FTTSA is one of the 10 first certification bodies to be recognized by Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). We would like to share with you what this means and why we are proud of being recognized by GSTC.
GSTC serves as the international body for raising increased knowledge and understanding of sustainable tourism practices, promoting the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles and building demand for sustainable travel.
GSTCis the first global, multi-stakeholder organization focused on promoting sustainable tourism and is currently active in all World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) regions, including Africa, The Americas, East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Europe and Middle East.
There are so many certification bodies within tourism around the world and GTSC’s goal is to unite the labels and create a common standard for tourism certification labels.
Some of you might be familiar with the international ISO 65 standard, focusing on best practice for bodies operating a product certification system and the South African SANS 1162, The National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism. But globally GSTC is the only organisation promoting sustainable tourism.
At the heart of this work are the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for conservation and poverty alleviation.
To develop these criteria, the GSTC 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 were analysed and the resulting draft criteria received comments from over 2000 stakeholders. Since the launch of the criteria in October 2008, the GSTC Partnership focused on engaging all tourism stakeholders – from purchasers to suppliers to consumers – to adopt the criteria.
Why apply for recognition?
The purpose of the GSTC Process is to recognize and reward genuine practitioners of sustainable tourism, which in turn builds confidence and credibility with consumers. Based on this, many travel and tourism organizations and major distributors have publically committed to offering sustainable products and service that have been through the GSTC Process exclusively. GSTC-Recognized standards (such as FTTSA) are the foundation of the GSTC Process and will give certifications programs the necessary credibility to provide GSTC-Approved or GSTC-Accredited status.
We will try to explain to you how GTSC’s process works. GSTC has 3 steps and a standard can be 1. Recognised 2. Approved and 3. Accredited
The first step is to get recognized by GSTC. Any entity that has developed or owns the rights to a sustainable tourism standard can apply for recognition. The standard must take into account the socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental impacts of tourism, both positive and negative, as well as sustainable management. This can be a certification or verification program, standardization body, hotel chain, tour operator for its commercialization chain, etc.
GSTC-Recognized means that your sustainable tourism standard has been reviewed by GSTC technical experts and the GSTC Accreditation Panel and deemed equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism.
Going forward from recognition you can apply to get GSTC-Approval. GSTC Approved means that a certification program is using a GSTC-recognized standard and is following processes and procedures that have been reviewed and approved by the GSTC. Businesses certified by an approved certification program can also use the GSTC Approved language and logos and can expect favourable positioning in the market place, among other benefits.
Any certification program that uses an already GSTC-Recognized Standard may apply for GSTC-Approval. The program should also have rules for the application of the standard, transparent and impartial verification procedures, and auditors who are technically competent in sustainable tourism and conformity assessment. GSTC will follow ISO trends in verification and conformity assessment procedures.
The third step of the process is the full accreditation of a certification program. This is the most comprehensive and strenuous status of the three stages, meaning that the accreditation body has determined that the certification procedures meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence.
The process to become accredited requires working with a GSTC endorsed accreditation body. To be endorsed, an accreditation body must be a member of the ISEAL Alliance or a member of IAF with a Multilateral Recognition Agreement, as well as be in compliance with ISO/IEC 17011and GSTC requirements.
A certification body using a GSTC-Recognized standard submits an application and other required documentation to a GSTC endorsed accreditation body of the Certification Body’s choosing. The complete process and fee structure for evaluation are set by the accreditation body; GSTC does not influence or intervene in this process.
As the system is still in its infancy, only GSTC-recognition is currently available with Approved and Accredited steps to be added shortly. FTTSA is very pleased to be recognized and will work towards accreditation going forward.