2.4 Understanding Sustainability: Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)

This case study will provide you with a better understanding of the GSTC Standards and the organisations that can benefit from implementing them.

Standards to Implement Sustainability in the Industry

By going through the case study you'll be able to comprehend what businesses and organisations within your destination can implement them, providing you with ideas for your destination's strategy.

Standards to Implement Sustainability in the Industry

By going through the case study you'll be able to comprehend what businesses and organisations within your destination can implement them, providing you with ideas for your destination's strategy.

Main Takeaways from this Case Study

  • Invest in training, education and bring people to have a stronger awareness of what really matters in terms of sustainability
  • Understand and make others align with the guidelines for regulatory codes.
  • Measure and evaluate your performance to adjust the way you operate and verify you are going in the right direction.

Summary

Firstly, to understand the role of GSTC Standards it is important to understand the four pillars upon which these standards are based. There are four key pillars of GSTC standards:

  1. Sustainable Management
  2. Social to maximise benefits and minimise negative impacts
  3. Cultural to maximise benefits to communities and negate negative impacts
  4. Environment - maximise benefits to the environment and negate negative impacts.

But, why do we have standards? If we survey people in travel and tourism, we can see a lot of confusion about sustainability, hence there is clearly a need for standardisation in the sector. This helps to give better guidelines for regulatory codes but also create a series of common points of measurement.

GSTC is not an accreditation body itself: they provide guidelines for certifications that others apply. Who can apply them?

  1. Hotels
  2. Tour Operators
  3. Destinations

St Kitts Sustainable Destination Council was established in 2013 as a result of being part of the early adopter programme. One of the key strengths of their approach is that in being independent in their work, they have been consistent in applying the criteria throughout the destination, irrespective of any change in government, ministers, tourism leaders etc. The fact that the same programme manager has been in place since 2013 is a testament to this. Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has also been doing excellent work with community outreach.

So how do we define sustainability when we consider the key priorities? The first factor is carbon emissions. The huge growing awareness of the issues around CO2 emissions and the need for us as an industry to bring down our carbon footprint means that we must be conscious of the impact of our activities and how different modes of transport operate - for example, we know that land transport is less impactful than other forms of transport.

SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

When we think about many of the key considerations we often focus on procurement in respect of food and beverage, cleaning supplies, linens, the material used for construction and so on.

MSC was created in order to establish standards in fisheries, whilst the Rainforest Alliance has been driven to create fair trade standards when it comes to products like coffee. Both of these initiatives took a long time to take off and they required demand from consumers who say "we're only buying coffee from producers who are certified by the rainforest alliance".

In both of the above certification examples, they work tremendously powered by a slowly growing consumer awareness and demand and things really start to move when major brands respond and bring to market products that meet those standards, in the case of McDonald's with their MSC certified Fillet-o-Fish or Rainforest Alliance certified coffee. When big brands get behind these initiatives, it has a tremendous impact on raising awareness and changing consumer consciousness - because they are a dominant voice and excellent at storytelling.

Turning to tourism, we see a similar pattern happening. Air Transit and Iberostar are just two examples of companies that have prioritised sustainability. Air Transit for example only choose hotels that are certified as sustainable and ensure that the beaches they take their clients to are Blue Flag certified. For consumers, it's much easier to choose a brand that makes that choice for them in a total shift of policy.

TUI is another example, where their contracting policy is now driving the world to sustainability by applying sustainability criteria to their contracting requirements. Lastly, Royal Caribbean has altered their business practices to apply preferential contracting when it comes to MSC certified fisheries, which means the entire supply chain is being pushed to operate more sustainability - and this doesn't only impact Royal Caribbean's supply, but businesses will invariably adapt their entire business to be more sustainably. These key acts in themselves create an exponential change effect which is really quite significant.

GSTC is ISO defined, which means it's a third-party certification and therefore impartial.

  • 1st Party is 'us talking' and 'us saying' we're sustainable, there's no verification.
  • 2nd Party certification lacks impartiality.
  • 3rd Party certification by an accredited certification body is where you know it's a fully independent certification process - it's where trust can be funded.

What's the key to a feasible sustainability strategy? You have to set targets, something that is attainable but also challenging. Second, you need to look ahead over time, understanding that it cannot be achieved overnight and requires time to reach these targets.

Many destinations are setting targets to be carbon-free. In the case of Jeju in South Korea, they have set a goal of reaching this goal by 2030. This is a good example of an entire destination making that shift, setting challenging targets and committing themselves to this cross-sector. They started by focusing on having 100% eco-friendly electricity generation, followed by stringent targets on electric vehicles, such as by 2020 ensuring all rental cars are electric and by 2030 envisioning all cars electric.

