Ximena Alvis is one of the four candidates of the Ecotourism Australia – University of Queensland PhD scholarships, working on the sustainable destinations topic. Ximena just finished the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Sustainable Tourism Training Program (STTP) as part of her PhD’s research phase and shares her thoughts on this course that she says offers practical insights and effective steps to help participants improve their sustainability practices.

EA: Why did you decide to take part in this training?

XA: I always wanted to do the GSTC course but now it seemed even more appropriate to understand how the criteria works, especially the destination criteria, as this is my PhD topic. I believe having a better understanding of the value of these principles and criteria will help me understand the whole picture, and how important the engagement of stakeholders is in a destination in order to have a long but successful journey of sustainability.

EA: Who is the Global Sustainable Tourism Council?

XA: As per the GSTC website: “The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) establishes and manages global sustainable standards, known as the GSTC Criteria. There are two sets: Destination Criteria for public policy-makers and destination managers, and Industry Criteria for hotels and tour operators. These are the guiding principles and minimum requirements that any tourism business or destination 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 conservation and poverty alleviation.” (GSTC website:

EA: Who participates in GSTC’s Sustainable Tourism Training Program?

XA: In the one month online course that I took, there were over 40 participants from all over the world, and from different parts of the tourism industry: tour operators, hotel personnel, government officials, students, tourism consultants, entrepreneurs, academics, and more. The course was eye opening in many ways. For example, the course gave us the opportunity to keep updated with the topic of sustainable tourism and the efforts that organizations, governments, the industry and academics are making. We also learnt how sustainability helps ‘Build Back Better’ and can help improve the way tourism is working. There is recognition that sustainability is a long but necessary journey to take on, especially in this COVID era.

EA: What kinds of topics did the course cover?

XA: The course gave an overview of the sustainable tourism principles and the roles of the GSTC in promoting the adoption of those principles, as well as key considerations for addressing sustainability challenges. These include stakeholder engagement, education, communications, capacity building, environmental impacts, visitor satisfaction and how to ensure local culture and traditions are incorporated into visitor experiences in a respectful manner.

EA: Would you recommend this training program to others?

XA: I would highly recommend Ecotourism Australia members to take the course if they haven’t already. It is a great opportunity to make new professional contacts with people that have the same sustainable goals as EA members, and to keep updated with information and new discoveries in the sustainable world.

Course details:

The GSTC Certificate in Sustainable Tourism runs 5 to 6 times a year, the training classes are twice a week (1 hour per day) in a 4-week online course. The cost depends in membership and time of enrolment, from US$ 395 to US$ 495. For more information visit: or contact [email protected]