The Destination Cusco-Sacred Valley-Machu Picchu Peru,, known locally as the Cusco region and  globally for the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and Cusco World Heritage Sites, has completed  the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early  Adopters pilot program to test its new Criteria  and Indicators for Destinations. The Cusco region is one of Peru’s most visited tourist destinations,  and joins the Chilean destination of Lake Llanquihue as  the first South American destinations to  participate in and complete the GSTC Early  Adopters program.

The Early Adopters program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and managed by NGO  partner Sustainable Travel International (STI). The Destination Criteria complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.

Tourism is a key driver of the Cusco region’s economy, as it is the second largest foreign exchange earner. It sits 3,399 meters above sea level in the heart of the Andes and was once the center of the Inca Empire. It is widely considered the archaeological capital of the Americas due to its unique blend of colonial and ancient Inca architecture.

“The Cusco Region’s leadership in sustainable destination management is truly noteworthy,” said GSTC Chair Kelly Bricker. “This iconic South American destination is demonstrating true global leadership in adopting the GSTC’s baseline Criteria and Indicators for Destinations,” she said.

“The outcomes of the GSTC Early Adopter Program will help us to prioritize the development of a regional destination sustainability action agenda for Cusco, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. This is an important first step for our destination,” said Fernando Santoyo Vargas, director of Cusco Destination Management Organization.

Sustainable Travel International conducted an on-site evaluation in the Cusco region over a period of 10 business days. The lead sustainable destination specialist met with key stakeholders involved in tourism, environmental conservation, heritage protection, physical planning, and the provision of utilities. A small working group was established consisting of MINCETURSwisscontact Peru and DMO Cusco. In addition, a number of focus group meetings were held with the tourism private sector, environment and utilities experts, and tourism marketing and management staff, which included a comprehensive review of the legislative and policy framework relevant to the GSTC Destination Criteria. A total of 41 leading organizations and local leaders from the tourism sector were consulted.

A comprehensive report was provided by Sustainable Travel International, which included key sustainability areas covered by the GSTC Destination Criteria that the destination can improve upon based on the findings.  Stakeholders in the destination participated in the validation of the report and the Criteria and Indicators development process by providing their feedback for improving the GSTC Destination Criteria.


The need for the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) was determined in late 2009 by the Destination Stewardship Think Tank co-convened by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Sustainable Travel International. As a result, the GSTC Destination Working Group (the “Destinations WG”) was formed in February 2010. The methodology for the development of the GSTC-D was approved by the Working Group in July 2011, informed by ISEAL guidelines for the development of social and environmental standards.

A working draft of criteria and related performance indicators was proposed in October 2011, incorporating the shared principles from over 37 destination guidelines and standards from around the world. The GSTC Destinations and International Standards Working Groups reviewed the draft and submitted recommendations to the GSTC Board, which approved draft 1 of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) on 7 March 2012, The criteria were subsequently submitted to a public consultation from 2 April  – 4 August 2012  in English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, German, Catalan, and Russian, and they were pilot tested in six Early Adopter destinations in North America, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia between May and August 2012. The Draft 1 criteria were revised to incorporate the comments received from the consultation and from the early adopters. All comments were reviewed and addressed, although not necessarily adopted.

Draft 2 was approved by the GSTC Destinations and International Standards WGs in October 2012 and approved by the Board in November. Draft 2 was published for public consultation from December 1, 2012 to April 15, 2013 in English, Spanish, and Mandarin, as very few comments were received to the first survey in other languages. A second round of early adopters was used to evaluate the Draft 2 criteria and indicators between March and August 2013. Once again, every comment and suggestion was evaluated, and Draft 3 of the criteria, incorporating the results of the second public consultation and the second round of early adopters, was submitted to the Destinations WG in September 2013.  After incorporating the recommendations of the WG, the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations (GSTC-D) were approved by the GSTC Board on 31 October 2013.

A chart of all the requested changes and the responses to them from both rounds of public consultations and the Early Adopter on-site evaluations is available on request and will be posted to our website, along with minutes of all discussions by the GSTC Working Groups.

Next steps

  • A third round of early adopter destinations will be conducted in the first semester of 2014, to help refine the development of a set of associated performance indicators and guidance documents, which will be continually updated and improved.
  • Comments on the criteria will be accepted and held until the next update of the criteria, proposed for 2016 and every five years thereafter.
  • The GSTC procedures for the recognition of sustainable tourism standards will be revised to incorporate the GTC-D and permit the recognition of destination standards, starting in early 2014.

 First Mediterranean destination adopts baseline criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 24, 2013) – South Sardinia is the first Mediterranean destination to complete the  Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early Adopters Program to test its new Criteria and Indicators for  Destinations.  The assessment was one of the first initiatives of Visit South Sardinia, a new DMO formed by five forward-thinking municipalities: Cagliari, Domus de Maria, Muravera, Pula, and Villasimius.

