Sustainable Tourism Expert Dr. Anna Spenceley Appointed to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Board of Directors

Portrait iSimangaliso June 2017Expert in sustainable tourism, Dr. Anna Spenceley, has gained a seat on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Board of Directors.

Dr. Anna Spenceley was appointed to the GSTC Board of Directors, along with Ingunn Sørnes, and four re-elected board members: Jane Ashton, Beatriz Barreal Danel, Jorge Moller, and Melinda Watt.

“I’m thrilled to be back as part of the GSTC Board, and would like to thank all the GSTC members who supported my application,” Says Dr. Spenceley. “I’m looking forward to working with distinguished Board members, working groups, and members, to promote the positive impact that the GSTC has on sustainable tourism globally.”

“One of my first tasks is a Seychelles conference on ‘Sustainable Tourism in Small Island Developing States’ in November. This is being organised in partnership with the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF), the University of Seychelles (Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage), the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS Group), and the GSTC is a core partner, ” adds Dr. Spenceley.

Dr. Spenceley served one term previously on the GSTC Board as the Vice-Chair, and she currently serves on the GSTC Destination Stewardship Working Group, the GSTC Accreditation Panel, and is a GSTC Trainer.  Anna is Chair of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. She is also a Senior Research Fellow with the University of Johannesburg, and an Honorary Fellow of the University of Brighton. Her publications include ‘The Responsible Tourism’ – an e-book which helps travellers find sustainable holidays – and edited the book volumes “Responsible Tourism: Critical issues for Conservation and Development” and “Tourism and poverty reduction: Impacts and principles in developing countries”.

About the GSTC

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) establishes and manages global sustainable tourism standards with the aim of increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices among public and private stakeholders. The GSTC is an independent and neutral nonprofit organization that establishes and manages global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The standards are two sets of GSTC Criteria: Destination Criteria and Industry Criteria, the minimum requirements for tourism businesses and destinations to pursue in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, along with conservation and poverty alleviation. The GSTC represents a diverse and global membership, including UN agencies, leading travel companies, hotels, country tourism boards, tour operators, individuals and communities – all strive to achieve best practices in sustainable tourism.

See the GSTC post here



New book in development: Private sector tourism in conservation areas in Africa

Tourism involves numerous stakeholders interacting in various partnerships and relationships. These stakeholders include governments, communities, NGOs, the private sector, and academics. With many African governments struggling to finance protected areas and the associated tourism, the role of the private sector is becoming increasingly important. The literature includes research on the role of government, communities and various other stakeholders but little has been comprehensively documented about the role of the private sector in tourism in Africa and the various ways that the private sector can engage in tourism.

However, there are no clear guidelines or analyses of the various partnership models available for the private sector or the roles of various stakeholders in these partnerships.


A new book is being developed by Dr Susan Snyman and Dr Anna Spenceley to address this gap, and CABI have agreed to publish the volume once completed.

Through the use of extensive case studies from throughout Africa this book will present a set of guidelines to ensure optimal benefits for stakeholders as well as promoting the sustainability of tourism in Africa. It will include descriptions of the various models/options for the private sector to engage in tourism in conservation areas in Africa including, amongst others, pure private sector ownership, joint ventures, tripartite agreements and government leases. Processes to develop partnerships from start to finish will be included as well as best practices for the private sector engaging in tourism. The book will allow for an assessment of what private sector tourism options are most suitable based on guidelines of conditions and desired outcomes promoting the long-term sustainability of African tourism.



Southern African workshop on tourism concessions: iSimangaliso Wetland Park WHS


The first networking meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity / IUCN ‘Tourism partnerships and concessions in protected areas: Cooperating for success’ took place at iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site between 30 May and 2 June 2017.

Participants included 32 representatives of 13 countries: Botswana, Canada, Lesotho, Madagascar Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The delegates were representatives of government ministries of tourism and environment, protected area agencies, and tourism boards.

Group 2 edit lighten

Over the course of four days, the delegates worked through a series of presentations and working group sessions that provided opportunities to share experiences, and learn from one another. They shared stories of their successes and challenges they had experienced, and also options for improving concessioning and partnership processes in their protected areas.


Field trips into the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site allowed people to discuss investment and community issues with park staff, discuss issues with concessionaires, and also see the type of infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience.


Two more workshops will follow in June 2017, in Namibia, hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), and in Mozambique, hosted by the Administracao Nacional de Areas de Conservacao (ANAC).

This program is financed with generous financial support of the Governments of Germany and the Republic of Korea.

Photographs (c) Paul Eagles


Tourism partnerships and concessions in protected areas: Cooperating for success


The Convention on Biological Diversity has been addressing the area of biodiversity and tourism development since 2004. In 2004, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention adopted Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development (2004) and subsequently the Secretariat prepared two user manuals: ‘Managing tourism and biodiversity’ (2007), and ‘Tourism supporting biodiversity’ (2015).

