Eco-labelling tourism: Approaching an effective
The steps that have been taken so far by the VISIT initiative to
build a more sustainable tourism industry in Europe are encouraging,
but not yet sufficient. There are many difficulties, and the most
challenging are how to:
- increase the number of certified sustainable tourism products,
- raise consumer awareness and demand for these products,
duplication of efforts and resources in the field of sustainable
In addition, European certification programmes can benefit from
exchange of experience and co-operation within the new VISIT Association
as well as organisations running or starting programmes in the Americas,
Asia-Pacific and Africa.
It is likely that further developments will lead to the creation
of a global forum and accreditation body for sustainable tourism
certificates (between 2005 and 2010), which can investigate, recognise
and promote tourism certification schemes world wide. The new Sustainable
Tourism Stewardship Council (STSC) initiative is a promising
approach, which could fulfil much of these objectives. Based on the
various developments inside and outside Europe, it is our vision
- A global STSC is established and represents the relevant economic,
social and environmental interests. This committee agrees upon
an international standard for sustainability certificates
for tourism services, based on existing experiences and approaches.
- The VISIT Association in Europe as regional partner network,
contributes to the development of an international standard and
complements it with European specifications for the accreditation
- The participating eco-labels collaborate with
each other to harmonise part of their criteria and procedures,
and establish a common communication strategy (logo) to consumers.
Thus raising the effectiveness of marketing and promotion and
- These eco-labels will collaborate with eco-labels
for non-tourism products and other complementary initiatives
for sustainable tourism development.
- The tour operators’ associations
together with their members recognise and promote the international
standard and make progress on “greening” their
- The eco-labels and their products are widely promoted by the
above associations (STSC, VISIT, tour operators’ associations),
with full and easy access to their certified products and programmes.
- National and international tour operators and tourist boards
will increasingly collaborate with these certificates and schemes,
prioritise certified products in their marketing and highlight
them in their catalogues and websites.
- An increasing number of
travel agencies, information and reservation systems offer a “green
filter” to easily identify
in a given destination and even certified destinations from the whole choice.
- Destinations monitor and report their progress towards more
sustainable development, including the contribution of certified
tourism services to their environmental, social and economic
- Governments improve the market conditions for
eco-labelling, i.e. by reduced taxes for certified products and
services and thus complement national and international legislation
- Businesses along the tourism supply chain become
increasingly interested to raise their “sustainability” performance
and competitiveness. They will implement environmental management
systems and join relevant eco-labels.
- Consumers’ and
environmental associations continuously contribute to the awareness
raising for sustainable development and the role of tourism.
It is envisaged that these public and private partners create an
international sustainable tourism shelf in the “global tourism
supermarket” and stock it with environmentally and socially
preferable products, meeting these newly recognised standards.
The market share of certified sustainable tourism products
rises from less than 1% to 5% and the voluntary tool of eco-labelling
in tourism, becomes a growing success.
SUSTAINABLE TOURISM STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL (STSC)
The Rainforest Alliance co-ordinates the
development of a global accreditation body for sustainable
tourism certification programmes. The implementation plan is
designed to strengthen existing certification programmes and
allow for grassroots participation in the STSC in three phases:
- to establish regional networks to encourage dialogue
among stakeholders, to act as regional clearinghouses for
certification information and to provide technical assistance
relevant to the certification process.
- to increase marketing
and training activities for certification programmes committed
- to maintain network activities and to accredit
certification programmes to raise their accountability
and to improve consumer confidence in third-party sustainable
Parallel to the successful implementation of the VISIT network
in Europe, the launch of the Sustainable Tourism Certification
Network of the Americas took place in Bahía, Brazil
in September of 2003.