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Sustainable tourism industry needs third party certification



As tourists are becoming increasingly conscious of their carbon footprint and the impact they have on the destinations they visit, the industry has been placing more emphasis on sustainability. However, knowing which claims are authentic and which are ‘green wash’ can be difficult.

Dr David Randle, director of sustainable tourism at the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability and managing director of the Waves of Change Blue Community initiative, and Dr Reese Halter, a conservation biologist, author and educator, argue that third party certification is needed to address this issue.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Randle and Halter, say, “There are many laws and principles governing the environment but collectively they do not provide any guarantee that a tourism business will be sustainable.

“While there are some national and international laws that impact tourism, such as the climate change convention, biodiversity convention, endangered species act, clean water act, clean air act, and protected areas legislation, they are only a small part of the overall sustainability issues that tourism faces.”

They continue, “International laws are hard to enforce, and national laws don’t usually address the day to day operations of a tourism business that makes it sustainable.”

One way to address the issues the sustainable tourism industry faces is to use voluntary initiatives, such as sustainable certification programs, Randle and Halter explain. However, they add, “Not all certification programs are equal. In fact, some are little more than ‘green washing’ and fail to even provide third party certification.

“For certification to be meaningful it has to be verified by a third party.”

Certification body Green Globe recently unveiled a new standard for sustainable tourism, with criteria that emphasises the role of corporate social responsible in the sector.

Earlier this year, Salli Felton, Travel Foundation’s acting chief executive, spoke to Blue & Green Tomorrow about how travel organisations can create lasting change. She argued that the mainstream tourism industry could become sustainable if it’s well managed.

Photo: skyseeker via Flickr

Further reading:

Green Globe launches sustainable tourism certification

Sustainable tourism is an industry to ‘protect nature and alleviate poverty’

Sustainable wildlife tourism is a positive force for conservation and economies, says expert

Sustainable tourism debate: growth in tourism is undesirable – arguments against

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2014