Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council - raising the standards and benefits of sustainable tourism and ecotourism certification

Sanabria, R, Skinner, E, Font, X, Maccarrone-Eaglen, A ORCID: 0000-0003-1921-962X, Sallows, M and Fredericksen, M 2003, Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council - raising the standards and benefits of sustainable tourism and ecotourism certification , Project Report, Rainforest Alliance.

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Abstract

Certification of sustainable tourism and ecotourism can help to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of tourism, ensure that the tourism industry is held accountable and provide marketing benefits to those firms that meet the certification standards. Reports by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) have cited the benefits of certification and many governments, NGOs and other stakeholders are introducing national, regional and international certification programs. There is consensus that the increasing numbers of certification programs would benefit from shared functions such as marketing, training and development, while supply chains and consumers would benefit from the setting of standards.

Some two years ago, the Rainforest Alliance, with funding from the Ford Foundation and help from its Advisory Committees of NGOs, multilateral agencies and industry representatives, initiated a study of the feasibility of establishing an international Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council (STSC) to promote globally recognized, high-quality certification programs for sustainable tourism and ecotourism through a process of information sharing, marketing, and assessment of standards. (Certification is defined as the procedure by which the certification/awarding body gives written assurance and awards a logo (to the consumer and the industry in general) to signify that a product, process, service, or management system conforms to specified requirements. Accreditation is key to the role of a Stewardship Council, a body that grants certifying powers. In effect it certifies that the certifiers are doing their job correctly.)

This report summarizes the findings over the two years of the study. During the study period, the authors documented growing international agreement about the need for a sound accreditation program to assess and help standardize the rapidly growing number of certification programs for the sustainable and ecotourism markets. The study involved a broad range of experts around the globe from grassroots and indigenous community activists to key tourism firms to high-level officials in UN and international environmental organizations. The need for a STSC was publicly endorsed at the World Ecotourism Summit (WES) and incorporated in its final communiqué.

The Rainforest Alliance (and this project's Advisory Committees) acknowledges that certification and accreditation are not a panacea for all the problems associated with unsustainable tourism. Certification is one important tool currently being used and its merits and weaknesses must be recognized. However the study and the report presented hereby are intended to address specifically the feasibility of implementing a Stewardship Council as an accreditation organization for sustainable tourism and ecotourism certification.

This report analyzes the state of the art in tourism certification and the lessons to be learned from accreditation in other sectors. Based on extensive consultation, it profiles key stakeholders and considers needs that the STSC can satisfy, and methods to do so. It proposes an organizational blueprint for a STSC that grows through a phased implementation to allow for bottom-up development of agendas and structures. It benchmarks the criteria used in certification at present to consider the feasibility of an international standard, and it also benchmarks principles and guidelines for managing tourism certification that can form the basis of accreditation criteria.

As a result of the extensive consultation process, we propose three phases of development aimed at improving the quality of certification programs (and thus the sustainability of tourism) and address different issues affecting tourism certification.

• Phase 1: STSC-Network to share information and gain consensus on priorities and processes. It is recommended that the STSC starts as a Network for a period of two years within which a wide range of stakeholders can consider the results of this feasibility study and the applicability in different regions, discuss the contents of a possible international standard and the necessary regional variations. The Network phase also gives tourism certification programs a vehicle to build trust and to take ownership of the systems proposed.

• Phase 2: STSC-Association to market certified products, provide guidance to countries seeking to establish or upgrade certification programs, and reach agreement on standards and processes. The STSC-Association phase allows tourism certification programs and other stakeholders to agree on international standards and criteria and methods to assess how programs meet these standards, while benefiting from joint marketing and training that increases the exposure of the tourism certification programs and improves their performance. The Association phase is a necessary stepping-stone to allow tourism certification programs to make the necessary improvements to be able to meet accreditation requirements.

• Phase 3: STSC-Accreditation to accredit and market certification programs that meet the agreed upon standards and demonstrate capacity to certify. This phase finally includes all key functions of the STSC by building on the agreements made at the Association phase and introducing the key element of accreditation. Structures from the Association are kept and the function of accreditation is outsourced to be able to maintain training and marketing functions separate from decision-making on which certification programs are accredited, and in doing so, guarantee independence and transparency and avoid conflicts of interest.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Schools: Schools > Salford Business School
Publisher: Rainforest Alliance
Funders: Ford Foundation
Depositing User: Dr A Maccarrone-Eaglen
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2017 15:03
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 19:20
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/44065

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