Eco-Tourism and Eco-Labels

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Eco-labelling and Accreditation are effective means of ensuring that tourism organisations adhere to the principles of sustainability?

Tourism industry is ‘a consumer of resources’ which ‘represents an insidious form of consumptive activity’ (McKercher 1993 cited in Fyall and Garrod 1997, p.51). Governments of different countries are now seeking for different ways to prevent further exhaustion of natural resources that was caused by tourism activities and developments. The Green Globe programme aims to create a certification system for travel and tourism industry that would address the major environmental issues facing the planet (Parsons and Grant 2007).

The purpose of this essay is to find out if certification of businesses and eco-labelling systems would play a bid role in sustainable development of the tourism sector; and how different parties that involve in to the tourism industry react to the idea of sustainable development, eco–labelling and accreditation.

Tourism industry has to protect its resources because of its high dependence on them and policy is a way to attain this (Andriotis 2001 cited Dodds 2007). Approximately 104 certification or eco-labelling programmes have been developed in the tourism industry. The main objective of such systems is to push the tourism industry towards more sustainable operating practices (Honey and Stewart 2002 cited in Medina, L. K. 2005).

In Australia the terms certification and accreditation often used interchangeably where in fact they carry out two separate meanings and therefore two different procedures. ‘Certification is a voluntary procedure that sets, assesses, monitors and gives written assurance that a business, product, process, service or management system conforms to a specific requirement’ (Black and Crabtree 2007, p.20). It involves ‘best practices’ performance for the businesses rather than acceptance of minimum standard. On the other hand accreditation is a procedure by which an authoritative body ‘recognises that a certifier or certification programme is competent to carry out specific tasks’ (Black and Crabtree 2007, p.20).

Certification programs provide criteria upon which businesses require to perform in order to minimise the negative impacts of tourism and maximise positive effects such as conservation. It takes an important part in raising the standards of tourism performance. For example The Western Australia tourism commission and The Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) see certification as an opportunity to improve operator standards as well as an opportunity to share some of the responsibility for managing the resource among the WA tourism businesses (Ingram 2007).

Ecotourism and the certification and accreditation programs have a huge potential to generate benefits to local communities through employment, better quality infrastructure and income generation for community projects. These benefits can be achieved without compromising conservation and sustainability objectives as money generation would happen through conservation initiatives (Wearing and Neil 1999). The proposed international certification program The Mohonk agreement looks majorly after local communities and seeking to decrease negative impacts on local communities and provide significant economic benefits to them (Honey 2002 cited in Medina 2005). It also requires attention to the 'appropriateness of land acquisition/access processes and land tenure; measures to protect the integrity of local communities' social structure; and mechanisms to ensure that rights and aspirations of local and/or indigenous people are recognized' (Honey 2002 cited in Medina 2005, p. 284).

The example of successful sustainable development trough certification program is Barbados Island. Two key initiatives have been undertaken on the island in order to encourage sustainable development. The training /capacity building and green certification programs were developed after...
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