefits to communities, visitors and cultural heritage and minimize impacts; and (iv) maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts.

When prospective travelers perceive that a country is unsafe due to news reports of political unrest, crime or natural disaster, they stop visiting. They cancel previously scheduled trips, they target future vacations to other destinations.  However, sometimes perceptions and reality regarding safety and security are at a distance.  For tourism boards, tour operators and others, therein lies the opportunity — to close this gap.

According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) statistics, 1 in 12 people in both advanced and emerging economies work in the tourism industry. In 2012, there will be an estimated 1 billion tourists crossing borders rising to almost 1.8 billion in 2030. Often, those most disproportionately vulnerable to the impact of falling tourism revenues due to bad news are transitional and developing countries whose tourism industries contribute significantly to their GDP. Ultimately, it’s ordinary people and their families who suffer most because of lost jobs and income.

Every destination can be subject to the scrutinizing lens of the media.  How you relate to that lens is what influences outcomes.  Such was the essence of the topic of this year’s 2nd UNTWO Conference on Tourism and Media: Partnering with Media during Challenging times.

So what can tourism organizations – tourism boards, tour operators, and accommodation providers – do to work better with media during difficult times of negative perception related to current events? 

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We are pleased to announce the opening of the 2012 GSTC Board Election as described in the GSTC By-Laws A rticle 5, Section 5.

The GSTC Board is a dynamic, active organization whose dedication and experience ensure the continuing success of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. It is important to have a diverse board membership to ensure that all stakeholders are represented as fairly as possible. Please consider a leadership role within your organization. A potential candidate may nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else.

If you are interested in participating in the 2012 Board Election, please fill out the application available on the Members’ Only Section of the GSTC website. Or if you would like to nominate someone else, please email with their name, organization, current position, nationality, and a letter of endorsement for the individual.

The deadline for the application for all candidates is on Wenesday, May 23rd. Please email if you need a reminder of your password or username.

All nominees will be reviewed by the Election Committee for eligibility by May 30th.  After confirming eligibility, candidates will be listed on the GSTC website during the election period from June 13th through July 11th. Once the voting period closes, the Election Committee will validate the election results and deliver a report to the Secretariat who will announce the results no later than August 1st.  Elected candidates will assume their posts on August 15th for a period of 3 years.

If you have further questions about the election process or responsibilities of a GSTC Board Member please contact Harmony Lamm at