Sustainable Tourism Certification Programs

Sustainable tourism certification programs were under the spotlight at a consultative meeting sponsored and convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). There is still little quantifiable data available on the ability of these schemes to promote change. Consumer recognition is low, and industry intermediaries are only beginning to consider certification as a tool for due-diligence and preliminary
selections of suppliers. Without an effective strategy for increasing demand from businesses that wish to be certified, there will be insufficient certified products to educate consumers or to enable tour operators to fill their catalogues. As it would be misleading to promote certification as a way of directly increasing occupancy and sales, it was felt that other marketing strategies should be used. The strengths and weaknesses of international accreditation standards and logos were discussed and the benefits of a Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council considered.

The majority agreed to prepare a business plan for a body to deliver mainly quality assurance and marketing benefits to certification programs. However, the UN World Tourism Organization does not believe the time is right and UNEP (as meeting convenors) abstained.

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