Sustainable tourism criteria
Most relevant international sustainable tourism criteria are set by an organization called the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). The GSTC is mandated to establish and manage global sustainable standards, known as the GSTC Criteria.
Certification is done by Certification Bodies (CBs). Each CB develops its own standard and its own process of certification. On top, each certifying body has a logo they award to the certified party. Those CBs who want to display a certain level of alignment of their standard with the GSTC criteria opt for either accreditation by the GSTC (higher level) or recognition by the GSTC (lower level).
Had they not been accredited or recognized by the GSTC, they still might be of a very high quality and reliable, but it just has not been verified by anybody. In the latter case it is up to the business, DMO, decision-maker of final user to decide whether they will recognize the certificate as trustworthy.
Certification standards and processes
In the process of obtaining a certificate, it is important to remember that every certification body has their own standards and certification roadmap. Let’s take a look at the Green Destinations certification process.
The process will start once the certification agreement is signed. The first step in the process will be a self-evaluation, adding the right documentation to ensure the standards and indicators compliance according to the reporting instructions and Guidance provided at each individual criterion or indicator, including the explanation of compliance and upload of supporting documentation.
Only if the application is correct, an on-site third-party independent audit will start, and it will take place every so often according to the certification body – in the Green Destinations case every second year. This audit must ensure the compliance to the certification standards and the implementation of the required improvements.
In case of the result of the on-site audit being positive, it will proceed with the official certification presentation and the communication work as the last step. Applicants awarded with the certification shall receive a flag/banner, the Certification document which includes all the key data, information and standards to which the awardees have to comply.
The successful applicant shall be consulted about the presentation of their Certificate and an Award Flag at a local, national or international Award ceremony. Award presentations can also take place at an appropriate tourism fair. Upon issuing the Award, the Destination, including its sustainability achievements and assessment results, shall be featured on at least one available channel (e.g., destination page on the CB’s website, map and table of Green Destinations ratings in the Travelife database of Sustainable destinations).
Green Destinations certification is valid for 3 years, but the first recertification shall take place within 2 years after the initial certification is granted. The awarded destination shall re-apply following the same procedure outlined above. At the end, the certification will be renewed as long as the advised improvements were being followed during that period.
To renew the certification, members should pay their subscription and re-verification fee. All Members will receive a renewals email when their membership fees are due with sufficient time for a re-certification process to be carried out prior to the end of the current validity period.