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The GSTC 2024 Conference took place from April 23 to 26 in Stockholm. Over 500 attendees from 50 countries attended the event, and numerous individuals joined the panels remotely. This edition’s main topic has been “Purposeful Travel”.

Our sustainable tourism experts actively engaged in the conference, employing this valuable opportunity to share, learn, and exchange new ideas.

This is a pivotal moment for the tourism industry, marked by a delicate balance: on one hand, we see signs of recovery with attendance levels matching or surpassing pre-pandemic figures, but on the other, global tensions and conflicts are escalating. The complexity of tourism, with its multifaceted nature and significant impact on the environment, is further amplified when approached from a sustainable perspective.

The global standard defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council is an effective tool to interpret and address this complexity on several fronts. 

One of these is that of training: for this, our Sustainable Tourism Manager, Federica Bosco, participated in the training dedicated to internal auditors while our consultant Martina Catte presented the European project WeNaTour, which focuses on developing a training curriculum for sustainable tourism managers, in the setting of the Academic Symposium. 

Space was also dedicated to the work of the GSTC Italy Working Group, with Stefano Ravelli, Chair of the Working Group, explicitly focusing on nature-positive strategies in tourism. Federica Bosco shed a light on how group certification for accommodation facilities and small and medium-sized enterprises is an opportunity to work together toward sustainability, as in the path taken in the first sustainable district in Trentino.

The conference was an opportunity to listen, discover good practices, and learn from those addressing these issues in other parts of the world. Particularly significant key themes were:

Non-tourism sectors have developed innovative solutions that enable the collection and analysis of data to decode territories and identify the risks they face. This data can be used to measure the impact of tourism on various aspects and make informed decisions for balanced territorial development or efficient management of tourist flows. Those responsible for making decisions to ensure sustainability in tourism destinations will need to deal with this complexity, beyond relying solely on “tourism” indicators such as arrivals and presences.

Effective communication can significantly enhance the positive impacts of tourism in a region. It can encourage visitors to choose sustainable options and motivate them to contribute to the well-being of the community and the environment. However, educating tourists about the destination and how they can participate is equally crucial.Communicating their actions and outcomes transparently and truthfully is essential, supported by verified data. This emphasis on substantiated environmental claims will soon become mandatory with the imminent approval of the European Green Claims Directive.

To address the complexity of the tourism system with greater specificity, GSTC added new criteria for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions)tourism in February. The council has already developed criteria for the sustainability of tourist destinations, accommodations, and tour operators and is working on new criteria for attractions. Two workshops were conducted to discuss MICE criteria and revise the criteria for attractions, attended by tourism experts and practitioners.

Tourism can be a preferred means of supporting biodiversity by adopting nature-based solutions and rewilding actions in destinations. Reconnecting people to nature becomes one of tourism’s missions to address not only the climate crisis but also the ecological crisis. To do this, there is a need for collaborations and knowledge exchanges between experts in tourism and ecosystem restoration and rewilding. Also important is to activate financing schemes where tourism directly contributes to ecosystem restoration through private support, as in the case of the European project GoNaturePositive!

Many solutions and insights emerged during the conference to address the various challenges that we at Etifor also face in our projects.

Discover more on the GSTC Certification!