“Tourism is the region’s largest and fastest growing industry, and we think it’s time for the Pacific to confirm its support of agreed international principles,” declared a partner of the Oceania Sustainable Tourism Alliance (OSTA). Lelei LeLaulu of OSTA said its acceptance as a formal network member of the new partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC ) “will enable we in the Pacific, not only to learn from the accumulated brain-power of this group, but also to input some of the valuable lessons we have learned about community-benefit tourism in Oceania.”

Committed to community-benefit tourism, OSTA is a network that gathers leading non-governmental, university, and private international development organizations to assist destinations with designing and implementing participatory, innovative, integrated, and market-based tourism approaches that foster sustainable futures for individuals, local communities, small enterprises, and societies.

Rex Horoi, executive director of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International www.fspi.org.fj and an OSTA founding partner, said the new Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria were all very relevant to achieving community benefits from tourism in the vast South Pacific region. Sustainable tourism can continue to be a key economic and social development tool for the Pacific Islands, with meaningful linkages to other productive sectors, such as agriculture and handicrafts.

The GSTC Partnership is a coalition of over 30 organizations working together to
foster increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles. www.sustainabletourismcriteria.org

The Partnership, which was initiated by Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations
Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation, and the
United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), launched the Global
Sustainable Tourism Criteria at the World Conservation Congress in October 2008. These criteria represent the minimum standard that any tourism business should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for poverty alleviation.

OSTA now joins other GSTC partners including the American Society of Travel
Agents (ASTA), the Center for Sustainable Destinations at the national Geographic Society, Conde Naste Traveller, Conservation International, International Hotel and Restaurant Association (IHRA), The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) World Conservation Union (IUCN), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)

“The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria are part of the response of the tourism community to the global challenges of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals,” said Kate Dodson, deputy director of Sustainable Development at the UN Foundation, Washington DC. “The GSTC Partnership is pleased to welcome OSTA as a regional network stretching across the islands of the South Pacific where sustainable tourism is so vital to the future of the small developing island nations.”

The criteria constitute an important part of the response of the tourism community to the global challenges of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability – including climate change – are the main cross-cutting issues that are addressed through the criteria. The criteria are organized around four main themes:

_ effective sustainability planning;
_ maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community;
_ enhancing cultural heritage; and
_ reducing negative impacts to the environment.

Although the criteria are initially intended for use by the accommodation and tour operation sectors, they have applicability to the entire tourism industry.