Accreditation & Certification Programs

Codes of Coduct, Practice & Operational Guidelines

A selection of ecotourism accreditation and certification programs, codes of conduct, codes of practice and operational guidelines also including sustainable tourism, geotourism and responsible tourism for stakeholders, policy makers, tour operators, outdoor guides and visitors to destinations.

Accreditation & Certification Programs || Codes of Coduct, Practice & Operational Guidelines || Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) New "...is managing the GSTC Criteria, the global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism; as well as acting as the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification.  The GSTC Criteria serve as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The Criteria are used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses and government agencies and other organization types, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification."

The web page points out that; "The Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, which businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs, and laws, the Criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and supplemented by additional criteria for the specific location and activity."   Download the criteria for free, up your game, and become certified to use the stamp of approval.

Global Code of Ethics for Tourism   from the UN World Tourism Organization. "A fundamental frame of reference for responsible and sustainable tourism, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) is a comprehensive set of principles designed to guide key-players in tourism development. Addressed to governments, the travel industry, communities and tourists alike, it aims to help maximise the sector's benefits while minimising its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe."  This link goes to Full Text Download with PDF format (brochure) in more than 40 UNWTO official languages.

Wildlife Tourism Australia has produced a number of wildlife tourism policies, submissions and best practice documents: for operators, visitors and locals in this sensitive area of nature based tourism and ecotourism.

UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Sustainable Tourism  - "The Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch works to promote sustainable resource management in a life cycle perspective for goods and services produced and used by governments, business and civil society." This site should be a "must visit" for anyone interested in UN sustainable programmes, with links to resources covering major areas of society and resources.


Accreditation and Certification Programs

Accreditation & Certification Programs generally concentrate on the built environment, with the focus on environmentally friendly infrastructure design and advanced environmental monitoring systems. Interpretive material about local history, flora and fauna, and guide programs designed to foster environmental and cultural awareness amongst guests and visitors, need to be included. These interpretive criteria in particular are popular with resort developments seeking ecotourism commendation.

While this recognition is encouraging developers to impliment projects that are more culturally inclusive and less environmentally damaging than in the past, the question for many people remains ... is this "ecotourism"?

  • The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) New "...is managing the GSTC Criteria, the global baseline standards for sustainable travel and tourism; as well as acting as the international accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification.  The GSTC Criteria serve as the global baseline standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. The Criteria are used for education and awareness-raising, policy-making for businesses and government agencies and other organization types, measurement and evaluation, and as a basis for certification." 

    The web page points out that; "The Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, which businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability. Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs, and laws, the Criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and supplemented by additional criteria for the specific location and activity."   Operators and stakeholders can download the criteria for free, up their game, and become certified to use the stamp of approval.  Site also has links to certified and approved providers.
  • Green Tourism Business Scheme  "The GTBS is the national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK. Originally developed [by] VisitScotland, it is now the only national scheme to be independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) on behalf of VisitEngland, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and endorsed by VisitScotland and Failte Ireland.  ...Businesses opting to join Green Tourism are assessed by a qualified grading advisor against a rigorous set of criteria, covering a range of areas, like energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and more."  The scheme was originally established by VisitScotland supported by Scottish Enterprise & Highland and Islands Enterprise, and after funding stopped in 2001, it became a self-financing scheme mainly supported by membership fees. 
  • The Rainforest Alliance works with hotels, restaurants and other tourism businesses to help them improve their environmental, social and economic practices.
  • NEPCon Sustainable Tourism certification services "NEPCon offers hotels, inbound and outbound tour operators and other tourism businesses certification and services to help them improve and promote their environmental, social and economic practices."  Rainforest Alliance Certification administration has been incorporated into NEPCon. "Our Sustainable Tourism Standards for Hotel and Lodging Services and Inbound Tour Operators are GSTC-Recognized standards, which means they include all of the elements of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators."
  • Ecotourism Australia - Eco Certification Program "The ECO Certification program certifies tourism products (tours, accommodations, attractions) with a primary focus on nature. It assures travellers that certified products are backed by a strong, well managed commitment to sustainable practices and provides high quality nature-based tourism experiences."  Definitions, prices and criteria summary PDF available for download.
  • The Botswana Ecotourism Certification System  "In 2009 Botswana Tourism developed ecotourism standards and associated documentation for implementation of the Botswana Ecotourism Certification System."  Managed by the Botswana Tourism Organisation.  Botswana Eco - Tourism Certification Application Process.

