October 26, 2008 by SocProf and tagged Biodiversity, Development, Eco-Tourism, Environment, Gender, Global Governance, Globalization, Health, Human Rights, Indigenous Populations, Poverty, Sustainability
What is sustainable tourism or eco-tourism? It seems a more and more popular option for globally conscious travellers but what criteria determine exactly what such tourism involve? Who decides? Via the Worldwatch Institute , there are now specific criteria determined by a coalition of tourism professional organizations and environmental groups formed into the Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria :
"The partnership – a collection of 27 organizations from the tourism industry and environmental community – said the unified standard provides a resource that could become as widely recognized as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label for wood products or the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED designation for green buildings.
"There is mass confusion about what is sustainable tourism," said Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance , which organized the partnership alongside the United Nations Foundation and various United Nations agencies. "This body will help to make this information available…and ensure that it is indeed reliable." (…)
The criteria require that tourism operations conduct their business without having an adverse impact on a destination’s habitats, local communities, or cultural heritage. If widely adopted, the standard could further expand efforts to green the supply chain of hotels and resorts as well as lessen the impact on wildlife and local communities, organizers said."
So what are the criteria ? (Below the fold)
Sustainable tourism is on the rise: consumer demand is growing, travel industry suppliers are developing new green programs, and governments are creating new policies to encourage sustainable practices in tourism. But what does “sustainable tourism” really mean? How can it be measured and credibly demonstrated, in order to build consumer confidence, promote efficiency, and fight false claims?
The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are an effort to come to a common understanding of sustainable tourism, and will be the minimum that any tourism business should aspire to reach. They are organized around four main themes: effective sustainability planning; maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community; enhancing cultural heritage; and reducing negative impacts to the environment. Although the criteria are initially intended for use by the accommodation and tour operation sectors, they have applicability to the entire tourism industry.
The criteria are part of the response of the tourism community to the global challenges of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability – including climate change – are the main cross-cutting issues that are addressed through the criteria.
Beginning in 2007, a coalition of 27 organizations – the Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria – came together to develop the criteria. Since then, they have reached out to close to 100,000 tourism stakeholders, analyzed more than 4,500 criteria from more than 60 existing certification and other voluntary sets of criteria, and received comments from over 1500 individuals. The Sustainable Tourism Criteria have been developed in accordance with the ISEAL Code of Best Practice, and as such will undergo consultation and receive input every two years until feedback is no longer provided or unique.
Some of the expected uses of the criteria include the following:
The criteria indicate what should be done, not how to do it or whether the goal has been achieved. This role is fulfilled by performance indicators, associated educational materials, and access to tools for implementation, all of which are an indispensable complement to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.
The Partnership conceives the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria as the beginning of a process to make sustainability the standard practice in all forms of tourism.
Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria
A. Demonstrate effective sustainable management.
B. Maximize social and economic benefits to the local community and minimize negative impacts.
C. Maximize benefits to cultural heritage and minimize negative impacts.
D. Maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts .
I think this is great. These criteria are pretty exhaustive and they cover not just the environment but the social, economic and cultural contexts in which the tourism industry operates. This is the type of global governance that is absolutely needed and that should be promoted on the consumer side of the equation.