Elena Gentilini – European Fundings Specialist, PROGETTO ARCADIA, CEnTOUR Circular Economy in Tourism partnership

It is renowned that the percentage of tourists that “prefer” ecofriendly experiences and structures is growing. What is also sure, according to several recent surveys (OECD, Rebuilding tourism for the future: COVID19 policy responses and recovery, Updated 14 December 2020;, is that this drastically increased with the covidrelated emergency and that aftercovid tourism will be more ecosensitive. Tourists are more motivated to go deep and are no longer satisfied with greenwashing. As in many spheres of life, there is a chance that the emergency opened eyes and made us realise what really matters. How this translates into practices is an open question though.

It is a very crucial phase for innovation toward sustainability. On the one hand we feel the urgency,we set objectives and deadlines, on the other hand there is a risk of not getting to the point, not obtaining the real impact we aim at.

Google is starting to label hotels based on their sustainability credentials (Benjamin Lephilibert,Food Waste Hacker. Entrepreneur. Tech designer. Counselor at FrancoThai Chamber of CommerceFTCC; Bloomberg; Google). It also introduced a feature in their flight search indicating the CO2 emissions for flights at compared to the average.

To diversify the European tourism offer, the European Commission provides co
funding through the COSME programme (now the Single Market programme) to sustainable transnational tourism products. The six projects (CEnTOUR Circular Economy in Tourism, EU ECOTANDEM
, SUSTOUR Promoting sustainability among the European tour operator sector through a business led approach, Tourban Accelerating SME capacity and inn Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Services and Navigation (BCC), TouriSME Improving sustainability of tourism SMEs through knowledge transfer, international cooperation and multistakeholder engagement, ETGG2030 European Tourism Going Green 2030) cofinanced under the 2019 call for proposals ‘Boosting sustainable tourism development and capacity of tourism SMEs through transnational cooperation and knowledge transfer’ (COS TOURCOOP2019301)
will share research, tools an
d good practices as well as support capacity building and innovation for tourism SMEs to move to more sustainable and circular models , including the adoption of
internationally recognised sustainability certifications and labels. To this end, they provide
funding to tourism SMEs by means of a various support schemes announced through calls for proposals directed at tourism SMEs.

At present, two TOURCOOP project Calls just recently closed and have selected businesses to be supported in building capacity and innovation paths towards circularity: TOURISME for France,Italy, Spain, Cyprus (closed 15th September 2021, info at;CEnTOUR Circular Economy in Tourism for Italy, Spain, Greece, Moldova, North Macedonia (closed 31st October 2021, info at, while TOURBAN’s call, focusing on Sustainable Urban Tourism in Croatia (Dubrovnik), Hungary (Budapest), Denmark (Copenhagen),the Netherlands (Amsterdam), Estonia (Tallinn), Spain (Barcelona) and Germany (Kiel) will close 19th January 2022 info at

What could be the right tools, especially in the tourism sector, to embrace paths of innovation

toward sustainability? We decided to focus on an apparently small as
pect that has nevertheless huge consequences as it could be a key (and currently often missing) link between innovation and return on investment and touch one of the most sensitive points of today’s social systems: how do we find reliable information to orient our consumption choices? This aspect is that of Sustainability


Straightforward and rationale, Sustainability Certifications have not always been seen as favourable
to companies. They have been considered time consuming, bureaucratic, and often viewed a favour to large companies and a further obstacle to SMEs.

There are nevertheless strong arguments to pay growing attention to certifications in this particular
phase. Things could just be right as we need to make sustainable solutions scale up and mainstream.We need to identify new ways to engage in common objectives and to be rewarded for it and this could be the right moment it can be done at a larger scale, through shared tools like certifications.

Therefore we have asked a few ex
perts in sustainability and tourism as well as a project officer,involved in TOURCOOP projects, to highlight what are the added values of Sustainability
Certifications today and how this is going to change in the next two years. Read below their views.

