Voluntary Initiatives for Sustainability in Tourism

ITEM 4 - The developing trends in Sustainable Tourism

The EU flower and Agenda 21

Luigi Rambelli the chairman of VISIT has prepared the attached briefing paper for VISIT members in order to make progress on the general development of ecolabelling in tourism and the interested stakeholders together with a set of recommended action s related to the new EU flower ecolabel for tourism developed over the last 2 years.

The most important conclusions reached by European bodies in approaching tourism are the proposals by the Conference of Ministers of Tourism of EU Member States that took place in Vienna on 21st March 2006. The Conference highlighted the role of tourism within the EU economy and the need to increase competitiveness of the European tourist industry. Among selected tools are:

- promotion of the extraordinary variety of European heritage, nature and culture
- environmental protection
- implementation of local Agendas 21 on tourism
- involvement in actions by communities and civil society
- development of a strong cooperation between the EU and its member states (and between public and private) by virtue of the subsidiarity principle.

A “European Agenda 21 for Tourism” to promote tourism sustainability is also announced, since the Commission will present a proposal for an Agenda 21 by 2007, based on input from the Tourism Sustainability Group, composed of tourism stakeholders in 2005.

This orientation is in line with a series of official positions that were issued in the last few years - such as the Commission Communication on basic orientations for the sustainability of European tourism (COM(2003)0716), the Conclusions by the WTO Regional Conference for Europe (Marienbad, 2004), the Basic guidelines for sustainable European tourism (European Parliament resolution Sept 2005-04/2229(INI)).

The Ministers’ Conference in Vienna also confirmed the need to develop a close partnership of the EU Commission with Member States’ authorities and the tourism stakeholders. Most important, the Conference recognizes that partnerships must be a central component of action at all levels (European, national, regional and local; public and private) to make European tourism policy complementary to policies carried out in Member States.

Indications emerging from the Conference were also inspired by the innovative thrust of several voluntary initiatives to improve environmental performance of accommodation businesses, with a special reference to the VISIT Life Project (quoted in the preparatory materials of the EU Commission) from which the VISIT Association was born. Since the beginning, the VISIT Association’s steady approach and methodology has been to adopt the sustainability criteria defined in the Common Basic Standards and to promote close cooperation with the tourist industry, based on business, environmental and tourist diversity in different countries. This approach helps incorporate actions towards sustainability by single accommodation businesses within the tourist setting in each country. It also tries to put subsidiarity between public and private into real practice, thus leading to common actions and methods at local community and government levels.

Based on this experience
, the VISIT Association feels to advise member ecolabels to declare themselves available to participate in discussion tables and experience exchange - within the frame of local and national agreements.

Further, the VISIT Association believes that any national agreements between VISIT ecolabels and Competent Bodies managing the EU-Flower may be favourably considered, when these arrangements provide for explicit authorisations and financial backing to promotional/dissemination activities on the EU-Flower to already ecolabelled businesses (by national or local awards) to make their course towards achieving the EU-Flower.

Sept 2006