|Sustainable Tourism and Poverty Elimination (UNED-UK, 1999)|
|3. The role of certification, incentives regulation|
There were widely differing views in the October seminar about what role regulation should have in the tourism industry but it was thought that it might be a mix of regulation and voluntary codes.
The key strengths of certification is that it is voluntary and market driven. If certification is to be used within tourism there needs to be a clarification of exactly what is being certified, for example whether it should be applied to individual holidays or wider. Potentially, it could also apply to both destination and operating ends of the industry. Secondly, the aims of certification need to be clarified, it should be broadly aimed at simulating good practice as opposed to simply creating restrictions for businesses. There have been discussions for developing a tourism certification initiative and the potential future formation of a tourism stewardship council such as the Forest and Marine Stewardship Councils. Both councils have had problems in their development but they could offer key lessons for the tourism industry should a Tourism Stewardship Council be set up. Among the lessons learned were:
· identifying who the relevant stakeholders are;
· allowing enough time for consultation and development;
· resolve problems before a public launch;
· creating a wide enough constituency to ensure momentum.
Both councils developed gradually and grew "organically" in part out of public campaigns. At present there perhaps isn't the same momentum or public demand for a Tourism Stewardship Council.
The Green Globe initiative has potential to meet this role as it already reflects many of the aims that a multi-stakeholder group would want to see. Green Globe started as am industry-based voluntary code, is now being independently certified, therefore addressing one of the criticisms that NGOs raised about the initiative. The idea of bench-marking with ISO14001 was also thought to have a useful role and it is the aim of WTTC that Green Globe certification would eventually lead to this international standard.
The establishment of a TSC, including all stakeholders, would enable tourists to make informed choices on their holiday. But it would certainly require marketing and revenue, including corporate sector backing, as well as allowing for a participatory development process if it is to be truly effective. If Green Globe can become multi-stakeholder then there wouldn't need too be a TSC.
The UN Commission on Sustainable Development has, at its 6th Session in 1998, set up a process with industry (ICC, WBCSD), trade unions (ICFTU) and NGOs (CSD NGO Steering Committee) to look at the terms of reference by which voluntary codes could be reviewed. Also at the ? meeting in Toronto in March there will be further debate about how voluntary codes will be reviewed in the future. The UN and CSD secretariat will also feed into this process and code assessment and review. In the tourism industry the Green Globe initiative and the International Hotels Environmental Initiative are two examples of voluntary codes that should be reviewed by the process. If they are to become more widely adopted there needs to be clear evidence that these voluntary codes are making a real difference on the ground and that they are sending the right message to the tourist.
The ability of big and small operators to utilise their supply chain to support sustainable tourism could be an important driver for change. This might require financial support for SME's to enable them to both change their own operational practices and also to understand the opportunities that they have in influencing the supply chain. The involvement of the community could also be an important marketing point.
The impact of media focussing on the health and safety programme of tourism is already having an impact. A similar approach for issues of sustainability might also result in a positive incentive for the industry to take action.
There was disagreement about the need for new regulation at any level. On the one hand it was seen as necessary due to the differences in power of the relevant stakeholders. On the other hand it was seen as an obstacle which might deter investment. Finally it was pointed out that the development of voluntary codes often leads to regulation further down the road.