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Tourism Certification

Tourism business certification is a voluntary procedure that assesses, monitors, and gives written assurance that a business, product, process, service, or management system conforms to specific requirements. It establishes the extent to which a business offering tourism experiences meets industry nominated standards. Read more

Tourism business certification is a voluntary procedure that assesses, monitors, and gives written assurance that a business, product, process, service, or management system conforms to specific requirements. It establishes the extent to which a business offering tourism experiences meets industry nominated standards. A marketable logo or seal is awarded to those meeting or exceeding the baseline standards.

There are a number of certification schemes relating to environmental performance in the tourism industry. These are commonly referred to as ‘ecolabels’, which are schemes relating principally to the environment.

The idea of certification is consumers can use the information or good practice implied by the label to assist their purchasing decisions. On behalf of consumers, certification labels set out to define, compile, test and summarize the environmental performance of competing products in a readily recognisable symbol (see Nature-Based Tourism, Environment and Land Management).

Certification may also be used as a criterion by regulatory agencies to determine the granting of permits, by promotion agencies for inclusion in marketing campaigns, and by insurance underwriters to issue policies and set premiums. Indeed, many certification and award schemes are not aimed at the consumer at all, and act rather as a management process to improve quality and productivity as well as environmental management processes.

The most well-known environmental certification programs in Australian tourism include Earthcheck, Ecotourism Australia’s Eco Certification, and the Blue Flag (a European scheme measuring the quality of swimming water at beaches). Green Globe 21, the precursor to Earthcheck, was one of the first schemes to create an ecolabel applicable to all forms of tourism. It focuses on management issues such as water conservation, recycling, energy consumption and waste minimisation. The strength of the program is its benchmarking capability, individualised for a number of industry sectors, allowing a business to compare its environmental performance with others in the same sector.

Recent Australian research undertaken by the STCRC indicates that:

  • consumer awareness of tourism certification programs is low;
  • the most well known program is the National Tourism Accreditation Program;
  • poor recognition of certification and associated labelling indicates that tourists are not greatly influenced by them;
  • few tourists consider ecolabeling in their tourism product choice nor believe that they mean the product is worthy of receiving higher payments.

The Eco Certification Program is based on the principles of 'eco-tourism' and was developed to address the needs of genuine nature and ecotourism operators. Many of the principles of eco certification are consistent with the management objectives of protected areas. Certification programs do not meet all the standards required of tour operators by protected area managers. To assist managers develop certification programs relevant to the needs of protected areas, a set of principles have been developed by protected area managers for managing commercial tour operators in protected areas(see Chapter 15 in Quality Assurance and Certification in Ecotourism)

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