Fjord_Norway(June 18, 2015) Innovation Norway continues to champion sustainable tourism with their recent launch of the country’s Sustainable destination standard. Since May, four destinations in Norway have achieved the new label and one has received the prestigious World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Destination Stewardship. Innovation Norway has successfully advanced their standard rapidly due to the nation’s foundation in love for  nature and their unique ability to unite a broad range of stakeholders toward the common goal of sustainable tourism.

Innovation Norway’s Sustainable Destination Standard

Innovation Norway’s Sustainable destination standard includes 45 criteria and 108 indicators to be measured, registered and monitored. The standard covers nature, culture, environment, social values, community involvement and economic viability. Measurable and continuous development are ensured through performance counts and renewing the brand every three years.
Once a destination is chosen, Innovation Norway applies the standard through a series of implementation and monitoring methods. Then, a committed resolution is formed by the municipal council to support sustainable development in tourism and similar commitments are made by the tourism operators. After that, the implementation of the standard can occur.  This includes tasks like establishing internal transport, energy saving initiatives, local food and cultural projects, signposts and building recreation trails. Jointly, a monitoring process occurs that includes documenting the overall use of local food, local culture, energy, waste production, and cultural assets in the destination. The entire process takes approximately two years. It’s the comprehensive nature of Innovation Norway’s standard and the application to broad stakeholders that make their standard successful and easier to implement.

Contributions to sustainable tourism

With the new label of ‘Sustainable destination’, Norway takes a lead in the international efforts to promote sustainability in tourism and destination development. In order for a destination itself to achieve certification as ‘sustainable’, a broader set of criteria must be met. A consistent effort to plan for sustainable tourism and support and strengthen environmental programs over time is required, as well as working to preserve the destination’s history, character and nature. In addition, certification places demands on the development of the destination’s businesses and society following principles of sustainability.

Inguun Sørnes, a special advisor to Innovation Norway remarked, “As a nationally implemented certification for destinations, ours was the only one we could find at the time we developed and launched in early 2013. At that time we had been working for 3 years on developing sustainability as a base for local destination development, and prior to that we ran a development program for single enterprises and sectors in tourism in finding a way to increase sustainability in the industry. The industry pointed at competence and certifications as core elements in increased sustainability focus, and we built both competence programs and increased awareness on the use of certifications.”

In 2012, Destination Røros, Norway received the prestigious WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Award for Destination Stewardship. The awards are among the highest accolades in the global travel and tourism industry, giving international recognition to best practice examples of sustainable tourism in action.


Advancing sustainable tourism

The variety of different industries that form Innovation Norway allow for a cohesive network unlike any other National Travel Organization. Innovation Norway’s standard contains specific criteria and indicators asking the destination to increase the number of single enterprise certifications (hotels and tour operators), thus enabling the destination certifications to not compete, rather support the other certifications. Also a division of Innovation Norway is ‘Visit Norway’ which provides a listing of all tourism products and enterprises that are environmentally labelled with a tag named “Green Travel” and most closely resembles the GSTC Criteria. Today, this covers five independent certifications.  Innovation Norway collects the information and makes the identification of the label available for the users of the site. Innovation Norway’s ability to integrate their sustainability standards into other industries has allowed them to advance sustainable tourism beyond other National Travel Organizations. To date, four destinations in Norway have achieved the Sustainable destination label.

About Innovation Norway

Innovation Norway is the result of a merger between four organisations; The Norwegian Tourist Board, The Norwegian Trade Council, The Norwegian Industrial and Regional Development Fund, SND and the Government Consultative Office for Inventors, SVO. The Norwegian Tourist Board operates as the nation’s National Travel Organization (NTO) and provides support to the tourism industry including the national brand Visit Norway.








 is a website and project with the aim to encourage sustainability in travel and tourism by telling the stories of change makers – businesses and destinations around the world.

Grand Tour 2015

Their most recent project is the Grand Tour 2015, designed to inspire and encourage travel and tourism professionals to embrace sustainability and “get on with it”.  From June to December 2015, Florian and Natalia, editors of, will visit, review and tell the stories of leading sustainable hotels, tours and destinations worldwide.

