Ref# 1495
Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST)
Government of Costa Rica - Costa Rican Tourist Board (ICT)
Government of Belize - Belize Tourist Board
Government of Costa Rica - Ministry of the Environment and Energy
Government of El Salvador - Salvador Tourist Corporation
Government of Guatemala - Guatemala Tourist Board
Government of Honduras - Honduras Tourist Board
Government of Nicaragua - Nicaragua Tourist Board
Government of Panama - Panaman Tourist Board
Government of Spain
Government of United States of America - US Agency for International Development (US-AID)

Major Groups:
Earth Council (Costa Rica)
Internat. Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (Costa Rica)
National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) (Costa Rica)

UN System: Other intergovernmental organizations:
Central American Integration System (SICA) (El Salvador)
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) (United States of America)

Lat Am Center for Competitivity & Sust Devt CLADS (Costa Rica)
National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) (Costa Rica)
University of Costa Rica (Costa Rica)

Progress reports/updates
Objective & Description
The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), is one of the first systems, if not the first, to achieve the integration of the principle elements of sustainable tourism, analyzing good management practices, the environmental and social impacts of services, as well as the client's perception of image and the congruence between the service offered and the product's promotion. In its four years of operation in Costa Rica, CST has been able to objectively measure sustainability of operating businesses, improve business environmental and social practices, and motivate businesses to improve practices and clients to choose sustainable tourist businesses.

The main objective of this proposal is to transfer CST and make it fully applicable in other countries, in such a way that these countries can share a common foundation for promoting sustainability in tourism. This will achieve a number of goals: economies of scale, greater market recognition of the standard, increasing consumer awareness, and substantial improvement in the environmental and social impacts of tourism.

The widespread implementation of CST will produce direct individual benefits to businesses (reduced costs, increased occupancy, and better image) while offering substantial environmental and social guarantees to the local population. At a regional level, it serves as a unifier and a common basis for the promotion of sustainable tourism.
Governance & Coordination Mechanisms
Implementation Methodologies
CST is a program that seeks to categorize and certify each tourism company according to the degree to which its operations comply to a model of sustainability. To this effect, four fundamental aspects are evaluated:

1. Physical-biological parameters
Evaluates the interaction between the company and its surrounding natural habitat.

2. Infrastructure and services (Exlusive for Lodging Companies)
Evaluates the management policies and the operational systems within the company and its infrastructure, regarding the energy saving, water polluting and waste handling policies and technology.

2. Service Management (Exclusive for Tour Operator Agencies)
Comprises the process by means of which, the company considering all the elements internal and external, and designs a turistic product in accordance with the trends of the market and the proper characteristics of the country and places in where goes to operate.

3. External Client
Evaluates the interaction of the company with its clients in terms of how much it allows and invites the client to be an active contributor to the company's policies of sustainability.

4. Socio-economic environment
Evaluates the identification and interaction of the establishment with the adjacent communities, analysing for example, the degree in that the tourist companies answer to the growth and development of the region, with the generation of new employment or the achievement of benefits in pro of the collectivity.


To measure and fix these different levels, the CST program provides a system of "sustainability levels", on a scale of 0 to 5, in which each number indicates the relative position of the firm in terms of sustainability.

What does it mean for the Tourist Companies to be categorized by the CST?

If the first level of a category is achieved (level 1), it means that the company has taken the first step on the process of sustainability. The higher levels correspond to stages that are each one more advanced than the previous one, peaking on level 5, which means that the company is considered outstanding in terms of sustainability. The following table shows the correlation between the levels and the percentage attained:

Level % attained
0 < 20
1 20-39
2 40-59
3 60-79
4 80-94
5 > 95

In terms of sustainability, the degree of fulfillment signified by each level should be concomitant with the different aspects mentioned. For example, to achieve a level 3, it is necessary to complete at least with 60% of the established conditions for the four areas evaluated: physical-biological parameters, infrastructure and services, service management (excusive for Tour Operator Agencies), external client and socio-economic environment. The level assigned to any company will always be the lowest level achieved in any of the areas. It is expected that this policy will encourage companies to advance towards the model of sustainability by giving the same degree of consideration and importance to each of the four areas evaluated.

The Levels of Categorization

The CST system is designed to include a series of direct incentives that will increase in benefits for each company, in direct proportion to its increased rating. This means that as the rating increases, more and better benefits will be received; international and national publicity and promotion, specifically designed for the CST; training for its personnel; priority participation in various world tourism fairs and events, etc.
Arrangements for Capacity Building and Technology Transfer
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