Certification for Sustainable Tourism – Useless or Indispensable?
With the increasingly complexity of global supply chains it has become almost impossible for consumers to find out whether a product is sustainable or not. Wolfgang Strasdas reports findings of research on tourism certification systems in Germany, conducted by Eberswalde University. 34 systems were identified, with a total of 4.500 units certified, many of which are segment specific. Among accommodation providers, about five percent have some kind of certification. The share is significantly lower among tour operators and travel agents. The quality of the certification systems was evaluated in terms of content and processes.
The analysis showed that most of the labels refer to ecological criteria (56 percent). 36 percent refer to economic aspects, quality and management. Only eight percent focus on social sustainability. They mostly look at performance criteria. Only half of the certifiers demand continuous improvements of business performance or processes and management systems behind it. One third of the certifications systems analysed have significant weaknesses in certain areas. Only five standards are of good quality in terms of content and structure. Generally, voluntary schemes have not been able to change tourism for the better. The author concludes that it is a case of market failure, requiring stronger intervention by governments.