WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) announced the results of its recent elections for five open positions on the Board of Directors. The new members of the board are Dr. Jiwei Xu, Chair of the Mt. Huangshan Administrative Committee; Heidi van der Watt, Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism-South Africa; Gwen Migita, Vice President of Sustainability for Caesars Entertainment; Clara Torres, Deputy Director of Public Relations for the Mexico Tourism Board; and Guy Chester, Director at EcoSustainAbility. In addition, Jennifer Seif—Executive Director of Fair Trade in South Africa—was elected certification representative. These newly elected officials bring a global range of perspectives to the organization’s governing body, representing the voices of business, government, and NGOs.
The GSTC’s Board of Directors is the organization’s highest authority, overseeing the Council’s operations and ensuring that its mandate is being followed. The 20-person board’s 12 “at large” members are elected to three-year terms by the membership of the GSTC. Three permanent seats are filled by representatives of the World Tourism Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Foundation, which sponsors the GSTC. The final five seats are assigned by the board to outstanding GSTC constituents. The certification representative, elected by the GSTC’s Certification Programs members, is invited to attend board meetings as an observer in order to provide the perspective of a certification body.
The new Directors of the GSTC bring a diverse assortment of backgrounds:
Dr. Jiwei Xu plays the lead role in managing tourism at Mt. Huangshan, a popular natural area in eastern China, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mt. Huangshan was also recently chosen as an Early Adopter of the GSTC’s new Criteria for Destinations, a set of guidelines to help make destinations more sustainable. Xu has been integral in introducing the GSTC’s work in sustainable tourism to the media and the population at large in China.
Heidi van der Watt calls herself “a stakeholder originating from and rooted in the developing world.” A native of South Africa, she is the volunteer director of that country’s International Centre for Responsible Tourism, and a tourism consultant. Van der Watt hopes to use her already established network of contacts in Africa to increase the GSTC’s visibility on that continent.
Migita Offers High-End Corporate Perspective
As a fourth-generation Hawaii-Japanese, Gwen Migita says that respecting the land is in her blood. She oversees sustainability for Caesars Entertainment, which runs 52 resorts in seven countries. Migita’s perspective is one of a large, high-end hospitality company seeking to operate sustainably, and she plans to involve more such global businesses in supporting the GSTC.
Clara Torres intends to emphasize the necessity of education and communication in her new role on the GSTC board, something she’s already familiar with as Deputy Director of Public Relations for the Mexico Tourism Board. Torres sees tourism as a method to bring good jobs to local communities, and as a result to keep Mexicans from leaving the country to find work.
No newcomer to the world of sustainable travel, Guy Chester founded Ecotourism Australia in 1991 and was co-author of the ecotourism certification system EcoCertification. As Director at EcoSustainAbility, Chester offers consultancy services to the industry, and also operates tours to Papua New Guinea. Chester sees his role on the board as helping to develop the GSTC’s standards for sustainable tourism, as well as the materials needed to implement those standards.
New certification representative Jennifer Seif has grown Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa from a small start-up with limited resources to the country’s leading responsible tourism NGO. Her work for one of hundreds of certifiers worldwide has convinced Seif of the need for a single body to accredit such organizations—a role she will assist the GSTC in playing.
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