Will VisitBritain miss the Green Boat?


VisitBritain - the marketing agency for British tourism - has a clearly stated policy to green the whole of the British tourism offer.

The organisation’s mission is to 'Take Green Tourism from Niche to Mainstream by 2010' and its tag line states 'Promoting Sustainable Businesses – Encouraging Responsible Visitors'. It couldn’t get much more straightforward than that. However, of England’s 59,000 known tourism establishments (hotels and visitor attractions), currently just 300 have expressed interest in VisitBritain’s Green Tourism accreditation scheme.

The problem is a relatively short-term one. By 2010, a basic level of sustainable operating will be part of VisitBritain’s quality standard assessments. So, by then, if you’re not operating at a basic green level, it’s unlikely that you’ll get rated at all. 'No Sustainability – 'No Stars ... No Stars – No Website Entry' will wield the big stick in two years time at hotels and guest houses who rely on VisitBritain’s global marketing to attract their guests.

The meantime is, however, a problem. With tourism destinations all over the globe rushing to prove their green credentials, VisitBritain cannot afford to miss the boat. Tourism is an unforgiving industry and, once seduced away by better offers and more effective marketing, it will take time and effort to get regular green visitors back again.

VisitBritain’s Green Start programme was launched at the recent BTTF. In association with Green Tourism (the Green Tourism Business Scheme), Green Start incorporated the following facets -

  • An entry-level programme that will be free to the first 500 applicants, relying on a self-certification programme designed by Green Tourism to get businesses on the first rung of the green step-ladder. Initial target 2,500 businesses;
  • In a hiking-up of the green auditors’ qualifications, the International Centre for Responsible Tourism has been appointed to audit the auditors. The first certification agency to pass the ICRT test is Green Tourism;
  • VisitBritain has established a search facility on its website for green businesses, so that interested visitors can search for green-accredited accommodation. Only properly certified establishments will be featured.

It remains to be seen if this is enough. The fact is that only 50% of English tourism business are currently quality standard assessed at all, so even when 2010 arrives, the maximum that England can expect is 'halfgreen'.

It would be a pity if Britain - once seen as one of the world’s greatest heritage destinations - were to miss the Green Boat.

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