Sustainability Leaders is still accepting expressions of interest from destinations, hotels and tour operators interested in forming part of the Grand Tour 2015, in collaboration with, eTN and TravelMole’s VISION on Sustainable Tourism.  This includes finalists of an international sustainable tourism award, or certification bodies that have achieved GSTC Recognition or Approval.   Preference will be given to destinations or businesses who can help arrange a destination-wide visit.

If you would like to support the initiative and benefit from exposure alongside world’s leading sustainable tourism businesses and destinations, please email

The Impact of Sustainability Leaders

Florian Kaefer and his partner Natalia Ferrer Roca started (Spanish version: in 2014 out of a desire to learn from those already successful in implementing sustainability, and to help others in travel and tourism to follow suit.

“There is no shortage of information on how to make your hotel more energy-efficient or how to reduce waste production and water consumption. What’s missing are examples and stories of businesses and persons already working towards sustainability: stories that reach our hearts and guts, and not just our brains”, stated Florian Kaefer.

“The thing is, travelers, tourism businesses, service providers and destinations – we are all in this together. Tourism products are intangible and based on promises of great, authentic experiences, which need intact environments and welcoming communities.”

The GSTC is excited to support the project, which has been endorsed by UNEP, Rainforest Alliance, Sustainable Travel International, TIES, among others.

For more, visit or follow on Twitter & Facebook

(June 4, 2015) For their contributions to the successful planning and execution of the Latin American Regional Meeting in Quito, Ecuador, the GSTC would like to thank our Country and Regional Representatives: Natalia Naranjo Colombia and Ecuador; D’Arcy Dornan for Brazil and Jorge Moller for Chile and Argentina. Without their outstanding efforts and regional knowledge, the GSTC would not have been able to gain such a valuable outcome.

The GSTC Latin America Regional Meeting took place on April 26th with great success. The gathering gave 75 travel and tourism professionals from over 12 countries a foundational list of tools, contacts, and references to improve overall sustainability of their operations. Structured in part like a workshop, presentations and round-table discussions centered on sustainable tourism standards, destination management, industry best practices, and the GSTC Destinations Program. The Latin America Regional Meeting was held in cooperation with The International Ecotourism Society’s- Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC15), and took place the day prior to the start of the conference.

GSTC Country Representatives uphold a variety of responsibilities to ensure the continued growth and support for the GSTC. One of these responsibilities and a crucial component of ensured growth is actively participating and planning of at least one GSTC event per year – the Annual General Meeting (AGM) or an authorized Regional Meeting. The expertise and regional knowledge of the country representative enriches the event and ensures that planning and communication coincide with the location of the meeting.

Becoming a GSTC Country Representative adds to the continued growth of the GSTC mission. A Country Representative serves regionally or nationally and is a qualified and approved sustainable tourism expert. Representatives benefit professionally from the prestige and exposure of holding this title and position among the elite group of global thought leaders promoting sustainable tourism that is the GSTC community. As member of the GSTC, you can become a Country Representative. To learn more about opportunities to become a GSTC Country Representative click here.

GijonBiosphere Responsible Tourism Certification, run by Instituto de Turismo Responsible (ITR) recently achieved GSTC Approved Status for their Destination Standards. Previously, ITR had been Approved for their hotel and tour operator standards. This is a landmark accomplishment as ITR is the first to achieve GSTC Approval for both Hotel & Tour Operator and Destination certification standards. Based in Spain, ITR focuses on providing practical tools in order to carry out a Responsible Tourism Policy on a global scale. The tools that the program provides contribute to the maintenance and protection of cultural and natural heritage in various destinations. In addition to this, ITR’s Responsible Tourism System bases its success on the reality that tourists have expectations regarding the destination, and they can only be met if the destination is authentic. They push to raise the quality of life for the host population, by coverage of three sustainability variables: environment, culture, and socio-economic impact.

