Working Toward Sustainability

Turner helps develop criteria for sustainable tourism. Media mogul and United

Turner helps develop criteria for sustainable tourism. // (c) Istock
Turner helps develop criteria for sustainable tourism.

Media mogul and United Nations Foundation founder Ted Turner has joined forces with the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations World Tourism Organization to develop the first-ever, globally relevant sustainable tourism criteria. The new criteria — based on practices culled from existing standards currently in use around the world — will offer a framework to guide sustainable tourism practices and help businesses and consumers, government and non-government organizations and education institutions ensure that tourism helps, rather than harms, 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."

The criteria were developed over the last 15 months by the GSTC Partnership, a new coalition of 27 organizations that includes tourism leaders from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. The criteria focus on four areas that 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.