Turner unveils standardised sustainablility criteria

6th Oct 2008

United Nations Foundation
Founder and Chairman Ted Turner has joined the Rainforest Alliance, the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations World Tourism
Organization (UNWTO) to announce the first-ever globally relevant
sustainable tourism criteria at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.The
new criteria—based on thousands of best practices culled from the
existing standards currently in use around the world—were developed to
offer a common framework to guide the emerging practice of sustainable
tourism and to help businesses, consumers, governments, non-governmental
organizations and education institutions to ensure that tourism helps,
rather than harms, local communities and the environment.

  “Sustainability is just like the old business adage: ‘you don’t
encroach on the principal, you live off the interest’,” said Turner.
“Unfortunately, up to this point, the travel industry and tourists haven’t
had a common framework to let them know if they’re really living up to that
maxim. But the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) will change that.
This is a win-win initiative—good for the environment and good for the
world’s tourism industry.”

  “Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries and a strong
contributor to sustainable development and poverty alleviation,” said
Francesco Frangialli, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism
Organization. “Over 900 million international tourists traveled last year
and UNWTO forecasts 1.6 billion tourists by the year 2020. In order to
minimize the negative impacts of this growth, sustainability should
translate from words to facts, and be an imperative for all tourism
stakeholders. The GSTC initiative will undoubtedly constitute a major
reference point for the entire tourism sector and an important step in
making sustainability an inherent part of tourism development.”

  The criteria were developed by the Partnership for Global Sustainable
Tourism Criteria (GSTC Partnership), a new coalition of 27 organizations
that includes tourism leaders from the private, public and not-for-profit
sectors. Over the past 15 months, the partnership consulted with
sustainability experts and the tourism industry and reviewed more than 60
existing certification and voluntary sets of criteria already being
implemented around the globe. In all, more than 4,500 criteria have been
analyzed and more than 80,000 people, including conservationists, industry
leaders, governmental authorities and UN bodies, have been invited to
comment on the resulting criteria.

  “Consumers deserve widely accepted standards to distinguish green from
greenwashed. These criteria will allow true certification of sustainable
practices in hotels and resorts as well as other travel suppliers,” said
Jeff Glueck, chief marketing officer of Travelocity/Sabre, a member of the
GSTC Partnership. “They will give travelers confidence that they can make
choices to help the sustainability cause. They also will help the
forward-thinking suppliers who deserve credit for doing things right.”


  Available at http://www.SustainableTourismCriteria.org, the criteria focus on
four areas experts recommend as the most critical aspects of sustainable
tourism: maximizing tourism’s social and economic benefits to local
communities; reducing negative impacts on cultural heritage; reducing harm
to local environments; and planning for sustainability. The GSTC
Partnership is developing educational materials and technical tools to
guide hotels and tour operators in implementing the criteria.

  “The American Society of Travel Agents feels it especially important to
be a part of this global partnership that is leading the way in defining
once and for all what it means to be a sustainable travel company,” said
William Maloney, Chief Operating Officer for ASTA. “As an organization with
its own Green Member program, it’s incumbent upon us to ensure that our
steps toward a travel retailers’ green initiative were in sync with
responsible global developments. The criteria will provide our members with
much-needed guidelines for assessing future business partners’ commitment
to sustainable tourism while offering consumers clear and reliable
information about the travel choices they make.”

  “The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria initiative is about steering
the industry onto a truly sustainable path—one that echoes to the
challenge of our time: namely the fostering and federating of a global
Green Economy that thrives on the interest rather than the capital of our
economically-important nature-based assets,” said Achim Steiner, United
Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, United Nations
Environment Programme.

  “The Rainforest Alliance celebrates the outcomes of the GSTC
Partnership, which we believe will help the tourism industry put itself on
a sustainable path,” said Tensie Whelan, Executive Director of the
Rainforest Alliance. “The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria that have
been developed will shape the minimum requirements that the Sustainable
Tourism Stewardship Council will demand from accredited certification
programs and help travelers have the assurance that they are helping, not
harming, the environment.”

  “The GSTC Partnership is a collaborative effort to provide a much
needed common framework and understanding of sustainable tourism
practices,” said Janna Morrison, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social
Responsibility at Choice Hotels International. “Tourism is an important and
growing industry that supports sustainability and will clearly benefit from
this common framework. Ultimately this effort will result in a positive
impact on communities and the environment.”

  “Expedia is proud to support the Partnership for Global Sustainable
Tourism Criteria and committed to using these criteria as a standard for
designating a travel partner ‘sustainable’,” said Paul Brown, President
Expedia Partner Services Group and Expedia North America. “Consumers today
are more motivated than ever to incorporate sustainable practices into
their lives, at Expedia we are motivated as well and dedicated to being a
leader in sustainable travel. We’re proud of our travel partners—hotels
and tour operators—who are already excelling in this area, and hopeful
that they will set the bar for their peers around the world. We hope that
our travelers will see and appreciate the hard work our partners go through
to fulfill these criteria and reach the benchmark of sustainability.”


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