Standards and certification programmes

According to UNEP/UNWTO (2005) "Certification is a mechanism for ensuring that an activity or product meets certain standards that may be set by government or agreed within an industry sector. In tourism, certification is used primarily to check on the activities and standards of tourism enterprises, such as accommodation operators, to ensure consumer safety and satisfaction. However, it may also be extended to cover sustainability issues. The key components of certification include:

  • Voluntary participation by businesses.
  • Well defined criteria and standards.
  • A process of auditing and assessment.
  • Recognition of those who meet the criteria, through a label or logo.
  • Follow up, in due course, to check continued compliance."

The global list of sustainable tourism standards and certification programs on DestiNet has been compiled by ECOTRANS in collaboration with the members of the TSC Accreditation Committee (2009/2010). It is continuously updated. The Global Sustainable Tourism Council recognises standards, approves certification systems and accredits certification bodies.

Tourism related labels and certification schemes

Over 100 labels and certification schemes have been specifically drafted for the tourism sector. Some of the labels that were approached within this project are the following :

  • Travelife, developed under the EU funded LIFE programme, has been set up to support an efficient and cost effective introduction of sustainability principles within the tour operator sector in Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
  • BIO-Hotels is a German association of independent hotels targeting “organic consumers”. Established in 2001, the Bio Hotels association aims to bring more ecology and high value to customers. Members of the association must follow strict guidelines and minimum standards for foods, drinks and general criteria.
  • The Green Key is an international ecolabel with an EMS basis.  It is available worldwide and awarded to leisure organizations, including hotels, youth hostels, conference and holiday centers, campsites, holiday houses, and leisure facilities.
  • The KATE Centre for Ecology and Development developed the CSR Reporting in Tourism. This initiative developed simple and uniform guidelines for sustainability reporting (CSR) in tourism.
  • The Blue Flag is a voluntary ecolabel awarded to 3849 beaches and marinas in 46 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.
  • The Green Spa Award recognizes the excellent environmental performance of Spa and Thermal resorts in Germany
  • Green Globe Green Globe is positioned on the market as the international standard for managing sustainability in the tourism industry.
  • Green Lodge is a certificate issued to guesthouses and small hotels that correspond to ECEAT sustainable tourism label and Eurogites quality standards.
  • Ecocamping is an Environmental Management Scheme that has been specifically developed for campsites.

Territorial approaches for tourism

Some labels and awards focus on territorial approaches, in the MOVE-IT projects the partners and the cluster members had to deal with the following labels and awards :

Multisector certification schemes

Tourism operators can  also chose to implement the criteria of multisector certification schemes as :

The wide variety of tools for labeling has positive aspects. The inflation of the labeling systems demonstrates the involvement of the tourist sector and the willingness to communicate about the taken actions. Nonetheless, it generates confusion among both operators and tourists. The choice for a label can be a real uphill battle. The criteria that consumers must take into account are various and complex.