Mexican coastline destination adopts criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 1st, 2014) – One of Mexico’s iconic tourism destinations, the Riviera Maya in the State of Quintana  Roo, has become the first destination on the Mexican Caribbean coast to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s  (GSTC) Early Adopter Program.

“At the GSTC we welcomed the decision of Riviera Maya to carry out the Early Adopters program and are proud to have  contributed to the advancement of a sustainability agenda in one of the most renowned destinations in the world. We look  forward to continuing our support for the organization which spearheaded the EA program, Sustainable Riviera Maya, in its future initiatives,” expressed Luigi Cabrini, Chair of the GSTC Board of Directors.

The Riviera Maya’s rich cultural and natural heritage attracts approximately 4 million tourists a year. It is a world-class destination featuring the best of ancient and living Mayan culture. The Riviera Maya is home to both beautiful beaches and biodiversity, including the Mesoamerican Reef System, which is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Tourism is the key pillar of the local economy, representing 95% of Quintana Roo’s Gross Domestic Product.

The phenomenal tourism growth experienced in the Riviera Maya over the past 20 years has resulted in  significant impacts  to its natural and cultural environment.  To respond to this challenge, NGOs and the local government have actively implemented a wide range of sustainable practices in the region, including improved state-level policies and regulations for environmental protection and certification programs for hotels and tourism businesses, all aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of tourism and maximizing positive ones.  The results of the destination assessment conducted as part of the GSTC Early Adopter Program showed some significant areas of success, as well as risks that require immediate attention.

The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner, leading destination specialist, and global NGO, Sustainable Travel International. While the evaluation recognized some of Riviera Maya’s significant successes in planning regulations and sustainability standards, it also highlighted the urgent need for shared responsibility of destination-level management. Since the program’s completion, the Quintana Roo Ministry of Tourism has acted quickly and convened a multi-sector destination committee, which will be tasked with developing an action plan and implementing the recommended next steps.

“We recognize the leadership role that Quintana Roo’s Ministry of Tourism played in this process. The destination assessment marks an important step taken by tourism leaders to ensure the fulfillment of the destination’s tagline—Riviera Maya, paradise is forever, “ remarked Seleni Matus, Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean for Sustainable Travel International, who conducted the 10-day on-site assessment

The final evaluation report included key sustainability areas covered by the GSTC Destination Criteria, including destination management, economic and social issues, cultural heritage, and environment. Various organizations and local leaders in tourism were consulted during the process and were given the opportunity to provide their feedback on the destination’s performance.

“The multi-sector committee, comprised of the regions tourism leaders, will work to facilitate an inclusive process for crafting a shared vision for Riviera Maya and shared management of the destination,” proudly voiced Beatriz Barreal, CEO and Founder, Sustainable Riviera Maya. Beatriz was the project liaison for the GSTC-EA and has played a key role in Riviera Maya’s development as a tourism destination.

Riviera Maya’s participation in the GSTC-EA was funded by TUI Travel,  the Futouris foundation, Quintana Roo’s Ministry of Tourism (SEDETUR), Riviera Maya Hotel Association, local tourism businesses and service providers, and a philanthropist.

“The Global Criteria for Destinations, and its recommendations, have provided us with vital guidance on the pathway to more sustainable growth in Riviera Maya” added Manuel Paredes, Riviera Maya Hotel Association, General Director.

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 Committee

info@gstcouncil.org

 

Sustainable Travel International

Jeremy Sampson

Vice President of Marketing and Communications

jeremys@sustainabletravel.org

First destination in the South Pacific Region to adopt criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (March, 2014) – Samoa is the first South Pacific destination to complete the Global  Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early Adopter Program and the second destination in the world to  do so at the national level. Since the late 1990s, Samoa has held a pivotal leadership role in Sustainable  Tourism practices and the Early Adopter Program provided the destination with an opportunity to  benchmark its performance in the international context.

The Early Adopter Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and implemented by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International.  It applies the recently developed GSTC Destination Criteria in assessing current sustainability levels and providing direction for future improvements. These guidelines complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.

Samoa has demonstrated exemplary management in the South Pacific.  Through their participation in the Early Adopter program, Samoa sets a clear and distinctive sustainable tourism process for small island nations.  We look forward to their participation and knowledge sharing as they participate on the global stage in sustainable tourism initiatives”, expressed Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC.

The Independent State of Samoa is made up of 10 islands in the Polynesia, covering a total area of 2,831 square-kilometers. Remarkably beautiful, Samoa showcases breathtaking coastlines, white sandy beaches, coral reefs, marine wildlife, and rainforest covered volcanic peaks. Samoans are known for their traditional “Fa’a Samoa” way of life which values family and an authentic communal lifestyle.

The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner and leading destination specialist Sustainable Travel International.  “Samoa was an early pioneer in the concept of sustainable destination management. The evaluation demonstrates that sustainable tourism is at the very core of Samoa’s efforts. This includes a tourism product successfully built around natural and cultural heritage, and considerable frameworks in place at the national level to manage and monitor the impacts of tourism” added Jeremy Sampson, Senior Destination Specialist at Sustainable Travel International, responsible for conducting the on-site evaluation.

The assessment was an initiative in collaboration with the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), which provided guidance and facilitated resources to meet with the stakeholders. Present at all stages, STA demonstrated considerable understanding and commitment to the process. “Sustainable tourism is the only form of tourism that ensures we are balancing all that is wonderful in our lives, from our pristine environs and our vibrant Samoan culture, to visitor satisfaction that exceeds expectations. Samoa has long supported these objectives and the monitoring and evaluation of indicators. These efforts help know where we are doing well, and alert us to areas of concern that we must immediately address,” stated Sonja Hunter, CEO, Samoa Tourism Authority.

During a 10-day span, the assessor met with key representatives to discuss tourism planning and management, sustainable development, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. The assessment determined the destination’s readiness to demonstrate GSTC-D adherence outlining a number of good practices and areas where the destination can improve.

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.

###

Media Contacts: 

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Anja Eckervogt and Jimena Moses

Strategy and Communications Working Group

info@gstcouncil.org

 

Sustainable Travel International

Jeremy Sampson

Senior Director, Marketing and Communications

jeremys@sustainabletravel.org

 
  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.

 

###

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


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