The Early Adopters Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and managed by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International (STI). The Destination Criteria complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.  “The GSTC destination criteria are becoming a cornerstone for sustainability guidance worldwide, as guiding actions that protect and conserve unique natural and cultural features, such as those found in South Sardinia” noted Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC.  “As an early adopter, South Sardinia is demonstrating global leadership and commitment to sustainability,” Bricker added.

Located 250km west of the Italian mainland and 200km North of Tunisia, Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean. It is characterized by rocky coastline separated by sandy and rocky beaches and watched over by a network of historic fortified towers, many of which have been restored.

The Mayor of Cagliari, Massimo Zedda noted at the opening workshop, “We have protected rather than exploited our Phoenician history, our water and our flamingos. We are proud to be the first GSTC Adopter in the Mediterranean”

Assisted by Prof. Patrizia Modica and a team of researchers at the University of Cagliari, South Sardinia helped to facilitate a high level of teamwork and cooperation during the destination’s GSTC Assessment. The Mayor of Domus De Maria, Dr. Concetta Spada said at the closing workshop, “We were not organized or working together before. Being assessed together has helped us to collaborate to protect and enhance our precious points”. The Mayor of Pula, Dr. Walter Cabasino, added, “It did not feel like I was undergoing a test but that I was part of a team to improve the destination.” The Mayor of Muravera, Marco Fanni, Commented that the assessment “brought an objective outside point of view that helped the region reflect on what was important”.

During a 10-day span, a sustainable destination specialist from STI met with key stakeholders in South Sardinia to discuss tourism planning and management, economic development, community involvement and heritage protection, and environmental conservation.  Three focus group meetings were held to discuss these areas. In addition, two community meetings were held to review the opportunities and challenges of tourism development in the destination. The evaluation also included a comprehensive review of the legislative and policy framework relevant to the GSTC Destination Criteria.

The report identified a number of good practices, areas where the destination exceeds international standards, and areas where the destination can improve based on the GSTC Destination Criteria.  The most noticeable good practices revealed in the STI assessment included a good sense of management from the DMO keeping plans and regulations accessible via government websites, prompt licensing regulations and consistent monitoring incorporated in their routine duties. Moreover, they implemented various programs to ensure local produce, local consumption, recognition and promotion of its people and assets embracing their heritage and idiosyncrasy.

At the concluding workshop, hosted by the University of Cagliari, a representative of the many private sector groups involved in the assessment, Martino di Martino, said “In only a few days a lot has been achieved. We are grateful for this opportunity and committed to the process.” Mayor of Villasimius, Salvatore Sanna, challenged the group to act on GSTC recommendations and address the areas needing improvement in order to advance the sustainability journey of South Sardinia: “If we act on these recommendations, South Sardinia will take a leap forward. We need a clear vision for the Gulf of Angels and we need to tell the story with a single voice”

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Kenyan destination recognized for good practices and desire for improvement

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 18, 2013) Mara Naboisho is the first wildlife conservancy to participate in the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early Adopters Program. In doing so, the destination has achieved an important milestone in the recognition of sustainable tourism as a model to protect an area of high concentration of wildlife in Kenya’s Greater Mara region, while empowering the local Maasai community.

In 2010, Basecamp Foundation Kenya was requested by some 500 Maasai landowners to facilitate the creation of the conservancy as a community wildlife and tourism cluster. After three years of intense planning, compromise, and implementation of strict policies, the conservancy decided to participate in the GSTC Early Adopter “In a time when complex solutions are critical to the conservation of the last remaining vestiges of spectacular wildlife, as well as the improvement of quality of life for the traditional landowners of the Mara, this project represents hope in finding solutions.  This project will continue to be a leader and a case to exemplify hope for the future” said Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC.

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We here at the Global Sustainability Travel Council are so excited and honored that Glenn Hasek – Editor of – has decided to be a guest blogger this month.

You can follow Glenn on Twitter by clicking HERE.

Time Passages: An Aging Editor Looks Back

Glenn HasekIt was in 1990 that I wrote my first green hotel industry column called “Eco Views” for Hotel & Motel Management (now Hotel Management) magazine. Back then it was big news if a hotel launched a recycling program. It is amazing how times have changed. Today, almost seven years after launching Green Lodging News, to be called “green lodging” you had better be doing a lot more than recycling. So much has happened to change traveler and industry expectations.

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By Talia Salem

Longtime partners of the GSTC, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) recently published its Values Statement for the first-time. These values will help guide the ATTA, its membership, and its mission going forward. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria were included in these values. We chatted with Shannon Stowell, president of the ATTA, about the decision to release these new values, what they mean for his organization, and the GSTC.

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