A report presented to the Conference of the Parties at its 11th meeting in 2012 concluded that the tourism sector is the largest global market-based contributor to financing protected area systems in many countries, through entrance and other user fees, partnerships and concessions. However, the report noted that many Parties to the Convention underutilise tourism as a means to contribute towards the financial sustainability of protected areas. The present guidelines on tourism partnerships and concessions for protected areas have been developed to assist Parties in addressing this under-utilized potential in response to a recent decision by the Parties on tourism, inviting Parties to “. . . build the capacity of park agencies to engage in partnerships with the tourism industry to contribute financially and technically to protected areas through tools such as concessions, public-private partnerships” (decision XII/2).

The Biodiversity Secretariat is working with IUCN’s Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS Group), a globally recognized network of over 400 experts within the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), to design relevant capacity building activities in this area. With generous financial support of the Governments of Germany and the Republic of Korea, an initiative managed by IUCN and implemented by members of the TAPAS Group is underway focused on the following:

Guidelines cover

  • Development of guidelines on tourism concessions and partnerships for protected area authorities, to provide information to support protected area authorities in their development and use of tourism partnerships and concessioning to contribute financially and technically to protected areas through sustainable tourism. These build on previous relevant work, including initiatives of the TAPAS Group, the World Bank Group, UNDP and GIZ.
    • These guidelines have been drafted, and a review copy is available here until 2 June 2017.
  • Development of capacity for staff of protected area authorities and the relevant ministries working on tourism and concessions, through participation in networking and training workshops. Regional technical support will be provided in this process by the iSimanagaliso Wetland Park Authority. These meetings will provide opportunity for practitioners from 10 southern African countries to meet, debate, and learn from one another.
    • Three meetings will be held in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa (29 May – 3 June), Windhoek, Namibia, hosted by MET (20-21 June), and Maputo, Mozambique, hosted by ANAC (27-28 June)
  • Promotion of technical and scientific cooperation among counterpart agencies in various countries on the development of tourism concessions policies within national park systems.

For more information about this initiative, please contact Dr Anna Spenceley, Chair of the IUCN WCPA TAPAS Group, on

Operational Guidelines for Community-Based Tourism in South Africa

Authors: Anna Spenceley, Andrew Rylance, Sadia Nanabhay and Heidi van der Watt
Developers: EDGE Tourism Solutions
Publisher: Department of Tourism, Republic of South Africa

The role of communities in tourism in South Africa is strongly emphasised in a series of national policies and instruments that were established over the past two decades. For example, the 1996 White Paper on the Development and Promotion of Tourism Development in South Africa stressed that communities were expected to play a vital role in tourism development. The ground-breaking policy called on communities to identify potential tourism resources and attractions, to use them as a basis for exploring tourism development opportunities, and to seek partnership opportunities with the private sector, while supporting and promoting responsible tourism and sustainable development. In 2002, the National Responsible Tourism Development Guidelines for South Africa re-affirmed the White Paper’s call, and further stressed that communities should establish new and complementary products for the formal tourism sector, and that visitors should be encouraged to spend more money in the local economy. However, the guidelines stress that potential adverse social impacts from tourism should be monitored and minimised, and that local cultures should be protected from over-commercialisation and over-exploitation.

CBT Guidelines SA coverThese guidelines are the product of collaboration between the NDT and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to develop Operational Guidelines for Community-based Tourism (CBT),.

What are the guidelines?

The guidelines describe a step-by-step approach to developing a community-based tourism venture. They cover all stages of the process, from venture design to operation. The precise approach taken in any individual case, will of course, vary. However, following these guidelines will maximise the chances of success in your chosen CBT venture.

What is the purpose of the guide?

The guide is not a technical manual or a detailed toolkit and reading it will not make you an expert in community- based tourism. However, the guide does help create an understanding of community-based tourism and provides basic guidance to help establish and operate commercially viable community-based tourism ventures in South Africa, in both urban and rural areas. The guide also provides examples of good practice; highlights the challenges to community-based tourism and provides links to more detailed resources.

Who should use the guide?