See also Ecotourism Associations and Organisations, Sustainable Design & Management, Academic, Education & Scientific Organisations, Ecotourism Papers and Articles and Industry Associations and Societies

Codes of Conduct, Practice and Operational Guidelines

While there are many localised Codes for various kinds of tour operations and for travellers, most aren't specifically formulated in the context of "ecotourism".  However, we can ensure that all parties are well prepared for the type of activity they are embarking on, and help minimise adverse impact on the natural and cultural environments, by adopting and using an appropriate code of practice.  See also Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines.

Ed Note: To determine whether your intended activity is "eco" or "nature" based, rather than "outdoor" or "adventure" tourism, just ask yourself these questions. Is it to mainly be in and enjoy the natural world? Is it "passive" as opposed to "active"?

In other words, to make the most of the activity, will you need to be quiet and still, patient, observant, respectful of boundaries, prepared for some physical discomfort (no air conditioned, 5 star comfort), and perhaps even disappointment as there are no guarantees? If yes, then it's likely to be an "eco" or "nature" based activity.

Or do you expect that you might be "whooping and hollering" with your adrenalin pumping?  If yes, then it's an "outdoor / adventure" tour/activity.

Operator/Visitor Guidelines

  • Animal Ethics Infolink (Australia), Animal Research Review Panel and NSW Agriculture's Animal Welfare Unit Animal Ethics Committees (AECs) Wildlife surveys guidelines  If you're going to watch wildlife as part of your academic qualifications, you'll need to know this.  Updated
  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism   from the UN World Tourism Organization. "A fundamental frame of reference for responsible and sustainable tourism, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) is a comprehensive set of principles designed to guide key-players in tourism development. Addressed to governments, the travel industry, communities and tourists alike, it aims to help maximise the sector's benefits while minimising its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe."
  • Antarctic Tour Operators Guidelines & Resources  It's stating the obvious but I can't resist ... be very, very, very careful out there. Great resource for stakeholders, academics and operators, and excellent for would be Antarctic visitors as well, with guidelines for Visitors and Wildlife Watching and additional extensive Antarctic Resources links.
  • Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching 2017  Updated One more click to get to the PDF; which is a bit unfriendly IMO. Given the popularity world-wide of dolphin and whale watching along the various migratory paths, html would be preferable.
  • Guidelines for approaching marine mammals in Australian waters Updated Easy to read and understand diagrams, with links to each state and territory regulations.
  • Ecotourism Association of Australia (EAA) Code of Practice for Operators Originally developed in the mid '90s, it's been superseded by the Eco Certification Program (see below), and other geographically localised programs, but for tourism operators wanting a brief bullet style introduction, it's a good place to start. You might even find you're well on the way to accreditation.
  • Ecotourism Association of Australia (EAA) Guidelines for Ecotourists Published in the mid 1990s, intending "ecotourists" can still benefit by keeping these guidelines in mind when travelling.
  • The Gumnut Awards Program  "The Gumnut Awards is an environmental rating program for holiday parks caravan and RV dealers and manufacturers and suppliers to the industry. Developed by the Caravan and Camping Industry Association of NSW and independently assessed by the University of Western Sydney, the Awards recognise caravan and camping businesses who have demonstrated a commitment to environmental sustainability and socially responsible management."
  • Ethical Birding Guidelines PDF "Read the guidelines to understand potential negative impacts that recreational birdwatching and photography may have on birds."  Guidelines from Birdlife Australia, the national organisation formed by the merger of Birds Australia, BOCA and participating branches in 2011.
  • "National Geographic works to protect the world's distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship. Here are its 13 geotourism principles for governments and tourism operators."  New Yet another ... rose by any other name ... .
  • Wildlife Tourism Australia Policies The index page for a number of policies, submissions and best practice documents including Best Practice Management Guidelines for operators, Planning and managing wildlife encounters, and an extensive list of various Australian tour operator and visitor activities codes under the title of Australian Wildlife Viewing Guidelines.

