Mexican biosphere reserve adopts baseline criteria and indicators for sustainable    tourism

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March, 2013) – Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Mexico is the first Central American destination to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) GSTC Early Adopters Program to test its new Criteria and Indicators for Destinations, under the scope of the GSTC’s Destination Partner Program in collaboration with Sustainable Travel International (STI).

Located in central Mexico, Sierra Gorda is one of the most eco-diverse protected areas recognized under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program, which promotes sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science. The destination’s tourism assets encompass natural, scenic, and cultural richness, with sweeping landscapes, waterfalls, rivers, wildlife and archaeological sites.

 

The Sierra Gorda region has solidified their commitment to help their local communities preserve two major conservation areas in the Sierra Gorda region: one in Querétaro and one in the state of San Luis Potosi, through sustainable tourism development and their work in the GSTC Destination Partnership Program.  Through this collaboration and network, ecotourism is an impetus for conservation efforts and addressing poverty alleviation full scale.  We highly commend Sierra Gorda’s leadership in working towards sustainable development and addressing the current challenges within the region” expressed Dr Kelly Bricker, GSTC Chair, Board of Directors.

 

Assisted by Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda – destination Liason – Sustainable Travel International conducted an on-site evaluation of Sierra Gorda as part of the GSTC Destination Criteria Early Adopter Program. “The community-driven approach in Sierra Gorda is extraordinary, and at the very heart of Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda’s mission. The destination’s excellent stewardship practices include carbon emission and waste management, the involvement of local community groups in conservation initiatives, and effective capacity building programs for local micro-enterprises. We are confident Sierra Gorda will build on these strengths while adopting recommendations for improvement in the coming period,” concluded Kathleen Pessolano, the “Assesor” and Senior Director of Destinations at Sustainable Travel International.

During a 10-day span, Ms. Pessolano met with key stakeholders in Sierra Gorda to discuss tourism planning and management, economic development, community involvement, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. As a result, the Evaluation Report revealed that the destination has made considerable progress on some significant destination sustainability issues, highlighting: public commitment to destination sustainability, rules and regulations to prevent visual and noise polution, bringing artisans, local growers and businesses into the tourism value chain and practices to promote local culture.

Several key areas remain in need of attention: establishing coordinated planning and management of tourism as a whole, monitoring sustainable destination management issues, establishing and enforcing clear codes of conduct in the destination, and strenghening efforts in tourism awareness.

“We have worked for 26 years embedding sustainability into the communities of spectacular Sierra Gorda, creating a regional culture of sustainability. The destination’s protected legal status as a Biosphere Reserve occurred as a direct result of a community-led grassroots movement. The development of community capacity, valuation of ecosystem services, and tools and capabilities for community-owned micro-enterprises allow us to build a conservation economy and community land ownership. Our destination sustainability initiatives are based on our culture of complete respect for nature and the local communities, where we work closely with micro-enterprises to help strengthen their products and capacity. Participation in the GSTC’s destination sustainability program will help position us as a destination that values sustainability in tourism development, and help us reach new tourist markets,” recognized Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, Director of the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda

“The State of Querétaro has vast natural resources, including a wide diversity of climates, ecosystems, fauna, flora, and, of course, incredible landscapes. For the Ministry of Tourism, this natural treasure represents a great opportunity to develop and bring tourism to all corners of the State. Therefore, the Government of the State of Querétaro has made an unprecedented investment over the years in promoting a culture of tourism and training that has strengthened the local tourism industry, and produced top-notch and sustainability-certified tourism offerings. We have worked with the private sector, NGOs, and industry associations, toward turning Sierra Gorda in the State of Querétaro into a high-quality natural destination that appeals to the most discerning traveler’s needs, while minimizing impacts on ecosystems. The State of Querétaro, along with Sierra Gorda, are proud to join a select group of sustainability-focused destinations worldwide, which are pioneers in adopting the GSTC Criteria for Destinations. The GSTC evaluation provides Sierra Gorda with solid technical and theoretical foundations for destination management, highlighting areas for improvement and opportunity. The GSTC program of course also raises the profile of Sierra Gorda on the international stage,” concluded Lic. Mauricio Salmón Franz, Secretary of Tourism for the State Government of Querétaro, Mexico.

