The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria have been established to establish a universal understanding of sustainable tourism practices. The GSTC Destination Criteria, abbreviated as GSTC-D, serve as the bare minimum standards that all tourist destinations should strive to meet. These sustainability criteria are comprised of four key areas:
1) Sustainable Management
2) Social and Economic Considerations
3) Cultural Heritage
4) Environmental Preservation
It is imperative that all criteria outlined in these standards are strictly adhered to in order to obtain certification.
The GSTC Criteria have undergone continuous refinement and development, in alignment with the Standard Setting code of the ISAEL Alliance, an esteemed organization recognized for providing international guidance on the creation of sustainability standards across all industries.
The Criteria for Approaching Sustainability in Tourism Destinations consist of four sections, each of which is further divided into two or three subsections, as follows:
PART A: Sustainable Management
(a) Management Structure and Framework
(b) Stakeholder Engagement
(c) Pressure and Change Management
PART B: Socioeconomic Sustainability
(a) Local Economic Benefits Provision
(b) Social Welfare and Impact Assessment
SECTION C: Cultural Sustainability
(a) Cultural Heritage Protection
(b) Cultural Site Visitation
SECTION D: Environmental Sustainability
(a) Natural Heritage Conservation
(b) Resource Management
(c) Waste and Emissions Control
It is important to note that the above Criteria represent the minimum requirements for businesses, governments, and destinations to pursue sustainable practices in regard to social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. Given the unique cultural, environmental, and legal factors inherent to each tourism destination, the Criteria are designed to be adaptable and may be supplemented by additional location-specific criteria as necessary.
The GSTC-D criteria are specifically designed for destinations and are based on the unique identifier of a named venue. These criteria ensure that the conditions described are relevant to the destination, regardless of the organization responsible for its implementation.
The GSTC-D criteria are broad in scope and can be applied to a variety of destinations, including urban, rural, mountain, coastal, and mixed environments anywhere in the world. The criteria can be associated with large destinations such as major cities and regions, as well as smaller destinations such as national parks and local community clusters.
While the GSTC-D criteria focus on the destination itself, a destination management organization responsible for coordinating sustainable tourism within the destination is a basic requirement stipulated by the criteria. Some of the criteria also apply to businesses, including individual businesses, facilities, enterprises, and public buildings, as well as commercial businesses such as hotels and tourist attractions.
In accordance with the definition provided by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a destination is a physical place where visitors can spend the night and is comprised of a common set of products, services, activities, and experiences along the tourism value chain. Destinations can network and involve a variety of stakeholders to create larger destinations.