See also What is Ecotourism?, Accreditation & Certification Programs, Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Activities and Other Tourism Resources

Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines

Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines provide a framework for development of, and appropriate activity and conduct at sensitive natural and cultural sites.

  • ASEAN Community Based Tourism Standard New "...and related documents were prepared by the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism under the auspices of the ASEAN Tourism Standards Task Force."  Codes of conduct included with, and forming part of the Standard are Codes of Conduct for CBT Members includes checklists for Guides, Food and Beverage Service Providers, Accommodation Providers and Friendly Tour Operators. Researchgate entry with  references and full text PDF download.
  • Environment Department Archive: Australian Natural Heritage Charter, now archived, but still available.  "for the Conservation of Places of Natural Heritage Significance Second edition 2002 Australian Heritage Council. The Purpose of this Charter is to assist everyone with an interest in the significance and conservation of natural heritage. It provides definitions of terms, a statement of principles and a rational process for making decisions." Available online for download in link PDF (266kb).
  • Environment Department Archive: Ask First: A guide to respecting Indigenous heritage places and values 2002, now archived, but still available.   This guide is an excellent resource, and "must have" for any individual or organisation dealing with Indigenous stakeholders and heritage.
  • Environment Department Archive: Successful Tourism at Heritage Places: now archived, but still available.  A guide for tourism operators, heritage managers and communities 2001 "The Australian Heritage Council and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources with the asssistance of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism have over the years explored issues of common concern about the responsible use of Australia's heritage places for tourism.  This guide provides information to help people more clearly understand the issues involved and includes practical pointers for those aiming at successful and responsible tourism at heritage places."
  • Steps to sustainable tourism  "This document is designed for tourism operators, heritage and environment managers, community groups and others with an interest in places, regions and associated tourism products."  In link PDF (495kb file) download.  An excellent step by step "how-to" guide for anyone interested in sustainable tourism development.
  • [Convention on Biological Diversity] >> CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development “International guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development in vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats of major importance for biological diversity and protected areas, including fragile riparian and mountain ecosystems.”
  • Principles, Guidelines and Other Tools Developed under the Convention "This page lists some Principles, Guidelines and other tools developed under the Convention. All are available in the six official United Nations Languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian) through associated Conference of the Parties decisions. In the language column on the right, links are made to associated PDF Publications of the Secretariat."
  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism Updated UN World Tourism Organization. "The global Code of Ethic for Tourism sets a frame of reference for the responsible and sustainable development of world tourism. It draws inspiration from many similar declarations and industry codes that have come before and it adds new thinking that reflects our changing society at the beginning of the 21st century." 
  • Updated Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas: Guidelines for Planning and Management:  PDF download available on Researchgate or download PDF directly herePublications by Paul FJ Eagles, Stephen F McCool, Christopher D Haynes. UNEP cite: "A landmark publication jointly published by UNEP, The World Conservation Unit (IUCN) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) is a contribution to the International Year of Ecotourism 2002. The publication aims to assist protected area managers and other stakeholders in the planning and management of protected areas based on a wealth of practical case studies and experience." 
  • UNESCO World Heritage Centre  Everything you always wanted to know about World Heritage but didn't know where to find it. English, Français. "Protecting natural and cultural properties of outstanding universal value against the threat of damage in a rapidly developing world".

See also What is Ecotourism?, Accreditation & Certification Programs, Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Activities, Other Tourism Resources and Sustainable Design & Management

Footnote 1. Rose by any other name:  “What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet.” --From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2), see also phrases.org.uk

See Also:

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