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Guiding Principle #7:

Redefine economic success

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Rather than raw contribution to growth in GDP, favor metrics that specify destination benefits such as small business development, distribution of incomes, and enhancement of sustainable local supply chains.

Determining measures of success requires more finesse than merely counting the tourism transactions that factor into GDP. Also important are added employment, small business development and marketplace competitiveness, and tax benefits or savings that residents can actually see. Objectively, other indicators might include the number of natural resources protected and available for local use, proportion of waste diverted from landfills through composting and/or recycling, percentage of structures and/or vehicles that operate on renewable energies, additional cultural enrichment, public education, and enhanced community assets. 


The right amount of tourism traffic—not too much, not too little—can help support small businesses, museums, and performance venues that could not survive on local patronage alone.  To the surprise of some cynics, the trend toward ESG investing – environmental, social, and governance prioritization – has survived and even thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. Investment in impact organizations in tourist destinations through social enterprise and nonprofit partnerships, benefit the communities and create a positive, and unique, experience for travelers. This creates a multiplier effect that supports the health and desirability of a destination. Sustainable livelihoods, in partnership with local NGOs and grassroots leaders, can and should be developed as part of the tourism supply chain.


Public policy should also steer economic and educational benefits to impoverished and marginalized groups. Respect for human dignity requires that tourism involving minorities be under the control of those same minorities, including a decision to have no tourism at all.


Real life examples:

  1. New opportunities were created for up to 150 small-business entrepreneurs in Jamaica, so that more people could benefit from tourism

  2. Connecting small, local suppliers to large hotel chains in the Fethiye area of Turkey

  3. Growing a food-sufficient and climate-smart agro-ecological destination in Bago City, Philippines

Further resources: 

The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends & Statistics 2019. CREST's 2019 edition of their annual Trends & Statistics report includes a special focus on impact tourism, providing cutting-edge examples of how tourism businesses, travelers, and organizations are making strategic contributions of time, talent, and treasure to social and environmental projects in destinations.

GSTC Destination Criteria

SECTION A: Sustainable management

 A(a) Management structure and framework

   A3 Monitoring and reporting

SECTION B: Socio-economic sustainability

 B(a) Delivering local economic benefits

   B1 Measuring the economic contribution of tourism

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