Voluntary Initiatives for Sustainability in Tourism
The Value Of VISIT

Eugenio Yunis, World Tourism Organisation, Chief, Department of Sustainable Development of Tourism. United Nations.

Sustainable Tourism: the value of the VISIT initiative by our leading VISIT supporter

The VISIT initiative has come at the right moment and in the right place. It concerns Europe, where the large majority of international and domestic tourist movements take place, and where the consumers are more aware about the environmental and social implications of their tourism activities. It is also in Europe where certification systems and eco-labels applicable to the tourism industry were born, back in the mid-1980s, and where 15 years later some 60 or so of these schemes co-exist, sometimes complementing each other, sometimes competing.

From the very beginning of this initiative the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) supported and gave advice, when required, to the various certification schemes that met in early 2001, to consider the possibility of co-ordinating their efforts under one umbrella. This support was based on the belief, expressed by the WTO at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in 1999, that the proliferation of too many certification schemes could be counterproductive. Instead, a co-ordinated effort and the definition of common certification criteria could help to make these schemes more useful to guide consumers towards the selection of more sustainable tourism products and services.

VISIT is the result of careful, conscientious and dedicated work undertaken by numerous people. ECOTRANS one of the Associates was responsible for the inventory and evaluation of the more than 100 certification schemes world wide, as part of a WTO-commissioned study undertaken in 2000-2001. The results of this study were published by the WTO under the title “Voluntary Initiatives for Sustainable Tourism”.

The WTO will continue to support VISIT, whilst encouraging governments and the tourism industry to strive for a higher level of sustainability. Duly conceived, properly managed and suitably co-ordinated eco-labels and certificates can certainly contribute to make this vibrant industry more sustainable and to better contribute to the Millennium Development Goals.