Sustainable Travel International


STEP Sector-Specific Standards

STEP is more than just a checklist of best practices. Enrollment into the program forces you to measure your impacts, identify your priorities and invest in real and tangible change. Throughout the program you will develop policies and action plans in areas relevant to your business, staff , and guests.

STEP Eco-Certification Standard

As one of the first standards to be formally recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the innovative STEP Eco-Certification Standard is designed to direct any travel and tourism business to thoughtfully
integrate sustainable practices into its operations.  Our incremental and systematic approach begins with a self-assessment before requesting a designated focus on a set of universal baseline best practices. As time and resources allow, each business will identify and implement practices that are most appropriate to its evolving success while periodically monitoring progress and refining approach. As a result, each business can experience both immediate ROI and long-term sustainability.

The STEP Eco-Certification standard is open to all travel and tourism businesses.  The standard includes over 70 best practices, each with multiple levels of involvement, ranging from low-cost baseline criteria, action-based intermediate criteria, monitoring-rooted advanced criteria, and resource-intensive industry leader criteria.

The STEP Eco-Certification Standard includes dozens of sector-specific practices related to accommodations, tour operations, and attractions.  To generate further applicability each businesses is provided the opportunity to write in its own advanced best practices related to sustainability efforts not included into the criteria.

STEP Themes Include:

  • Business Planning
  • Employee Engagement
  • Workplace Practices
  • Environmental Management
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Community and Ecosystems Impacts
  • Guest Communications
  • Sector Specific Best Practices
  • Company Best Practices

Learn more about our partner-supported standards and certification programs:

Sustainable Travel International has partnered with several industry leaders to develop specialized sector-specific standards and certification programs.

STEP: Luxury Eco-Certification Standard

Created in partnership with Leading Hotels of the World and Leading Quality Assurance, this standard features criteria designed specifically to meet the increasing needs and requirements of luxury resorts and accommodations. Learn more.

STEP: Sustainable Shore Excursions

The only global sustainability program designed specifically for marine and land-based shore excursion operators that service cruise line passengers. The program was created in collaboration with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Conservation International, with support from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Active participants are certified to the STEP standard most appropriate for their operations. Learn more.

STEP: Dive Center Standard

A unique sector-specific standard designed in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., SCUBA Schools International, and Ocean First Divers featuring criteria that supports dive operations in the office, on the boat, and in the water. Learn more.

Sector Specific Standards

Each business that applies for certification is assessed by a defined set of criteria most applicable to its scope of operations.  All certification eco-labels signify the scope of the certification.  The following is an overview of the STEP Eco-Certification scopes:


Accommodations are defined as facilities designed for transient occupancy to house overnight visitors or travelers.   Accommodations typically include, but are not limited to, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds, condominiums, cottages, eco-lodges, home-stays, hostels, hotels, inns, lodges, motels and resorts.

Common sector-specific best practices include:  facility management, safety, employee training guest rooms, public areas, and kitchen operations.  The accommodation may offer air, land, or water-based transportation and/or tours as separate services. These services are assessed separately. It is important to note that attractions such as spas, golf courses, or ski areas associated with the properties are not included in Eco-Certification scope unless otherwise noted.


  • Small/Medium Accommodations: 1-99 rooms
  • Large Accommodations: 100+ rooms
  • Luxury Accommodations: Any size with five star/diamond or higher rating

Tour Operator

Tour Operators are defined as companies whose main business concerns responsibility of individuals or groups of people between one or more places. Tours typically combine multiple vacation elements such as walking, driving, viewing, and interacting with the environment. This category encompasses both in-bound and out-bound tour operators as well as tour wholesalers and travel agents.  This Eco-Certification scope includes all office facilities and tour activities owned or operated by the organization.   This Eco-Certification scope does not include those tour activities that are subcontracted out to other tour operators. Subcontracted tours are considered a part of supply chain management for the purposes of the certification.

Common sector-specific best practices include:  interpretation programs, tour guide training, guest communications, supply chain management, ecosystem preservation, and community impacts.  Tour operators may offer air, land, or water-based transportation and/or overnight accommodations as separate services. As mentioned, these services are assessed separately.


  • Small/Medium Tour Operators: 1-20 itineraries/destinations/activities
  • Large Tour Operators: 21+ itineraries/destinations/activities
  • Sustainable Shore Excursions: shore excursions providers working with the cruise line industry
  • Dive Centers: dive center operations and marine-based tours


Attractions are defined as facilities and/or natural areas with fixed infrastructure that offer entertainment, interpretation, and/or educational experiences for the public.

Attractions typically include, but are not limited to, aquariums, heritage centers, museums, parks facilities (city, state, regional, or national), theme parks, visitor centers, and zoos. It is important to note that aquariums and zoos associated with the attraction are currently not included in Eco-Certification.

Common sector-specific best practices include:  interpretation programs, facility management, guest communications, and community engagement.  Each attraction may offer overnight accommodations, tours, and or air, land, or water-based transportation as separate services. In these cases these services are assessed under a separate Eco-Certification scope (e.g. accommodations or tour operator).

Enroll today and complete a self-assessment
Learn more about STEP: Eco-certification
Learn more about STEP: Sustainability Management Framework
Learn more about STEP: Multi Site Operations and Destinations

Are you ready
to tell your
Sustainability Story?

Call or email Sustainable Travel International to schedule a consultation:


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