The guide is intended to be used by organisations that develop community-based tourism ventures, but can also be used by individuals and groups that have an interest in community-based tourism or are already involved in community development. It is aimed at:

  • Government departments and support agencies that implement community-based tourism
  • Private sector operators interested in partnering with communities or adjusting their operations to the community- based model
  • Investors looking to invest in community-based tourism
  • Development nance institutions involved in nancing community-based tourism
  • Traditional authorities at all levels
  • Provincial heritage agencies
  • Organisations that work within communities

How to use the guide

The guide has three parts:
PART a: What is community-based tourism and what community-based tourism models are covered in this guide?
PART b: A step-by-step process to develop a successful community-based tourism venture
PART c: Additional resources and links to useful websites

Click here for the guide

Conference on Sustainable Tourism in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Conf header

Dates: 22-24 November 2017 (Conference), 25-26 November 2017 (Field visits)

In the framework of the 2017 UN International Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development this conference wishes to provide a platform for tourism professionals, academics and practitioners from other SIDS and the region to discuss an integrated practical approach to sustainable tourism in SIDS. For this event, the Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF), and the University of Seychelles (Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage) partnered up with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS group), the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and the Paris Tourism Sorbonne Institute of Research and Higher Education in Tourism (IREST), to organize a regional conference on sustainable tourism in SIDS, which will combine academic tourism research with practical best practice examples. The conference aims at connecting the various stakeholders working and researching the environmental and socio-cultural development of the tourism industry, for constructive discussions and networking. The specificity of this event would be to bring together experts working in the field of protected area management and specialists in cultural site preservation, to create synergistic knowledge and fruitful exchanges.

The conference aims to produce a publication with conference presentations and results, which will be widely disseminated through our joint partner network.

Conference dates:

  •   Wednesday 22 November: registration and social event at UniSey campus
  •   Thursday 23 November: Full day conference
  •   Friday 24 November: Full day conference and gala dinner at partner hotel
  •   Saturday 25 November: Field visit (optional)
  •  Sunday 26 November: Field visit (optional)

Conference venue: UniSey campus, Anse Royale, Mahe, Seychelles Conference Themes

 Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas
In Partnership with the TAPAS Group, the focus areas will be will be sustainable tourism in protected areas, including terrestrial parks and reserves, marine protected areas, and World Heritage Sites:

  • Evaluating the financial and economic benefits of tourism in PAs;
  • Impacts on biodiversity of PA tourism;
  • Tourism concessions and partnerships for tourism;
  • Community benefits and socio-economic linkages;
  • Destination management and the application of standards and certification tools for protected areas (e.g. IUCN Green List; GSTC Criteria and certifications, etc.)

Tourism’s social responsibility and cultural protection in SIDS
In partnership with the UniSey – TCH Department

Main questions/themes/focus areas:

  • Tools and best practices to reinstall destination ownership among local populations.
  • Tools and best practices to involve local populations in sustainable tourism and provide training opportunities, foster sustainable product enhancement etc.
  • Destination management and the application of standards and certification for heritage sites and cultural preservation in SIDS.

Audience: Tourism professionals from public and private sector, NGOs involved in tourism, academics, students.

Conference fees: 250 EUR (includes conference participation and coffee breaks). Registration details will follow

We invite all academics and practitioners with relevant sustainable tourism research and projects related to the two conference themes to submit their papers to

Please indicate clearly which conference theme and focus area your paper fits in. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 1 August 2017.

Abstracts should be max. 500 words with a title page containing full name and contact information, as well as a short bio as annex.

Download conference flyer

Embarking on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism!

Yesterday the UNWTO launched 2017 as the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. This focus provides a ‘unique opportunity to explore and highlight tourism’s potential to help transform our world into a place of prosperity and wellbeing for all’.

To mark the beginning of this landmark year in our sustainable tourism journey, I’d like to highlight some initiatives I’ll be working on this year, and also reflect on some recent achievements.

Current and forthcoming initiatives

thr-coverA Decade of Progress in Protected Area Tourism’, is a new special edition of the journal Tourism and Hospitality Research, released as one of the first sustainable tourism publications of the year. Coordinated by Dr Susan Snyman and myself, it contains nine original research papers from members of the IUCN’s Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group (TAPAS Group). The papers address important topics including: innovation and sustainability in protected area tourism; its contribution to conservation area financing; inclusive business approaches; visitor perceptions of parks; and sustainable tourism standards. The contributions by international academics and practitioners provide an excellent start to the International Year of Sustainable Tourism!

“Visitation counts! Evaluation of tourism in natural World Heritage Sites’ is an innovative project being implemented by the University of Würzburg and myself, and supported by the UNESCO Netherlands Funds-in-Trust. Together we are developing and pilot testing a new tool that will help World Heritage Sites to monitor visitor expenditure. The pilot testing will take place in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site in South Africa during January. When finalised, the new monitoring tool will contribute an additional resource for WHS managers as part of the existing UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Toolkit.


