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Sustainable Tourism Environment Project - High Quality (STEP HQ)

Definition: STEP HQ is a holistic sustainability certification system specialized on the tourism and hospitality sector and validated by GPEKS, an independent third party organisation.

Goal: Demonstrate that it is possible to increase profitablility by integrating sustainable practices for hospitality establishment of any category (from shared accommodation to the highest end Hotels).

Background: Traditionally, sustainable tourism is associated with only very few aspects of the operation of the hotel and hospitality sector. When people think of green hotels, what comes to mind are ecotourism or eco hotels that may use a few scattered ecological features such as solar energy or some healthy material. Sometimes geotourism also comes to mind. The STEP HQ Project is, to the best of our knowledge after extensive research, the first, and as of 2017 the only certification that uses a truly holistic, database driven and systematic approach.

The certification system is inspired from various certification and evaluation models including the Green Building Councils Leadership and Environment Design (LEED) Model and High Quality Environment (HQE), BOMA BEST, and various models used in the hospitality sector such as Costa Rica’s  Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), Building Excellence in Sustainable Tourism  Education Network (BEST EN) and Eco-Hotel and other models.

How it works: While the traditional international Hotel ranking system uses from one to five stars with a super category like 'Palace', STEP HQ uses a ranking system based on  one to six leaves, with each leaf corresponding to up to 200 points. While the LEED system is based on up to 69 points, the STEP HQ is based on a system of 1100 points initially. With over 5 leaves (over 1000 points), the establishment attains a status of 'leaf crown'.

The hotel search page features a database driven array of selection criteria including typical features such as location, price, presence of pool, sauna, gym, restaurant on site, and  additionally includes a very comprehensive list of about 40 other criteria related to sustainability features.

Cost to join: Free. The economic model for this system is sustained by advertising from the business sponsors in the field of sustainable development and which products and services are used in the hospitality establishments. Our sponsors are solar products or installers, suppliers of non toxic building materials and supplies, healthy cleaning products, organic bedding supplies, electric bicycle manufacturers and service companies and a number of other environmentally friendly products and services.  Products and services are advertised at the hospitality establisments and on the search and reservation areas of our website (due to come live later in 2017).

Area Covered






Building Materials


Household & Maintenance Products




Recreational/Health Activities


People management


Financial systems


Indoor Environment


Water Management


Waste reduction





Leaf System: Each 100 points provides a white leaf and each 200 points provides a green leaf


Break down of certification