St Kitts and Nevis in pioneering sustainable tourism group
Twin-island state among the early adopters of GSTC’s new criteria for destinations.
BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Friday June 08, 2012 – St Kitts and Nevis is the only Caribbean country among the four pioneering early adopters of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) new criteria for destinations.
The others are Fjord, Norway; Teton County, Wyoming, and Mount Huangshan in China.
The pioneering group of four will be the first to test and provide feedback on the destination criteria, which complement the GSTC’s existing criteria for hotels and tour operators.
The GSTC criteria for destinations describe the minimum standards that a destination must reach in order to move toward social, cultural, and environmental sustainability -- maintaining the cultural and natural attractions that tourists come to see, while benefitting the local population.
“After many months of hard work developing these criteria, we are excited to see them implemented,” said Erika Harms, executive director of the GSTC. “This will be a real-world test, incorporating the voices of multiple stakeholders: local communities, government agencies, NGOs, and the tourism industry itself.”
The four destinations involved in this pilot program reflect a variety of landscapes, ranging from tropical islands to a region not far from the Arctic Circle. They were chosen for their positive impact on the environment, their economic and social benefits to communities, and their education of visitors and residents, among other criteria.
Some are already pioneers in sustainable tourism; others are just beginning to set out on the path toward sustainability.
The twin-island nation of St Kitts and Nevis is relatively new to tourism, certainly when compared to some of its Caribbean neighbours. However, the destination has seen exponential growth in cruise visitors over the last few years and the government is eager to make sure that this development happens sustainably and with the preservation of the local culture and environment in mind.
St Kitts and Nevis is in good company, moreover.
Wyoming’s Teton County takes pride in a long history of sustainability, dating back to the creation of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, in 1872. Forty years later, a local outcry at the elk starving near the town of Jackson led to the creation of the National Elk Refuge, and less than 20 years after that Grand Teton National Park was added to the county's roster of natural splendours. The Teton and Yellowstone area comprises the largest intact ecosystem in the continental United States.
Norway’s Fjord region, along the country’s southwest coast, has been attracting travellers since the mid-19th century. In 2006, two of its fjords were named among the world’s best-cared-for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the region has published a “white book” to help other destinations develop sustainably. But they’re eager to do even more, explained Fjord Norway’s CEO, Kristian Jorgensen.
China’s Mount Huangshan, known for its spindly granite peaks and the pine trees that grow up through their cracks, sees more than 2.5 million visitors every year. The area’s administrators have already made efforts to reduce the impact of these sightseers by promoting alternative footpaths, encouraging winter visits, and closing the most frequented “hot spots” on a rotating basis.
In the coming months, a sustainable tourism consultant will visit each of these early-adopter destinations to see the criteria implemented, and to provide valuable feedback as the GSTC finalizes the destination criteria.
Once the GSTC publishes its revised criteria, these early-adopter destinations will have the opportunity to apply for formal recognition that they operate in accordance with these universal principles of sustainable tourism.