We do not yet know if they do. Ecolabels for manufactured consumer products have survived and succeeded, however, from biodegradable detergent to dolphin-friendly tuna, unpackaged cosmetics to sustainably cut timber. This suggests that enough consumers will pay a premium or give preference to ecolabelled products to make them valuable for retailers and manufacturers. Ecolabels in tourism have now existed for long enough that it would be quite feasible to test consumer reaction and response.
Recognition and Reliability An ideal tourism ecolabel scheme would appear to need a global brand name and audit process, local implementation, detailed technical criteria for different types of tourism activity or service, multiple labelling levels, and high transparency and public accessibility of information.
In practice, broad scope, both geographic and sectoral, currently seems to conflict with technical substance and transparency see Chapter 9. Broad schemes such as Green Globe 21 seem to have rather vague criteria and lax entry requirements in order to be acceptable to industry and government worldwide; but the downside is that for well-informed consumers from developed nations, such a label may not contribute effectively to consumer choice.
Experience in other retail sectors 22 R. Buckley suggests that consumers, and consumer protection organizations, want labels with both guts and teeth: substantive technical criteria, and transparent and effective audit and enforcement. Once consumers have paid a premium price for an ecolabelled product, they want it to mean something, and they are likely to lobby governments for legislation if they feel they are being duped.
Equally, of course, if an ecolabel really does have guts and teeth, providers will only adopt it if they are satisfied that it yields a market advantage which outweighs its costs. Maturity and Penetration For consumers to take account of tourism ecolabels in purchasing decisions, the label needs to differentiate clearly and reliably between products with high and low environmental performance or quality.
To do this, an ecolabel scheme needs not only guts and teeth but also maturity and penetration: consumers need confidence that every product in the sector has been considered for ecolabelling and either accepted or rejected, so that the absence of a label means as much as its presence. If unlabelled products are often just as good as labelled ones, consumers are unlikely to rely on the label. Indeed, to give full credence to an ecolabel, consumers need to see that there are routine re-evaluations of all potential products, with some being granted the label and others losing it at each iteration.
Thresholds and Tiers If the label has only a single tier, this implies that the cut-off threshold for the ecolabel should be neither so high that very few products earn the label, nor so low that almost all products can earn it. If very few products earn the label, it may still be meaningful — as with some of the quality labels for luxury hotels — but few consumers can use it in purchasing decisions. Similarly, if almost all products earn the label, it may still be meaningful as a basic screening criterion for almost all consumers — as with, say, professional qualifications for an accountant — but it will not influence many purchasing decisions.
So the technical criteria for an ecolabel may need to change over time, if the overall level of environmental performance in the sector evolves. Alternatively, a multi-tier ecolabel can incorporate a basic entry level, a mid-level which is the main one used by consumers, and a top level to recognize the highest performers, as in the version of the Australian National Ecotourism Accreditation Programme NEAP II see Chapter Current tourism ecolabel schemes suffer from lack of penetration and discrimination. As yet, there is apparently no systematic difference in environmental performance between tourism products which do have ecolabels and those which do not.
It seems that many tourism operators see ecolabels as marketing schemes from which they would gain no particular advantage. This may change if members of current tourism ecolabel schemes succeed in their efforts to have the label adopted as either mandatory or preferential criteria for licensing in national parks. On the one hand, it would be valuable for land managers to have an independent evaluation of the environmental performance of different operators as a screening mechanism in issuing permits.
On the other hand, if the evaluation scheme is run by the same tour operators who are applying for the permits, then clearly it will not be independent! The potential adoption of a privately run industry ecolabel by public land management agencies illustrates that ecolabels can be used as instruments of government policy as well as mechanisms for consumer choice.
From a policy perspective, ecolabels raise issues of equity, effectiveness and compatibility with other instruments see Chapter Equity and Effectiveness Equity issues arise if there are significant differences in environmental impacts between ecolabelled and unlabelled tourism products in the same area, and the products with better environmental performance are more expensive.
