South Sardinia has boosted its green tourism credentials by becoming the first Mediterranean destination to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early Adopters Programme.
The scheme is designed to test Criteria and Indicators for Destinations and the assessment was one of the first initiatives of Visit South Sardinia, a new DMO formed by five forward-thinking municipalities: Cagliari, Domus de Maria, Muravera, Pula and Villasimius.
The Early Adopters Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and managed by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International (STI). The Destination Criteria complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.
Dr. Kelly Bricker, chair of the GSTC, said: “The GSTC destination criteria are becoming a cornerstone for sustainability guidance worldwide, as guiding actions that protect and conserve unique natural and cultural features, such as those found in South Sardinia.
“As an early adopter, South Sardinia is demonstrating global leadership and commitment to sustainability.”
Located 250km west of the Italian mainland and 200km north of Tunisia, Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean. It is characterised by rocky coastline separated by sandy and rocky beaches and watched over by a network of historic fortified towers, many of which have been restored.
At the opening workshop, Massimo Zedda, the Mayor of Cagliari, said: “We have protected rather than exploited our Phoenician history, our water and our flamingos. We are proud to be the first GSTC Adopter in the Mediterranean.”
Opportunities and challenges
During a 10-day session, a sustainable destination specialist from STI met with key stakeholders in South Sardinia to discuss tourism planning and management, economic development, community involvement and heritage protection, and environmental conservation. Three focus group meetings were held to discuss these areas.
In addition, two community meetings were held to review the opportunities and challenges of tourism development in the destination. The evaluation also included a comprehensive review of the legislative and policy framework relevant to the GSTC Destination Criteria.
The report identified a number of good practices, areas where the destination exceeds international standards, and areas where the destination can improve based on the GSTC Destination Criteria.
The most noticeable good practices revealed in the STI assessment included a good sense of management from the DMO keeping plans and regulations accessible via government websites, prompt licensing regulations and consistent monitoring incorporated in their routine duties. Moreover, they implemented various programmes to ensure local produce, local consumption, recognition and promotion of its people and assets embracing their heritage and idiosyncrasy.
Making a commitment
At the concluding workshop, hosted by the University of Cagliari, a representative of the many private sector groups involved in the assessment, Martino di Martino, said: “In only a few days a lot has been achieved. We are grateful for this opportunity and committed to the process.”
Salvatore Sanna, Mayor of Villasimius, challenged the group to act on GSTC recommendations and address the areas needing improvement in order to advance the sustainability journey of South Sardinia. He said: “If we act on these recommendations, South Sardinia will take a leap forward. We need a clear vision for the Gulf of Angels and we need to tell the story with a single voice.”
• The Global Sustainable Tourism Council is a global initiative dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism efforts around the world. Housed within the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), it works to expand understanding of and access to sustainable tourism practices; helps identify and generate markets for sustainable tourism; and educates about and advocates for a set of universal principles, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. For more information visit www.gstcouncil.org