The businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner and United Nations agencies have unveiled the first-ever voluntary sustainable tourism standards in a bid to ensure that tourism helps, not harms, local communities and the environment.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the non-governmental organization (NGO) known as the Rainforest Alliance, and the UN Foundation (UNF), which was set up by Mr. Turner, announced the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) yesterday in Barcelona, Spain.
“Sustainability is just like the old business adage – ‘you don’t encroach on the principal, you live off the interest’,” Mr. Turner, who also serves as UNF’s Chairman, told the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“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,” he said, calling the new criteria “a win-win initiative – good for the environment and good for the world’s tourism industry.”
A coalition of over two dozen tourism organizations developed the criteria, in consultation with sustainability experts and the tourism industry. More than 80,000 people, including conservationists, tourism industry leaders, governments and UN agencies, have been invited to comment on the resulting standards.
The criteria focus on four key areas: maximizing tourism’s benefits to local communities; curbing negative impacts on cultural heritage; slashing harm to local environments; and sustainability.
More than 900 million international tourists took trips last year, and UNWTO forecasts that number to surge to 1.6 billion by 2020.
“To minimize the negative impacts of this growth, sustainability should translate from words to facts,” the agency’s Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli said. “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.”