  1. The impact is indeed positive
    Professor Silvio Cardinali and Barbara Kulaga, Research Fellow, at the Economic Department of

    Marche Polythecnic University can confirm this “
    Ecolabels are a controversial topic in tourism as
    the degree to which they influe
    nce tourist planning processes and corporate environmental
    performance is largely unknown. In recent years, several studies have investigated the main positive

    effects reported by the implementation of the EU Ecolabel by tourist facilities and among these
    image improvement, environmental performance improvement and consequently a lower impact.

    Other benefits recognized by the interviewees are an improvement of the internal organization, a

    more eco
    efficient operational management, and the standardization of environmental data.
    Furthermore, the attitude of guests towards green practices positively influences the evaluation of

    green practices and as the segment of attentive consumers is growing rapidly this effect cannot be

  2. You aim at a label, but you also gain new tools for your company development. And you do
    it in a way that is structured and with clear guidance, so you do not waste time.

    Erwan Mouazan
    (Phd) is a circular economy and sustainability expert with 17 years’ experience in
    coaching and training on sustainability topics at EU level with a focus on sustainable business

    model innovation and environmental certifications: “
    One set of advantages often overlooked in
    setting up a sustainability certification is actually related to t
    he internal social positive effects of
    such schemes. Setting up an environmental certification is a good way to
    engage your employees on
    a shared mission (…) This in turn creates a positive working atmosphere and leads to an improved

    performance. One ot
    her important point: the ability to attract and retain talent is key in today’s
    and this is more than relevant in the tourism sector. Experience has shown that organisations
    which distinguish themselves from their competitors in terms of environmenta
    l commitment find it
    easier to attract new talents.

    Leonie Hehn
    is a Project Manager at the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and worked as a
    Research Assistant at the Department of Tourism at the University of Technology, Business and

    Design Konstanz (Germany
    ): “Obtaining a sustainability certification as a tourism business does
    not only mean to get a nice sticker to be displayed at the hotel entrance or the company’s website

    for marketing purposes. Getting certified enriches a business through the learning an
    d adaptation
    process it needs to undergo to fulfill the sustainability requirements of the respective scheme
  3. There are obviously economic gains, and of several types: from cost and resources savings
    to better positioning on the market
HEHN: On the one hand there are “businessrelated advantages like cost savings in energy,water or waste management through an optimised management or the use of more efficient devices”, on the other “a better positioning on the market and the inclusion into marketing streams at destination level, but also in booking systems (filter)”. Herbert Hamele Herbert Hamele holds a master in economies and tourism and started working in 1983 in the field of environmentally sustainable tourism development in Europe. In 1993 he founded ECOTRANS European Network for Sustainable Tourism Development and following developed Tourism 2030 DestiNet Services Your Knowledge Networking Portal for Sustainable & Responsible Tourism: “Sustainable Tourism certification programs are able to increase market access through:
  1. Being known and trusted by the travellers who consider the existence of a certain label in their decision making for a destination. A good example is the international “Blue Flag” for beaches and marinas
  2. Being recognised as credible certificate at those market players who market the offer and inform the demand: tour operators, booking services, Regional and National Tourist Boards, media for consumers, sustainable tourism sites, etc. The platform managed by ECOTRANS provides transparency on all 200+ certificates worldwide: on the “Certification Quickfinder” you can filter the global list by country, tourism category, standard and credibility level.
  3. Providing their listings of certified tourism businesses to booking services and other intermediaries. Large certification programmes as e.g. the Green Key with 1000’s of certified hotels are meanwhile of interest to big players like and big tour operators to identify and mark their bookable products as “green”
  4. Feeding their listings into the common all in one “Green Travel Maps”. This is seen as the way out

to bring the green offer closer to the consumer: about 50 leading certification programs publish and
e meanwhile their listings on the global and public Green Travel Maps on the independent platform with currently more than 16,000 certified accommodation providers and

camping sites, attractions, tour operators and destinations.

You care about the environment and also about your community these might not be the
first driver, but surely are rewarding.

