Ask most international travelers about the eco-label that most comes to mind for sustainable tourism and the common answer given will be Europe’s VISIT eco-label. Yet, the European VISIT (Voluntary Initiative for Sustainability in Tourism) eco-label is actually a collaboration of existing tourism certification schemes throughout the continent. It’s not an eco-label as much as an association of sustainable tourism business and certification organizations.
Ecotourism is viewed differently in Europe than in the rest of the world given that its primary goal is to offer carbon neutral activities, such as kayaking and biking, that do not degrade the environment, rather than supporting the local economy or emphasizing cultural heritage. The purpose of VISIT is to increase awareness of the importance and success of the European eco-labeling system by:
- Achieving agreement with leading certification initiatives toward the development of a VISIT standard (including the incorporation of Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria – GSTC)
- Identifying highly reliable eco-labels with their individual strengths
- Raising the awareness for tourism eco-labels by creating a unified VISIT message
- Facilitating the access to all certified products through VISIT promotion and marketing
- Establishing a European Network of eco-labels
The VISIT eco-labels are comprised of:
- Italy’s Legambiente Turismo
- Switzerland’s Steinbock Label
- Austria’s Das Osterreichische Umweltzeichen für Tourismusbetriebe
- Latvia’s Zalas sertifikats
- Denmark’s Den Groenne Noegle (also shared with Estonia, Greenland, and Sweden)
- United Kingdom’s Green Tourism Business Scheme
- Sweden’s Nordic Swann (also shared with Denmark, Iceland, Finland, and Norway)
- Sweden’s Nature’s Best
- Netherland’s The Milieubarometer
- Luxembourg’s EcoLabel Luxembourg
- Spain’s El Distintivo de Garantia de Calidad Ambiental
- France’s La Clef Verte
- Blue Flag International (Worldwide)
With the exception of Italy’s Legambiente Turismo, Sweden’s Nature’s Best, Netherland’s The Milieubarometer, and the United Kingdom’s Green Tourism Business Scheme, all the other eco-labels are granted to accommodation sites and restaurants.
There are in fact, very few European ecotourism certification schemes that investigate whether tourism activities such as mountain biking, sailing, or rafting are damaging to the environment. The closest certification is the Blue Flag International scheme that focuses on tourist waste while at a beach or marina.