‘Tourism partnerships and concessions in protected areas: cooperating for success’ is a new project spearheaded by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). I will be coordinating this project on behalf of IUCN, and collaborating with other tourism concession experts from the IUCN TAPAS Group including Prof. Paul Eagles and Dr Susan Snyman. Together we will develop a CBD new market-led publication on tourism concessions, and to provide capacity building and skills development opportunities for protected area managers across southern Africa, at a series of training and networking events. Our team will be working closely throughout the process with protected area authorities with extensive concessioning experience in the southern Africa, such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site. This project is being supported by the German Ministry of Environment (BMUB) and as a pilot projects under the Bio-Bridge Initiative (BBI) financed by the Government of the Republic of Korea.


bpg-coverTourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas’, will be released later this year as part of the IUCN’s Best Practice Guidelines series. Edited by Prof. Yu-Fai Leung, myself, Prof. Glen Hvenegaard and Prof. Ralf Buckley, the publication combines contributions from 58 TAPAS Group experts based in 23 countries. The book provides a major update from the last edition, acting as a key reference and training guide for protected area managers globally, is linked with an online resource directory. Production of the guideline has been coordinated by the IUCN TAPAS Group and supported by the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, GIZ the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and NC State University. This Best Practice Guidelines is the 3rd edition of this tourism publication from IUCN, and it anticipated that (like its predecessors) it will be an important resource for protected area managers.

Highlights from 2016

Last year I was honoured to be re-elected as Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected TAPAS-LOGO-(cmyk-for-print)Areas’ Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. Working with an impressive executive committee, and together with our extensive volunteer network of over 4o0 experts, I plan to continue  implementing our 2015-2020 strategy.  Part of my role includes participating in the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme’s Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee, which promotes sustainable consumption and production in tourism.  I also became an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Brighton’s School of Sport and Service Management in 2016.

HappyIn Tanzania, I did a review of economic valuation studies and value chain analyses of wildlife based tourism together with Damian Bell of the Honeyguide Foundation. This USAID PROTECT initiative studied the flows of revenues between tourism operators at Wildlife Management Areas and local entrepreneurs and enterprises. It is envisaged that this research will inform new initiatives to improve commercial linkages between the tourism sector and local community economies.

kosi-bayIn South Africa, I was commissioned to conduct a final evaluation of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority Global Environment Facility Grant (GEF). This reviewed the achievements of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority over the past 6 years to restore the Lake St Lucia ecosystem, promote conservation compatible local economic and cultural development, and build skills and capacity for biodiversity conservation. The evaluation highlighted the impact that the park has made on local people’s perceptions of conservation, such as “iSimangaliso helps us to grow so we can employ people and provide incomes, so they stop destroying the park”, and how the Authority has helped to strengthen local businesses, including guiding and traditional food catering enterprises.

seychellesIn the Seychelles, and on behalf of UNDP, I did an evaluation of tourism development, partnerships, and fee collection systems within protected areas managed by the Seychelles National Park Authority. This included visits to all of SNPA’s protected areas, consultation with park staff and partners, and gave a unique insight into their management of globally important biodiversity for tourism. The findings will be used by SNPA and the GOS/UNDP/GEF Program Coordination Unit to improve the quality and diversity of visitor facilities, and also to improve the efficiency of the revenue collection to finance conservation.

Also in Africa, and on behalf of the African Development Bank’s African Natural Resources cop22-ppt-imageCentre, I undertook a review of tourism certification programs in Africa, and also reviewed the uptake of sustainable waste and water management practices in the hotel sector. A series of case studies were produced, on the Travelife and Green Hotel Star certification programs, use of certification to promote sustainability in the Kavango Zambezi Transfronteier Conservation Area, by the southern African operators Wilderness Safaris, and by the Seychelles’ hotel resort Constance Ephelia, and I was privileged to make a presentation of the findings and recommendations at the Climate Change Summit (COP22) in Morocco. The work will be used to inform new initiatives on the continent to mainstream certification and good waste and water management practices in the future.

I continued my long-standing involvement with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, as a volunteer member of the Destination Working Group, delivering a training program on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria to the public and private sector in Cape Town, and reviewing a number of certification body standards seeking GSTC Recognition as part of the Accreditation Panel.                

oie_82110153oRUxjPt“The Responsible Tourist: How to find, book and get the most from your holiday” was developed and released as a unique e-book by Andrew Rylance and myself. The Responsible Tourist provides travellers tools to make informed decisions about their trips. It describes how to find a responsible destination, how to find and use online booking platforms that promote sustainable holidays, and also how to book directly with a responsible hotel or tour operator. It is available on Amazon, Slideshare, and Researchgate. The book is an initiative contributing to the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Program.

Concessioning 14 tipsAn introduction to tourism concessioning: 14 Characteristics of
successful programs”
 was published by the World Bank Group, as the first part of a ‘Tourism Concessioning Toolkit in Protected Areas’. The report was produced by myself and experts from the World Bank’s Competitiveness Global Practice, and the International Finance Corporation’s Public-Private Partnership Transaction Advisory Department (C3P) – Hermione Nevill, Carla Faustiano Coelho and Michelle Souto.