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Sustainable hospitality, or rather, sustainable destination!

Last month, we said goodbye, talking about sustainable hotels. This month, I wanted to see if my interpretation of sustainable hospitality was shared. Not exactly! 

Green destinations silver award 2023Plitvice Lakes

I realised that most often, only the hospitality sector, i.e. hotels and accommodation, is understood or referred to as sustainable hospitality. 

On the other hand, when I heard the term sustainable hospitality, I always interpreted hospitality in a much broader sense, which includes both the hospitality sector and the area where welcoming and hospitality are carried out.

To avoid confusion in a sector where it is already rampant, today, we address the issue of the sustainable tourist destination.  

Each destination has its own needs, and different ways of meeting them make the area better for everyone: residents, tourists, entrepreneurs and workers. 

It is essential to study the needs, rank them in order of importance and find solutions to improve the situation. Promoting a destination and increasing tourist flows is not logical if important reception-related issues have not been addressed. 

It is a continuous job, super exciting and very satisfying because, over time, you can see the results achieved. 

However, it is work that must be done knowing how to monitor identified needs, proposed solutions, and actions to be taken for the good of the community.

Green destinations gold award 2022 Arouca

Getting more into the concept, I would like to share my definition of a sustainable tourist destination. I have not found an official one, so I have devised one based on the characteristics that should be considered.

Tourist destination

A destination is a territorial area in which a complex of attractions is located that are closely linked to the needs of a target tourist clientele.

A tourist destination is such if the resources, the source of attraction, are integrated with infrastructures and services that allow, respectively, the accessibility and usability of the desired destination. (online thesis – Vincenza Auletta)

Sustainable tourism 

Tourism is sustainable when it considers the present and future economic, social and environmental impact on the area by meeting visitors’ needs, the tourism industry, the environment and host communities (UNWTO). 

A sustainable tourism destination is defined as an area in which there is a complex of attractions closely linked to the needs of a target tourist clientele and whose development and growth strategy takes complete account of the present and future economic, social and environmental impact on the area by meeting the needs of visitors, the tourism industry, the environment and host communities.

Green destinations platinum award 2022 Alto Minho

The international references in terms of criteria or standards for determining the validity of the efforts made by an individual destination are indeed those of the GSTC. They are available online and can be downloaded free of charge from the website in English. 

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council was founded in 2007 and initially called the Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Among the founders were several UN organisations. The aim was to promote a greater understanding of sustainable tourism practices and the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles. Through developing a set of universal and globally accepted criteria, the partnership took the first step towards standardising a common language for sustainable tourism. 

Over 15 months, the partnership consulted sustainability experts and the tourism industry and examined more than 60 existing certifications and voluntary criteria sets already implemented worldwide. More than 4,500 criteria were analysed, and more than 80,000 people, including environmentalists, industry leaders, government authorities and UN bodies, were invited to comment on the resulting criteria. 

The coalition formally launched the criteria on 6 October 2008 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council suggests three certifying bodies for destinations wishing to follow the process and formalise their position and efforts. 

Earth Check, Vireo and Green Destinations. These bodies are suggested as the standards they follow are endorsed by the GSTC, which is the approach the GSTC wants to convey.

While they are all very valid, I suggest at the moment to consider Green destinations in particular as it is more specific than the alternatives.

Sara – tourism sector consultant

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