By Teresa Llusá
There is growing evidence that consumers expect business and destination governments to ensure that consumers are offered more sustainable holidays. According to World Travel Market, 76% of British Holiday makers consider the environment when making their travel decisions 2017 and this is increasing in other countries too.
Certification schemes are key players to promote and improve tourism performance, resilience and sustainability. As an example, members of Green Tourism in the UK have saved over 1 million tonnes of carbon, reduced water by 5 million tonnes and planted 2.5 million trees in the last 5 years. For guests and visitors, certification gives them the assurance that the accommodation or attraction they chose, care about the planet, people and places. They can provide clear and reliable information about the performance of accommodation, destinations and tour operators.
There are also multiple benefits for businesses to go through a certification process like:
- Improve company image and brand reputation
- Achieve cost savings (e.g. utilities)
- Competitive advantage with green credentials
- The growing demand by consumers, stakeholders and investors to see more responsible behaviour
- Generate revenue/ Bring in business
- Opportunity to raise awareness of sustainability among staff, local community and visitors
- Attract top talent – staff/investors
- Help build and support green networks and destinations
Significant aspects that matter greatly behind certification, are the savings and successes achieved by businesses. Globally, businesses undergoing a certification process achieve on average 20% cost reductions per year.
A key aspect to sustainable tourism certification is the assessments process, which highlights improvements and opportunities where money could be saved and how a business can benefit the local community and environment. They can cover a wide range of areas such as energy & water efficiency, waste minimisation and recycling, use of local produce, transport and interactions with the local community and the environment.
Traditional schemes typically undertake onsite assessments (followed by periodic re-assessments) but sometimes schemes are not accessible for certain business types or are very expensive. Moreover the logistics and operation of onsite assessments could have a significant carbon footprint if not planned efficiently.
There is a new concept being proposed in the United Kingdom that can be accessed globally. This involves a streamlined process based on the latest digital & communications technology, as well as on extensive knowledge of sustainable tourism certification. A new software application has been developed to make online assessments, allowing businesses to update information and provide evidence of the sustainable actions they implement. It involves telephone, online, or video conferencing; a website review and interactive & engaging questioning. All evidence provided by businesses is verified by assessors with ongoing support and advice on how to develop an action plan to help businesses achieve certification and follow it up.
This new generation of certification is already here with the possibility to reach all tourism businesses around the planet and making sustainable tourism a closer reality. In a world where the climate is changing, certification improves resilience and helps reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The tourism industry has an opportunity and a responsibility to improve local economy, society and the environment. Inclusive, accessible, technology based and professional certification could be the answer.
Sustainable Tourism & Sustainability Consultant
Green Tourism Representative for Latin America
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.