Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard

The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard for Destinations and industry provides guidance to the SPTO and its member nations to work towards improved sustainability in tourism as required by the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework (PSTPF).

The need for a more sustainable form of tourism in the Pacific has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic that has altered the expectations of travelers and host communities and the way businesses conduct their operations.

Endorsed by the Council of Tourism Ministers in October 2021, the PSTPF envisions that the SPTO and its partners will lead by example on a global scale and demonstrate their commitment to sustainable tourism as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The vision of the Pacific Nations is to ensure that:

We are empowered by and benefitting from tourism that is resilient, prosperous and inclusive. It improves the well-being of our communities and protects, restores and promotes our cultures, islands and ocean ecosystems


The PSTPF highlights the importance of shifting towards sustainable destination planning and management and tourism business practices that support prosperous and resilient economies. To this end the PSTPF recommends that a Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard be developed by the SPTO for member nations based on the globally recognised sustainable tourism criteria established by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).


The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard for destinations and industry aim to:

  • provide direction and guidance to develop and implement national sustainability standards for SPTO member countries by acting as a benchmark for each destination and the tourism industry to assess current performance, and to progressively build upon in areas requiring further development over time
  • support member countries and their tourism sector in becoming more sustainable through public and private sector partnerships and action
  • create awareness and encourage visitors to travel responsibly.

The intent is that the criteria and indicators within the standard will be a tool for Pacific destinations and the tourism industry to inform their approach to improving sustainable practices.

The standard is intended to be the minimum that any tourism destination or business should aspire to reach. The standard is relevant to governments, tourism organisations, tourism businesses, communities and funding partners.

The criteria indicate what should be done, not how to do it or whether the goal has been achieved. This role is fulfilled by the guidance notes for each criterion and the associated tools and educational materials that will be available on the SPTO Sustainable Tourism Portal and through ongoing capacity building activities delivered in the region.

Who can use the Standard?

The standard has been designed for Pacific nation destinations as well as tourism enterprises. There are two sets of criteria relating to tourism in the Pacific:

The Pacific Destination Criteria is specifically designed for destinations irrespective of what organisation may be responsible for it or how or by whom any related action is implemented.

The Pacific Industry Criteria is specifically designed for tourism enterprises. These may be individual businesses, but they may also be other forms of facility, operation and undertaking. For example, they could include museums, festivals, public buildings and monuments, not only commercial businesses such as accommodation or paid attractions.

How can the Standard be used?

The standard is designed to provide guidance and is not intended to be the definitive set or all-inclusive standard for sustainable tourism. It provides a sound benchmark for each Pacific nation and their tourism industry to develop their own standards. The suggested performance indicators (outlined in the ‘ways the standard could be addressed’ column in the tables within each set of criteria) provide a list of potential circumstances, factors, evidence, and actions to look for in a destination or tourism enterprise in assessing alignment with the standard. They are also closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard has been intentionally aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council sustainable destination and industry criteria which are organised around four main themes: sustainable management; socioeconomic impacts; cultural impacts; and environmental impacts.

Alignment will enable the Pacific Standard to be recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. GSTC-Recognized Standards are sustainable tourism standards that adhere to and are equivalent to the GSTC Criteria, meaning that the GSTC Criteria are included within the set of standards owned by a Certification Body (such as Earthcheck, Green Destinations etc) or by a local, national, or specialized tourism organization.

The GSTC-Recognized status refers to the standard/system itself and means that the standard has been reviewed by GSTC technical experts and the GSTC Assurance Panel and deemed the standard or system equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism.

Once the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard has achieved recognition by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Pacific Nations can use the regional standard as the basis to develop their own national level sustainable tourism standards, if desired.

The structure of the Standard

The standard has been structured into two sets of criteria, one for destinations and one for industry. Each of these has four sections which correspond to the four goals of the PSTPF. Each section has several sub-sections. The order of the sections and sub-sections in no way indicates the relative importance of each topic. Many of the criteria are cross-cutting, meaning that the criterion in one topic is interlinked with one or more criteria elsewhere within the overall standard. When using the standard to guide sustainable tourism planning, destinations and businesses should consider the relationship between each of the goals, topics and associated criteria.

Application of the Criteria

The standard has been designed to apply to a range of destination and industry settings, regardless of whether tourism as a sector is established or emerging. Not all criteria within the standard will be applicable in all situations. In particular, application of the industry criteria will be influenced by type of tourism product, the scale and scope of each business and the local regulatory, environmental, social, economic or cultural conditions, all of which affect the extent to which a business can achieve the criteria.

Who is Responsible for implementing the Standard?

The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework calls on all partners and stakeholders to co-ordinate and collaborate to advance the vision for sustainable tourism through a series of policies and actions.

As with the PSTPF, responsibility for implementation of the criteria within the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard does not necessarily reside with one organisation or sector, but rather requires partnership and collaboration with stakeholders across Government, industry, civil society organisations, development partners and the community.

The policies and actions that support the criteria apply to all tourism stakeholders. The Standard has been designed to cater for countries that are well advanced in sustainable tourism practices as well as for countries who are in the early stages of planning and implementation. It is recognized that for a number of Pacific Nations, the National Tourism Organisation or other relevant authority have minimal resources to work with.

Successful implementation of the Standard will require commitment of ongoing financial and technical resources at both national and regional levels, mobilisation of which will require collaboration between Pacific island countries and development partners.

In the case of micro and community-owned tourism businesses which have a small social, economic and environmental footprint, it is recognized that limited resources may prevent comprehensive application of all criteria.

The pathway to sustainability is an ongoing journey. This Standard is another step on that journey to support taking meaningful actions across the region and having mutual accountability to address the transformation of the tourism sector. The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Standard is another tool that will contribute to empowering Pacific communities to benefit from tourism, ensure Pacific cultures remain strong and support the maintenance of healthy islands and ocean ecosystems.

GSTC-Recognised Destination Criteria

The Pacific Sustainable Tourism Destination Standard has been fully recognized as equivalent to the GSTC Destination Criteria v.2.0 by the GSTC Assurance Panel at its meeting on May 29th, 2023.