Deconstructing United Kingdom’s Green Tourism Business Scheme

With tourism a very important part of the economy, the United Kingdom has worked diligently for decades to make sustainability and green tourism a mainstream concept – and it is working! According to Green Business UK Ltd.,”demand has grown for simple labels that allow consumers to make purchasing decisions based on environmental and ethical grounds as consumers become increasingly aware of sustainability issues.”

Originally developed in partnership with the tourism board of Scotland and administered by the non-profit Green Business UK Ltd., the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) focuses primarily on sustainable tourism versus ecotourism. Nonetheless, it is a rigorous program that has more than 150 criteria within 10 different areas including:

  1. Compliance with existing environmental legislation and commitment to continuous improvement in environmental performance
  2. Demonstrated environmental management including staff training, monitoring and record keeping
  3. Social involvement and communication of environmental actions to customers
  4. Energy efficiency
  5. Water efficiency
  6. Purchasing of environmentally friendly good and services through suppliers
  7. Waste minimization
  8. Promotion of alternative or public transport to visitors
  9. Natural and cultural heritage aimed at increasing biodiversity of wildlife
  10. Innovative practices to increase the business’ sustainability

The voluntary program is open to all accommodation providers, visitor attractions, activity providers, food and retail outlets, and conference venues that already are in good standing with a National Quality Assurance Scheme standard such as VisitScotland, VisitBritain, and VisitWales. Depending on the degree of fulfillment of the above criteria, there are three awards for businesses, namely Bronze, Silver and Gold. The award process is as follows:

  1. Ecotour operator provides documentation that they are a member of good standing with a National Quality Assurance Scheme and expresses an interest in joining the Green Tourism Business Scheme
  2. The operator then completes an application and submits a pro-rated fee based on the number of employees of the business
  3. A GTBS grading advisor conducts an onsite visit to assess the ecotour operator’s business standards against the criteria
  4. Depending on the number of implemented criteria and measures, the operator is awarded Bronze (fulfilling at least 35 criteria in total), Silver or Gold (fulfilling at least 65 criteria in total) status
  5. The operator is reassessed every 2-3 years and investigated if there are any complaints received about the environmental performance or commitment of the business

Upon award, each business has access to case studies, technologies, training, and financial support toward achieving even higher ratings.

Click here for more information and a listing of tour operator companies that have been awarded the GTBS.

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