Standards to Implement Sustainability in the Industry

By going through the case study you'll be able to comprehend what businesses and organisations within your destination can implement them, providing you with ideas for your destination's strategy.

Standards to Implement Sustainability in the Industry

By going through the case study you'll be able to comprehend what businesses and organisations within your destination can implement them, providing you with ideas for your destination's strategy.

Main Takeaways from this Case Study

  • Invest in training, education and bring people to have a stronger awareness of what really matters in terms of sustainability
  • Understand and make others align with the guidelines for regulatory codes.
  • Measure and evaluate your performance to adjust the way you operate and verify you are going in the right direction.

Summary

Firstly, to understand the role of GSTC Standards it is important to understand the four pillars upon which these standards are based. There are four key pillars of GSTC standards:

  1. Sustainable Management
  2. Social to maximise benefits and minimise negative impacts
  3. Cultural to maximise benefits to communities and negate negative impacts
  4. Environment - maximise benefits to the environment and negate negative impacts.

But, why do we have standards? If we survey people in travel and tourism, we can see a lot of confusion about sustainability, hence there is clearly a need for standardisation in the sector. This helps to give better guidelines for regulatory codes but also create a series of common points of measurement.

GSTC is not an accreditation body itself: they provide guidelines for certifications that others apply. Who can apply them?

  1. Hotels
  2. Tour Operators
  3. Destinations

St Kitts Sustainable Destination Council was established in 2013 as a result of being part of the early adopter programme. One of the key strengths of their approach is that in being independent in their work, they have been consistent in applying the criteria throughout the destination, irrespective of any change in government, ministers, tourism leaders etc. The fact that the same programme manager has been in place since 2013 is a testament to this. Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has also been doing excellent work with community outreach.

So how do we define sustainability when we consider the key priorities? The first factor is carbon emissions. The huge growing awareness of the issues around CO2 emissions and the need for us as an industry to bring down our carbon footprint means that we must be conscious of the impact of our activities and how different modes of transport operate - for example, we know that land transport is less impactful than other forms of transport.

SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production

When we think about many of the key considerations we often focus on procurement in respect of food and beverage, cleaning supplies, linens, the material used for construction and so on.

MSC was created in order to establish standards in fisheries, whilst the Rainforest Alliance has been driven to create fair trade standards when it comes to products like coffee. Both of these initiatives took a long time to take off and they required demand from consumers who say "we're only buying coffee from producers who are certified by the rainforest alliance".

In both of the above certification examples, they work tremendously powered by a slowly growing consumer awareness and demand and things really start to move when major brands respond and bring to market products that meet those standards, in the case of McDonald's with their MSC certified Fillet-o-Fish or Rainforest Alliance certified coffee. When big brands get behind these initiatives, it has a tremendous impact on raising awareness and changing consumer consciousness - because they are a dominant voice and excellent at storytelling.

Turning to tourism, we see a similar pattern happening. Air Transit and Iberostar are just two examples of companies that have prioritised sustainability. Air Transit for example only choose hotels that are certified as sustainable and ensure that the beaches they take their clients to are Blue Flag certified. For consumers, it's much easier to choose a brand that makes that choice for them in a total shift of policy.

TUI is another example, where their contracting policy is now driving the world to sustainability by applying sustainability criteria to their contracting requirements. Lastly, Royal Caribbean has altered their business practices to apply preferential contracting when it comes to MSC certified fisheries, which means the entire supply chain is being pushed to operate more sustainability - and this doesn't only impact Royal Caribbean's supply, but businesses will invariably adapt their entire business to be more sustainably. These key acts in themselves create an exponential change effect which is really quite significant.

GSTC is ISO defined, which means it's a third-party certification and therefore impartial.

  • 1st Party is 'us talking' and 'us saying' we're sustainable, there's no verification.
  • 2nd Party certification lacks impartiality.
  • 3rd Party certification by an accredited certification body is where you know it's a fully independent certification process - it's where trust can be funded.

What's the key to a feasible sustainability strategy? You have to set targets, something that is attainable but also challenging. Second, you need to look ahead over time, understanding that it cannot be achieved overnight and requires time to reach these targets.

Many destinations are setting targets to be carbon-free. In the case of Jeju in South Korea, they have set a goal of reaching this goal by 2030. This is a good example of an entire destination making that shift, setting challenging targets and committing themselves to this cross-sector. They started by focusing on having 100% eco-friendly electricity generation, followed by stringent targets on electric vehicles, such as by 2020 ensuring all rental cars are electric and by 2030 envisioning all cars electric.