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Sustainable Tourism Best Practices: From theory to Action

This session focused on real case studies on best practices for the promotion of sustainable tourism. How to achieve the theoretical goals and how to carry out these practices in the real world:

Some of the speakers in this session included;

You may find more information about the speakers in the following link: (http://www.adventuretravel.biz/connect/summit/summit-agenda/2010-featured-content/speakers/).

At the beginning the idea that there is a growing threat from mass tourism was put forward. The middle class population of china and India is growing dramatically and tourism is a fast growing market in these regions. These middle class people will be travellers in the near future and we have to target them and be careful with the consequences that will result. One of the key issues that we need to address is to harmonize and group the different certifications of:

  • Green tourism.
  • Ecotourism.
  • Cultural tourism.
  • Adventure travel.
  • Community tourism.
  • Sustainable tourism.

The GSCT is developing a global standard on sustainable practices in tourism:

The Global Sustainability Tourism Criteria.

Erika Harms is the Executive Director of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and Senior Advisor on Tourism at the United Nations Foundation. In this role, Ms. Harms manages and oversees the implementation of activities under the framework of the GTSC, a cutting edge initiative that provides a clear set of standards, protocols, processes and measurements for how businesses can better the planet and practice sustainable tourism.

She set out to explain the process of elaborating the guide which has been summarized into 37 criteria and some of the goals that have been achieved include;

  • Created a platform for information exchange and the feedback process.
  • Maximize and promote collaboration of all the stakeholders
  • Cultural aspects of different communities
  • Reduce negative impacts, (not only economic but also environmental and social)
  • Develop the local economy,

The criteria is set to mark a minimum level, is used as a guideline, it’s a baseline accredited standard, it certifies the certifiers. It is based on the 4500 existing standards and more than 50 certifications. It’s been a long consultative process where all stakeholders have given their input.

There are four main actions or principles in which the indicators have been structured. The indicators will be defined locally, from the global principles or guidelines.

  1. Demonstrate effective sustainable management.
  2. Maximize social-economic impacts.
  3. Minimize the cultural negative impacts.
  4. Minimize the environmental negative impacts.

Implement criteria trough the Global Sustainable Tourism Council

  • Sets out to transmit, communicate, expand the criteria, best practices
  • Educate about the sustainability principles
  • Generate and increase market share
  • Increase public awareness.
  • Collaboration between tour operators, hotels, transport and all the key stakeholders.

After the introduction of the Criteria we have some practical examples form the speakers.

Starting with Mandip Singh Soin FRGS; who likes to be described as a Mountaineer, Explorer, Eco-tourism & Adventure Travel Specialist and Motivational Speaker.

Mandip is the only Indian to be awarded the Ness Award by the Royal Geographical Society, UK, for mountaineering and polar expeditions and encouragement of youth exploration. He is the Founder President of the Ecotourism Society of India and a Judge for the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for the World Travel & Tourism Council.

After more than 30 years in the Himalayan doing diverse expeditions, he has been being doing diverse project for the development of remote areas. He focuses on identifying the local issues, it is vital for the sustainable development to use the local knowledge and it´s key to empower the local population and understand what their real needs are.

The second speaker was Lennart Pittja of Pathfinder Lapland; a Sami person from Sweden who started his business as a small family company in 1995. Their philosophy includes:

We work close with nature and are proud of our origin and our history. We wish to spread knowledge about Sami culture, but also how to enjoy being close to animals and nature. For reasons of sustainability and “Natures Best” we always find new trails, a way of not leaving marks behind us“.

Vägvisaren – Pathfinder Lapland’s products are certified as “Natures Best” by the Swedish Eco-tourism Society, one of the first systems in the world for Eco-tourism certification.

He focuses on 6 pillars:

  • Education culture
  • Local economy
  • Environmental impact
  • Conservation
  • Create responsibility, respect from guests to their culture
  • Quality, reliable.

The success factors that he has identified include;

  • Right Staff
  • Government Support
  • National Label
  • Stakeholder process
  • Practical tool
  • Local and social content (Create rural value for visitors)

Visit Sápmi, has developed Sustainability Criteria including Social and Cultural Aspects of the Samis.

Tourism Community Management plan.

Lennard works normally with small groups, 5 or 6 days journeys in the Lapland sami region. The trip is to guide the reindeer between Sweden and Norway. (Sapmi: area or land, Sami is the person) Their parents and ancestors where reindeer herder and wanted to keep their traditions and cultural heritage. Visitor can experience being reindeer herders for the spring Migration.

Next speaker was Federico Solano who brought the approach from the Rainforest Alliance. The programs they are developing in order to certify organizations with the rainforest alliance badge. The programs include agriculture, forest and now they are beginning with the tourism one. The main goal s of the tourism program includes;

  • Improve operations, become more sustainable in the whole process
  • Build business awareness and increase in numbers.
  • Create global standards that can be compared in different locations.
  • GSTC are a guideline for companies to follow if they want to improve their behavior, become more transparent and responsible for their operations.

Global Sustainability Tourism Criteria as backbone of Training Manuals:

  • Best management goals of sustainable tourism.
  • Tool for operators.
  • Best Management Guides for communities.
  • Heritage based tourism (UN Guidelines).


For the last 8 years they have been looking at 100 inbound and 500 outbound tour operators. Now they are in the process of creating a blog where they will share the experiences.

GSTC helps to:

  • Create a common language worldwide.
  • Strengthen organization through its tools.
  • Increase benefits to organizations and local communities.
  • Establish partnerships, connect stakeholders.
  • Accomplish their mission: which is to conserve and broaden sustainability issues to more population, increase awareness.

What do you think of this tourism criteria, could you be interested in been certified in sustainability issues?

This certification is a guideline and all indicators and action differ from location to location but the principles are global. Do you think this is a correct approach?

2 thoughts on “Sustainable Tourism Best Practices: From theory to Action

  1. International best practise sustainable tourism…
    In particular adventure tourism…
    Any friends with real world examples of best practise actions, philospohies or case studies… locally or internationally …please share your info, posts and links on my page to discuss this topic with 904.018 students.

    What are you doing that will endure?

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