Stories of Success

Meliá Berlin is a shining example of ITR’s Responsible Tourism Certification program. As an effort to preserve the environment, the hotel practices strict waste sorting. Ecological concerns are consistently addressed through refurbishments, such as monitoring energy use. Installation of induction hobs and the switch to LED lights are some examples of the changes noted at Meliá Berlin. Meliá Hotels International’s fundamental values have always included commitment to the environment, sharing local culture, and contributing to philanthropies such as UNICEF. Meliá also helps provide tools and financial aid to workshops for the disabled as well as child aid. Meliá Berlin sees sustainability as a crucial ingredient for both present and future development.

Gijón is a destination certified under ITR’s Biosphere Responsible Tourism Certification. This Asturian city is surrounded by an enviable green ring and opens itself up to the sea. These resources allow for an ample supply of culture and cuisine unique to this location. The quality of life here is highly valued by its residents, all while practicing a tourism model with a commitment to quality and satisfaction for its tourists. Gijón’s “green lung” and gem within the city is its Atlantic Botanical Garden. This enclosure extends into 25 hectares of about 30,000 plants including 2,000 distinct species cataloged. A noteworthy project which began in 2014 is Gijón Responsible Tourism, Committed Companies (Gijón Turismo Responsible, Empresas Comprometidas). Various tourism businesses in Gijón are collectively working towards conducting more sustainable practices, and drafting a report of good practices for short and long term results for other businesses to follow. Some of the entities include the Office of Tourism Infogijón, cultural and art centers like Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura, and hotels such as Hotel Abba Playa Gijón and Hotel Tryp Gijón Rey Pelayo, which are part of Melía International. The combination of these endeavors is what makes Gijón a destination of high quality sustainability.

Meliá Berlin - Aussenansicht

Leveraging Standards with the GSTC

The certification programs currently aligning themselves with the GSTC Approved standards are already witnessing exceptional results. The GSTC Criteria is setting the bar for sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintenance of cultural heritage, and reduction of environmental impacts. Meliá Berlin continues to adapt and develop its hotel into an energy saving machine. Gijón has already won awards for Best Quality as a Tourist Destination by the Ministry of Industry, Energy, and Tourism of Spain in 2012, and again in 2014 for its Committed Companies project. The clarity, consistency, and credibility provided for sustainable travel and tourism products prove beneficial towards certification programs and sustainable tourism as a whole.

About the GSTC Integrity Program

The world’s most widely accepted sustainable tourism standards have been created through the GSTC Criteria. Through the application of the GSTC Criteria, certification programs are increasingly using the GSTC Integrity Program to ensure that their standards meet or exceed sustainable tourism baseline standards. The newly named GSTC Integrity Program offers the same process of GSTC Recognition, Approval, Accreditation while better reflecting the core mission of the program. The Approval Process comes after GSTC Recognition is achieved, and the certification procedures must largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence. This stepwise process provides benefits by building consumer confidence, promoting efficiency, and fighting false claims.

*Article Written by GSTC Volunteer, Jacquelyn Lopez

With environmental threats to the Great Barrier Reef reaching alarming concern, GSTC Recognized standard Ecotourism Australia, is guiding hotels and tour operators towards certification and striving to conserve this asset to the tourism industry in Australia.  Ecotourism Australia represents close to 1,500 ecotourism products in and around Australia. Membership is offered for tourism operators and tourists alike, which is beneficial in informing and involving each entity to their own advantage. Hotels and tour operators certified under Ecotourism Australia actively demonstrate their contributions towards a sustainable future in travel.


Stories of Success

The Great Ocean Ecolodge, an accommodation product by the Conservation Ecology Centre, operates on solar power, and uses rainwater collection as the primary source of water. The conservation and research programs that the Conservation Ecology Centre runs offer packages for guests to participate in the projects. Projects include habitat restoration, population surveys, and caring for the precious resident Tiger Quolls. The conservation Ecology Centre also acquires and restores degraded land, and with this has turned the land around by planting more than 80,000 trees. Guests at the Great Ocean Ecolodge may admire the sheer beauty of the landscape it rests on.