If only some tourists will pay the price premiums for more environmentally friendly tourism products, the overall environmental quality in the destination area will be lower than if all tourists pay this premium. Purchasers of ecolabelled products get less environmental benefit than they have paid for, and purchasers of unlabelled products get more than they have paid for.
Hence the former are subsidizing the latter. Since the purchase of an ecolabelled product is a private consumer decision, the subsidy is not only inequitable, but requires a measure of altruism.
Indeed, the commercial survival of ecolabelled products in other industry sectors, notably among highly price-competitive retail manufactured goods, foods and consumer products, shows that many consumers are sufficiently concerned about the environment that they will pay to protect it even if they have to subsidize less-concerned citizens in the process.
For the tourism sector, however, where ecolabels currently have low penetration, low reliability, low consumer recognition, and considerable uncertainty in environmental outcomes, 24 R. Buckley ecolabels alone are unlikely to be effective instruments of environmental policy. Tourism ecolabels may, however, be an effective component of a policy bundle or pyramid Gunningham et al.
Legislative Base and Ecolabel Add-on In practice, environmental legislation in all industry sectors differs enormously between different countries and jurisdictions in regard to issues such as sewage treatment, waste discharge, energy efficiency, atmospheric emissions, noise, recycling, national parks, endangered species, environmental impact assessment, environmental management systems, and so on.
There are equally significant differences in legislation that are not specifically related to the environment, but have environmental implications: for example in regard to building regulations, boat and vehicle licensing, development planning, fisheries, forestry and foreshores. In addition, some countries and states have specific legislation covering particular types of tourist activity, such as whale-watching.
Finally, legal frameworks for liability, insurance, professional certification, etc.
What this means for tourism ecolabels is that particular aspects of environmental performance which one country incorporates into an ecolabel scheme, may already be required by law in another country. If a global tourism ecolabel required the same absolute standard of environmental performance from companies in all countries, then the differential between ecolabelled and unlabelled products would be much greater in some countries than others.
On the other hand, if a global ecolabel scheme simply required the same differential improvement in environmental performance between unlabelled and ecolabelled products, then an ecolabelled product in one country might well have a lower actual standard of environmental performance than an unlabelled product in another country see Chapter The question is: which means more to the consumer, or what does the consumer expect? Do they choose the destination country first, and then use an ecolabel to look for an operator with above-average environmental performance?
Or do they expect that an ecolabelled product should meet some basic environmental standards anywhere in the world?
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Or is it a combination of these factors? Similar considerations apply to purely national ecolabels, if they are used in purchasing Major Issues in Ecolabelling 25 decisions by international travellers. Three chapters in this volume are dedicated to understanding consumer behaviour in relation to tourism ecolabels see Chapters 4, 5 and 6.
Ecolabel Design and Benchmarks Tourism ecolabels may be constructed in many different ways, and we do not know what consumers pay most attention to. For example, ecolabels may be based either on inputs or outputs: environmental technology adopted, or environmental impacts produced. They may involve qualitative or quantitative criteria: adoption of a recycling programme, or proportion of materials recycled. They may use aggregate or proportional measures: energy consumed in total, or per capita.
They may use absolute or relative measures; and they may require either actual demonstrated environmental performance, or merely a commitment to improvement see Chapters 7, 8 and For consumers to interpret any of these, they need benchmarks against which to compare. This in turn requires routine reporting of corporate environmental performance, as currently required in some jurisdictions but not many.
At the very least, it needs guidelines for best practice, something which consumers and corporations can use to judge existing environmental performance and plan improvements.
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The Canadian example is very useful in this case see Chapter Ecolabels and International Trade International differences between tourism ecolabels may possibly also have implications under international trade law. Currently, member countries of the World Trade Organization can apply product standards to imports, including environmental product standards, but not process standards. This means that they can discriminate between products, for example through bans or differential duties, on the basis of environmental characteristics of the product itself or the way it is used e.
Producers, however, both domestic and exporting, are allowed to provide this information in the form of an ecolabel, so that individual consumers may take it into account in purchasing decisions.
