In the field of sustainable tourism, a fundamental aphorism definitely applies: “Think globally, act locally”.
That’s one of the reasons we asked the World Sustainable Tourism Council to assess Park City last summer as a first step in developing a Sustainable Tourism Plan. The leading authority on the subject, the GSTC, measured us against 38 metrics, providing an excellent idea of our strengths and weaknesses as a starting point. We were fortunate that Dr. Kelly Bricker, a nationally known sustainability expert, then chair of the U of U Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and now at the ASU Center for Sustainability, was on hand to lead the Project.
Now, just weeks away from the public presentation of the Plan to the Park City and Summit County councils, I am pleased to announce that the Chamber/Office has taken another critical step: becoming an official member organization of the GSTC.
The decision was relatively easy: joining the GSTC will benefit PC’s sustainability efforts for years to come. So today, I want to introduce you to our newest partner in advancing sustainable tourism locally while contributing globally.
The GSTC is an international non-profit organization that defines and measures global standards for sustainable travel and tourism. It was founded in part to develop a shared global language on the subject and to adopt universal principles of sustainable tourism. Its diverse global membership includes government tourism agencies from Auckland to Austria, Berlin to the Bahamas, and leading travel companies, communities, hotels and tour operators who strive for best practices in sustainable tourism.
The Rainforest Alliance and United Nations agencies, including the United Nations World Tourism Organization, founded the GSTC in 2007. American tourism and hospitality leaders were on board from the beginning. Early members include the American Hotel and Lodging Association, the American Society of Travel Agents, Conde Nast, Expedia, and Hyatt Hotels and Resort. The international response was just as enthusiastic.
In 2013, the GSTC finalized its Destination Criteria, basic sustainability standards for tourism destinations and a valuable framework for defining local standards. GSTC applied these criteria when evaluating us. Three years later, its updated Industry Criteria established a common meaning of “sustainable tourism” and the minimum standards that tourism-related businesses should aim to achieve.
One policy that has appealed to our Board and the business community is GSTC’s promotion of adopting these criteria to a broad market. The goal is to increase demand for businesses that offer sustainable travel and tourism while building trust with travellers. For example, GSTC works with online travel agencies to mark GSTC-certified hotels in search results and with travel companies to preferentially book certified hotels and tour operators.
GSTC also offers unparalleled entry into the ever-growing global network of destinations seeking sustainable solutions. For example, just days before the GSTC announced our membership, it welcomed the Indian Ocean island country of Mauritius, a destination for 1.3 million tourists a year. What can we learn from the Mauritians? We will have every opportunity to discover and learn from places with years of sustainability work behind them, such as Barcelona, Kenya, Switzerland, Singapore and Norway.
I am also convinced that the quality of thinking and planning that Parkites and the State of Utah offer in the realm of climate policy and sustainable destinations will find application elsewhere. I look forward to sharing what we know as we learn and grow.
Thinking globally and acting locally has never felt more appropriate.