Elena Gentilini – European Fundings Specialist, PROGETTO ARCADIA, CEnTOUR Circular Economy in Tourism partnership
It is renowned that the percentage of tourists that “prefer” eco–friendly experiences and structures is growing. What is also sure, according to several recent surveys (OECD, Rebuilding tourism for the future: COVID–19 policy responses and recovery, Updated 14 December 2020; Booking.com), is that this drastically increased with the covid–related emergency and that after–covid tourism will be more eco–sensitive. 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 Franco–Thai 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 ECO–TANDEM
programme, 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 multi–stakeholder engagement, ETGG2030 – European Tourism Going Green 2030) co–financed under the 2019 call for proposals ‘Boosting sustainable tourism development and capacity of tourism SMEs through transnational cooperation and knowledge transfer’ (COS TOURCOOP–2019–3–01)
will share research, tools and 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 https://tourisme–project.eu/call–for–smes/);CEnTOUR Circular Economy in Tourism for Italy, Spain, Greece, Moldova, North Macedonia (closed 31st October 2021, info at https://circulartourism.eu/), 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 https://www.tourban.eu/2021/08/13/the–sustainable–urban–tourism–acceleration–programme/).
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 aspect 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 experts 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.
- The impact is indeed positive
Professor Silvio Cardinali and Barbara Kulaga, Research Fellow, at the Economic Department of
Marche Polythecnic University can confirm this “Eco–labels are a controversial topic in tourism as
the degree to which they influence 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 are:
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
- 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 the 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 other important point: the ability to attract and retain talent is key in today’s
world and this is more than relevant in the tourism sector. Experience has shown that organisations
which distinguish themselves from their competitors in terms of environmental 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 and adaptation
process it needs to undergo to fulfill the sustainability requirements of the respective scheme”
- There are obviously economic gains, and of several types: from cost and resources savings
to better positioning on the market
- 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
- 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 Tourism2030.eu 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.
- 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 booking.com and big tour operators to identify and mark their bookable products as “green”
- 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
update meanwhile their listings on the global and public Green Travel Maps on the independent
Tourism2030.eu platform with currently more than 16,000 certified accommodation providers and
camping sites, attractions, tour operators and destinations.
4 – You care about the environment and also about your community – these might not be the
first driver, but surely are rewarding.
HEHN: “There is obviously much
added value related to the protection of the environment
through the reduction of CO2 emissions by a decrease 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 well–being,
social inclusion, and gender equality.”
5 – You also improve your networking and collaboration with like–minded/certified businesses
and destinations improving the quality of your own work
Certifications are multiplying factors, especially when done at destination level, in a two–folded
HAMELE: “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 make their certified businesses marketing partners. “Link to each other and raise awareness to each
other – and link the sustainability messages to your certificate” (Peter Zimmer/FUTOUR)”
6 – You work towards quality and excellence of services – following a clear path
HAMELE: “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 ambition 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 tourism 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)”
HEHN: “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 Directorate–General 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 initiatives at EU level and establishment of a multi–stakeholder platform on quality of
HAMELE: “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
credentials.” 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 https://www.walkermorris.co.uk/publications/greenwashing–and–
HEHN: “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
DESCRIPTION OF INITIATIVE
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
- Focus: REDUCE, RECYCLE
- Keywords: #SGSs #zero-energy balance