Sea Darwin Eco Cruises provides a unique experience showcasing Darwin Harbour’s maritime history, stunning wildlife, expanse of natural beauty, and modern day  intrigue. Four Sea Darwin products have achieved Advanced Eco-Certification under  Ecotourism Australia. These tours are conducted by Darwin locals who are passionate  and knowledgeable of the area. The eco cruises are intimate and nature-minded, with  temporary mooring facilities used between Bare Sand Island and its surrounding reef  leaving the reef untouched and lowering fuel emissions. The Austurtle Research Project  turtle watching protocols are always taught and implemented, and from each Turtle  Tour ticket sale a portion is contributed to Austurtle. On all tours, all verified sightings  of marine mammals are recorded and forwarded to the Coastal Dolphin Research  Project.

 Leveraging Standards with the GSTCSeaTurtle

Through the GSTC Integrity Program, sustainable tourism standard owners use the  GSTC Criteria as a guide to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural  resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation. Achieving GSTC Recognition means that the GSTC has verified that an organization’s standards align with the GSTC Criteria and that any additional clauses do not contradict GSTC Criteria requirements. Recognition is the first fundamental step towards completion of the GSTC Integrity Program.

The GSTC Criteria is setting the guideline for sustainable management, socioeconomic benefits for the local community, maintenance of cultural heritage, and reduction of environmental impacts. Both the Great Ocean Ecolodge and Sea Darwin Eco Cruises have further been recognized for their hard work through more than just certification. The Conservation Ecology Centre at the Great Ocean Ecolodge was a finalist for the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2015, and Sea Darwin Eco Cruises was finalist for the Australian Tourism Awards in 2014.

*Article Written by GSTC Volunteer, Jacquelyn Lopez

The iconic Yellow Mountains of Huangshan, China boast the only Global Destination Stewardship Award in the country and an UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Huangshan Scenic Area, China (HSAC) are longtime members of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and past participants of the GSTC Early Adopters Program.  Given these accomplishments, HSAC will be hosting the GSTC’s 2015 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Huangshan this upcoming September.












Partnership with GSTC

With rapidly increasing visitations, HSAC aims to utilize the partnership with GSTC to gain new techniques including reducing noise and sight pollution, improving best practices in water and energy use. Perhaps most important for a site in China, conveying the message of sustainability to the visiting public will prove to be the most impactful change. This inspiring landscape is the perfect backdrop for a lesson in the value of preservation, as well as its economic benefits. HSAC has already capped daily visitor numbers, added alternative trails to alleviate overuse of the most popular ones, promoted winter visits, and closed certain “hot spots” on a rotating basis.

Huangshan_HikeMessage From GSTC CEO, Randy Durband

“Mount Huangshan, often described as the ‘loveliest mountain of China’, has played an important role in the history of art and literature in China since the Tang Dynasty around the 8th century, when a legend dated from the year 747 described the mountain as the place of discovery of the long-sought elixir of immortality.  Mount Huangshan became a magnet for hermits, poets and landscape artists, fascinated by its dramatic mountainous landscape consisting of numerous granitic peaks, many over 1,000 m high, emerging through a perpetual sea of clouds.  During the Ming Dynasty from around the 16th century, this landscape and its numerous grotesquely-shaped rocks and ancient, gnarled trees inspired the influential Shanshui (literally “mountain and water” but with a deeper spiritual meaning) school of landscape painting, providing a fundamental representation of the oriental landscape in the world’s imagination and art. Huangshan was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, designated as a ‘mixed’ inscription based on both cultural and natural heritage attributes.”


















HSAC hosting the GSTC Annual General Meeting

The GSTC encourages current members and other tourism professionals to participate in the 5th Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Huangshan, China, September 10-13, 2015.  This annual event will feature keynotes from industry leaders, updates for the GSTC Board, education sessions and more. Discounted prices on accommodations and event registration will be available for GSTC Members. Details of program and registration will be available soon.


For inquiries or questions regarding the AGM, please email