There is obviously much
added value related to the protection of the environment

through the reduction of CO2 emissions by a de
crease in energy consumption or the use of
renewable energy sources or local supply chains with less emissions from transport. At the same

time, usually food waste, the use of plastic and the consumption of water are reduced, while the use

of products that
harm the environment like chemicals and pesticides are avoided. Depending on the
certification scheme selected, there are also factors and improvements to be expected that play into


social dimension of sustainability
like improvements in accessibility, worker’s wellbeing,
social inclusion, and gender equality
You also improve your networking and collaboration with likeminded/certified businesses
and destinations improving the quality of your own work

Certifications are multiplying factors, esp
ecially when done at destination level, in a twofolded

Destinations can get access to other certified destinations: exchange, mutual support,
synergies in joint marketing actions, e.g. “Sustainable destinations: Initiative of Excellence”
(s.a.)” They
can also m
ake their certified businesses marketing partners. Link to each other and raise awareness to each
and link the sustainability messages to your certificate” (Peter Zimmer/FUTOUR)”
You work towards quality and excellence of services following a clear path
While in the past destination marketing was mainly focusing on attracting more visitors and
meeting their expectations, since some years more and more destinations follow a more holistic approach

with the ambi
tion to achieve both: a high quality of life for the host population across all their activities and


a high level of visitors fulfillment. If a destination wants to market their offer as sustainable tourism, then the
DMO in close collaboration with their t
ourism businesses and service providers need to focus on two main
goals: the destination as better place to live in AND a better place to visit (
Xavier Font & Scott McCabe
(2017) Sustainability and marketing in tourism: its contexts, paradoxes, approaches,
challenges and
potential, Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 25:7, 869
883, DOI: 10.1080/09669582.2017.1301721)”
The advantage of opting for a certification scheme is however that it offers a structured
process and clear directives on what to do and
how to do it. This helps most business who are
compromised in advancing in their sustainability but do not know where to start and how to

approach this complex subject
Greenwashing is no longer a viable option, as it is more and more liable of sanction
as it collide
with Consumers Protection legislation, so businesses investing in sustainability should be sure to be

going in the right direction and this is not just a matter of gaining trust from the market, but also of

not breaching laws.
The DirectorateGeneral for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and
SMEs of the European Commission is currently carrying out a consultation on ‘Principles and

recommendations for Good Practice in online consumer reviews and ratings’ within a Study of

possible in
itiatives at EU level and establishment of a multistakeholder platform on quality of
tourism accommodation
the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now published a “Draft
Guidance on Environmental Claims on Goods and Services
. Helping businesses to comply with
their consumer protection law obligations” for all businesses making claims
about their green
Whilst the draft guidance itself is not legally binding, the consumer protection
legislation (the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (the
CPRs)) that lies
behind it
is (Walker Morris
it is most advisable for businesses to adapt today on their own terms and initiative rather
than later by force of the market or governmental regulations.
Because sustainability in the tourism
industry will be a mainstream at some point and
who wants to be mainstream if you can also be


Boutiquehotel Stadthalle saves up to:

   21,024 kg CO2/year

   62.000 kWh/person/year (passive house)

   65L per guest * incl. laundry (passive house)


No heating needed (passive house)

Separation and recycle of 100% of waste produced


Boutiquehotel Stadthalle is an example of best practice implementing innovative ideas. It’s the first hotel in a city worldwide with a zero-energy balance. This implies that the amount of energy needed all over the year is produced by means of a ground water heat pump, 130 m² solar panels on the roof for warm water and 93m² solar panels for electricity.

The hotel only uses water from their own well to irrigate the plants and flowers in the garden.

The eco-shower heads include flow limiters which can  reduce water consumption by up to 35%, while the TVs are mostly on stand-by mode, with an extremely low energy consumption of just 1 watt. Furthermore, LED lights with low electricity consumption, 14 watts in total, are installed in the hotel.

Breakfast is served for 157 room being 100% organic with a big variety of regional delicacy especially for people with vegan lifestyle and food intolerances.

The garden is mainly dedicated to lavender cultivation and is a green oasis for four beehives.


  • Organization: Boutiquehotel Stadthalle
  • Country: Austria
  • Type of provider: Hotel
  • Circular principle: DESIGN OUT WASTE AND POLLUTION
  • Keywords: #SGSs #zero-energy balance