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. Founded in 2002, we enable our partners to harness the power of tourism to leave the world a better place. We build partnerships, share knowledge, and design tools to make tourism more beneficial for everyone. We connect people in destinations and help communities, businesses, and travelers to develop the tools and relationships they need to build a better future through tourism.

 

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Media Contacts: 

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Jimena Moses and Anja Eckervogt

Strategy and Communications Working Group

info@gstcouncil.org

 

Sustainable Travel International

Jeremy Sampson

Senior Director, Marketing and Communications

jeremys@sustainabletravel.org

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January, 2014) – The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) recently announced that the Asociación de Hoteles de Turismo de la República Argentina (AHT)’s “Greener Hotels” (Hoteles+Verdes) has achieved ‘recognized’ certification status. The awarded status benchmarks its commitment to promote sustainable tourism products and services recognized by the GSTC.

“I am delighted that the Argentinian Hotels Association has had their standard fully recognized by the GSTC. This is a wonderful achievement that will provide global exposure to their hotels” said Cathy Parsons, Chair, GSTC Accreditation Panel.

The Asociación de Hoteles de Turismo de la República Argentina (AHT)’s “Greener Hotels” (Hoteles+Verdes), founded in 1977,  has committed to using the GSTC Criteria – the first and only global framework for defining a sustainable travel benchmark – as the reference for its sustainable travel criteria.

“The goal of the Standard Hoteles + Verdes is to promote the adoption of good practices in sustainable management and strengthening the quality of service

in order to meet market demand, raise awareness towards sustainable tourism and improve their competitiveness. The Ecolabel Hoteles+Verdes recognizes and certifies in three levels (beginner, advanced and excellence) to those hotels in Argentina that proves being sustainable, environmentally and socially responsible with the community and the destination in which they operate” explained Lic. Daniela Finocchiaro, representative at AHT while describing AHT’s mission.

Rigorous review and authorization procedures have determined that AHT’s Standards is considered equivalent to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria; the worldwide minimum requirement for tourism businesses of all size to approach sustainability.

To date, standards including AHT have received the GSTC-recognized status including:

  • Austrian Ecolabel for Tourism  (Österreichisches Umweltzeichen)
  • Biosphere Responsible Tourism
  • Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) for Hotels
  • EarthCheck Com
  • pany Standard
  • Eco-Certification Malta
  • Ecotourism Australia’s Ecotourism Standard
  • Ecotourism Australia’s Advanced Ecotourism Standard
  • Ecotourism Ireland Certification Programme
  • European Ecotourism Labeling Standard (EETLS)
  • Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa (FTTSA)
  • Green Glove Certification
  • Japan Environmentally Sustainable Accommodations International Standard (ESAIS)
  • Rainforest Alliance Standard for Tourism Operations
  • Sustainable Tourism Eco-Certification Program (STEP)
  • Travelife Standard for Hotels and Accommodations
  • Travelife Standard for Tour Operators and Travel Agents
  • TourCert Standard for Tour Operators

Each of the GSTC-recognized organizations has taken the first of three steps in establishing the GSTC process. Phases of establishing the global benchmar

k include recognizing the GSTC standard; evaluation of certification process for transparency by a third party; full GSTC-accreditation (beginning December 2014).

The GSTC will continue to work with standard owners around the world to provide GSTC recognition. All standards are encouraged to apply for GSTC-recognized status and all certification programs to apply for Approval. To learn more about the GSTC process please visit the GSTC website http://www.gstcouncil.org/.


About GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. The GSTC works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; 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, are the keystone of this initiative. For more information visit www.gstcouncil.org.


 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.


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