For example, a country cannot ban the import of unsustainably logged timber, but consumers may choose not to buy timber unless it is certified as sustainably harvested. In industry sectors which export goods or resources from less to more developed nations, the trade ban on environmental process standards is a major barrier to improved environmental legislation. It 26 R. Buckley allows companies to extract resources in less developed countries LDCs with little heed for environmental impacts; and companies in developed countries to lobby against domestic environmental laws on the grounds of unfair competition from imports.
Under these circumstances, concern by consumers in importing nations, over environmental impacts in exporting LDCs, provides direct consumer support for ecolabels see Chapter In tourism, however, the situation is somewhat different. Economically, tourism is an export from less to more developed nations, but the product is consumed in the less developed nations where it is produced: product and process are inseparable.
Environmental laws in destination nations apply to domestic and international tour operators alike. Strong environmental laws in either originating or destination countries do not place tour companies at any competitive disadvantage.
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In fact, by reducing impacts from other sectors they benefit tourism. So unlike other sectors, it makes better sense for the tourism industry to lobby for effective environmental legislation than to pursue ecolabel schemes as a substitute. Indeed, it seems that ecolabels in tourism may well be aimed as much at regulators as its primary consumers.
In Australia, for example, companies with accreditation under the Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Programme are attempting to gain preferential treatment for operating licences in national parks, which are becoming highly valuable business commodities in the tourism industry. Conclusions This chapter has provided an overview of some of the major issues affecting the planning, management, marketing and development of tourism ecolabels.
This is by no means exhaustive but it reflects the current discussions between the tourism industry, environmental organizations and governmental bodies. The issues mentioned are analysed further, from different perspectives, in subsequent chapters of this book.
Reference Gunningham, N. Clarendon Press, Oxford. Sustainable D. Diamantis Tourism and J. Such schemes aim to ensure that different components of the tourism industry from both the demand and the supply elements are conducting their practices with fewer negative impacts on the environment, on society and on the economy.
Due to the enormous size of the tourism industry, such schemes have been initiated in the most benign forms of tourism, especially ecotourism and rural products. A wide range of tourism, hospitality and recreational land management operations have appeared in the s, a selection of which can be found in the directory at the end of this book.
In any case, tourism companies and destinations can apply either for specific certification schemes or more generic ones, such as EMAS, all depending on the size of their business, the types of products and their financial situation.
It would appear then, that ecolabelling and certification schemes in tourism have been operationalized to ensure more sustainable management or sustainable consumption in tourism practices. In many instances, however, entrepreneurs in the tourism industry are claiming that they practise sustainability, even before they open for business. It is tempting to argue further that, as there is a lot of discussion revolving around the true meaning of sustainability and ecotourism, such ecolabelling schemes will not be practising sustainability successfully.
Buckley 27 28 D. Diamantis and J. Westlake This chapter discusses the concept of ecolabelling in the context of sustainability and ecotourism. It outlines the limitation of the current practices of sustainability in tourism and discusses the view of creating certain ecolabelling schemes based on the four types of sustainability in tourism destinations. In addition, the chapter details the position and links between sustainable and ecotourism products as well as the limitations of creating an ecolabelling scheme for ecotourism.
It progresses to an examination of ecotourism definitions, where the view of defining ecotourism on the basis of different trade-off scenarios will be noted. Next, it examines certain ecolabelling frameworks based on ecotourism trade-off definitions as well as the possibilities of creating such schemes based on environmental management techniques. The chapter concludes with certain suggestions for how ecolabelling schemes could be formulated in tourism destinations.
Sustainability in Tourism Within the sustainability agenda in tourism, there are a variety of terms, definitions and management models that have created confusion with regard to the effectiveness of sustainable practices in this sector. For instance, sustainable tourism is regularly regarded as part of sustainable tourism development or as a form of tourism which entails all the alternative tourism products Inskeep, ; WTO, , ; Lane, ; Cater, ; Hunter, a,b, ; Orams, a,b; Wahab, ; Goodall and Stabler, ; Nepal, ; Wall, ; Mowforth and Munt, — Theoretically speaking, the evolution of these two terms has made it difficult to clarify whether there are in fact two distinct concepts or just one, which encompasses the other.