Crafty travel marketers try to stay a step ahead of the curve and predict what is the next big thing–that’s their job but it can make some of the rest of us cynical. I must say, I am heartened that in spite of every Tom, Dick, and Harry “greenwashing” their product these days to try and appeal to caring consumers–I appreciate the shift in the zeitgeist that makes that actually seem like the thing to do. Sustainability is a big buzzword, and for good reason. It matters, and as it matters more and more to us as travel consumers, it will matter more and more to the providers, since we are demonstrating its importance.

Toward that end, a large global effort has been launched: The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, an effort to share the definitions of sustainability across the travel, tourism, and hospitality markets. Previously, like “organic” and “natural” on food labels, you could pretty much slap the adjective “sustainable” on your airline, hotel, taxicab, restaurant, tour company, even nation…and we’d all just shrug and assume it was a good thing. The new, specific criteria:

“focus on an integrative,  interdisciplinary, and holistic approach which includes four main objectives: to (i) demonstrate sustainable destination management; (ii) maximize social and economic benefits for the host community and minimize negative impacts; (iii) maximize benefits to communities, visitors, and cultural heritage and minimize impacts; and (iv) maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts.”

That's not much more than a lot of verbiage for most of us, but this is designed to be a systematic and measurable change in the way tourism is handled worldwide, a global baseline to which every tourism destination in the world ought to be held accountable. As we, the travelers, continue to expect and demand the places we spend money  be a force that betters their communities, they will work harder on our behalf. Nobody ever wants their footprints to harm a beautiful spot in the world…it’s just that we haven’t always realized we could insist that they don’t.

It’s good news.

Brand Category: 

About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation ( and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project ( Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.