Participants included international and regional tourism stakeholders involved in the development and promotion of sustainable tourism; including the public sector, hotels, tour operators, academia, development agencies, NGOs, consultants, and more. International participants came from Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
The Conference themes were: (A) Tourism Adaptation to Climate Change; (B) Mainstreaming Sustainability Standards; (C) Destination Stewardship and (D) Green Mobility & Accessibility.
Mr. Luigi Cabrini, Chair, GSTC opened the conference with the question “will tourism become more sustainable after the pandemic?”
“Our organization is now 15 years old. Starting from the first version of the Hotel and Tour Operators Criteria in 2008 we expanded and consolidated a system of standards that is now recognized as the main international reference. The GSTC Industry Criteria and the GSTC Destination Criteria identify the key issues that define tourism sustainability and provide the tools to progress toward a better balance between the positive benefits that a well-managed tourism can generate and its negative impacts. The GSTC membership today includes tourism authorities of over 20 countries, together with leaders of the private sectors, NGOs, universities, destinations and many others. This variety is a strength for GSTC, as different views, experiences and interests guide us to set priorities and strategies aimed at practical responses to real needs,” said GSTC Chair, Mr. Luigi Cabrini.
“The key for a real shift is to build a system where the number of hotels, destinations and other tourism businesses that gained a certification reach a critical number making them effectively competitive in the market. We work closely with some of the more relevant Online Travel Agencies to build a system where travelers can easily identify a product that is truly sustainable and to book it. Many tourists, as responsible citizens, make choices based on their ethical values and are ready to spend more when an hotel or a destination cares to save energy and water, to promote protection of biodiversity or respect for local cultures. But sustainable tourism is also likely to offer better quality products by being more experiential and emotionally engaging. We need to unlock its market potential to effectively mainstream it,” concluded Mr. Cabrini (full speech).
“In my opinion, for the topics that will be addressed in this conference is one of the most relevant events of the year. As you know tourism activity has recovered strongly in many parts of the world. Here in Spain, international tourism expenditure in 2022 will be just under the record levels of 2019. And although the level of uncertainty is high for 2023, we expect to consolidate this recovery,” said Mr. Miguel Sanz, Director General, Turespaña. “However, once the worst effect of the pandemic in the travel industry are hopefully, finally over, we have to confront challenges that were already here in the industry agenda in 2019 and have now accelerated.”
Speakers from across the world shared insights and discussed the following topics: climate change influence on tourism operation, carbon neutral cities, how national tourism bodies use existing sustainable tourism standards, sustainable luxury hospitality, sustainability in corporate & business travel, businesses influencing supply chain, interpretation of cultural heritage, Türkiye Sustainable Tourism Program, the role of standards and certification in destination stewardship, setting sustainability goals by trade association together with national tourism bodies, green mobility & accessibility. During the conference, two workshops were carried out for the development of MICE Criteria and Attraction Criteria. In addition, the GSTC Italian Working Group was formed to discuss the development of sustainable tourism and hospitality in Italy.
Prior to the conference, three GSTC Sustainable Tourism Courses took place in Sevilla, two in English and one in Spanish. 84 industry professionals joined the training from across Europe and globally. Using the GSTC Industry Criteria and GSTC Destination Criteria as the foundation, the training class covered various topics relevant to our industry and the sustainability challenges and opportunities we are facing today. An academic symposium was also held in conjunction with Global Sustainable Tourism Conference for the first time. The symposium provided a forum for researchers and academics to share and discuss current issues in sustainable tourism.
At the closing ceremony, three GSTC Conferences were announced – GSTC2023 Antalya (May 2023), GSTC2024 Sweden (April 2024), and GSTC2024 Singapore (November 2024). The conference ended with a farewell cocktail dinner and private tour at Real Alcazar for GSTC2022 delegates only. After the 2-day conference, participants joined a complimentary tour of Sevilla, including a visit to Las Setas, Santa Cruz, Museo de Bellas Artes, and Plaza de España.