The Chilean destination of Lake Llanquihue has completed the Global Sustainable  Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early Adopters pilot program to test its new Criteria and  Indicators for Destinations.  The destination joins the Cusco-Sacred Valley-Machu  Picchu corridor in Peru as the first South American destinations to participate in and  complete the GSTC Early Adoptersprogram.

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.

Located in south central Chile in the Los Lagos Region, this tourism destination notably features Lake Llanquihue, the second largest lake in Chile, and the lake resort towns of Frutillar, Puerto Varas, Llanquihue, and Puerto Octay.  Tourism is economically vital to the region, where visitors can enjoy breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes, and partake in outdoor recreation such as skiing, hiking, hot springs, and activities in and around the lake.

“We are pleased to welcome Peru and Chile to the Early Adopters Program,” said GSTC Board Chairperson Kelly S. Bricker, Ph.D. “These two iconic South American destinations are demonstrating true global leadership. We are confident that this second and final round of our pilot program will help the GSTC continue our effort to incorporate diverse perspectives and improve the Criteria and Indicators for Destinations for world-wide application through a transparent, collaborative process,” she said.

“Chile’s participation in the GSTC Early Adopter Program is part of our national strategy to position ourselves as a sustainable destination,” Fernando Ortúzar, Regional Director of Tourism Los Lagos said. “It is a tremendous challenge for the region and posed an extraordinary opportunity for the four municipalities, the private sector and all Lake Llanquihue stakeholders to lead the development of sustainable tourism,” he said.

During a 10-day span, a sustainable destination specialist from Sustainable Travel International met with key stakeholders in Lake Llanquihue to discuss tourism, entrepreneurship, economic development, environmental conservation, and heritage protection.  In Santiago, the on-site meeting opened with tourism leaders from the public and private sector, including national representatives from Sernatur,CorfoSubsecretaría de Turismo, FEDETUR, and the tourism program at Andres Bello University, as well as individual business owners.

Sustainable Travel International met with a small working group at the beginning and end of the evaluation period, and also conducted stakeholder meetings and site visits throughout the period. More than 30 leading organizations and local leaders in tourism were consulted during the evaluation, which included a comprehensive review of the legislative and policy framework relevant to the GSTC Destination Criteria.

The report also 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 Criteria and Indicators development process by adding their feedback.

Additional Early Adopter destinations will be announced in the coming weeks.  Once feedback has been collected from the Early Adopter destinations and synthesized, the GSTC will develop and distribute a final version of the Criteria and Indicators for Destinations.  The final version is expected in November 2013.

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 across the globe, is the cornerstone of our initiative. For more information, visit www.gstcouncil.org.

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 will review existing certification standards and acknowledge those that meet their criteria. However, any destination will be able to use the new criteria as a guide to becoming environmentally, culturally, and socially sustainable.

About Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization with a purpose. We’ve been collaborating with destinations, businesses and travelers to implement innovative sustainable tourism development and conservation solutions since 2002. We combine the mission and transparency of a non-profit NGO with the business acumen and expertise of the private sector, ensuring our partners achieve their desired results and receive a strong return on investment.

 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.

Cronology

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.

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