According to a survey conducted by, 85% of respondents indicate that they are looking for “more sustainable travel offers”. In addition to this, consumers are becoming more aware of greenwashing claims and are wanting to see hard evidence for sustainability claims.

Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and other organisations have started to respond to this change by showcasing accommodation providers sustainability certifications on their business profile. This allows consumers to filter, identify and book sustainable products and helps to build awareness amongst consumers.

Whilst there is positive uptake with stakeholders undertaking sustainability certification, there is also a growing number of certifications entering the market, making it fragmented and confusing for the consumer.

In response to this confusion, there has been an increase in both regional and national tourism boards and destination management organisation developing their own certification schemes or creating a recognition scheme that recognises existing schemes that are present within the destination.

Building a destination wide scheme, provides the consumer with one clear certificate to look out for and helps local stakeholders to promote their sustainability success in a transparent way. At Acorn Tourism, we have been working with National Tourism Boards, supporting them in developing a strategy to support certification improvement ands recognition within their destination.

There are two main frameworks, as mentioned above. The rest of this article lays out these two structures, using case study examples, that may support you as a destination manager when thinking about going down this journey.

Building a national sustainability scheme from scratch:

This strategy has been used by several destinations worldwide and especially popular for destinations that do not have a significant number of certification bodies being used by stakeholders within the destination.

Destinations, usually with the support of external consultants will build a certification framework that can be implemented by their stakeholders. The benefits of building such a scheme, is that it can be tailored to the destination, unlike nationwide schemes that are universal and can be hard for some stakeholders to implement.

An example of a successful destination sustainability certification scheme is Costa Rica, which is GSTC recognised. The scheme was developed in 1997 by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute and provides guidelines hotel properties and service providers to build their business model based on the best sustainable tourism practices.

The scheme has been a great success in Costa Rica and has helped to build recognition for those businesses that are making a positive change. Find out more about the scheme here.

Building an umbrella sustainable certification recognition scheme:

This is approach by destinations is has come about in the last four years, with only a small handful of destinations currently running such schemes. As mentioned above they are popular and work well within destinations that already have several certification schemes being utilised by local stakeholders. This approach recognises these existing certifications and labels the partaking stakeholders with a national recognition label. In short, they are not reinventing the wheel by creating yet another certification scheme in an already fragmented market.

An example of a successful umbrella recognition scheme is the Swisstainable Model, which was launched in 2021. It has been developed as a three-level scheme, with the top level being awarded to stakeholders that hold a robust sustainability certification. The three-level scheme provides a steppingstone entry for stakeholders that are very new to sustainability and allows them to start their journey and work their way up to the top recognition.

When stakeholders sign up for the Swisstainable scheme they are provided with self-assessment tools, best practice, and several other benefits to support them on their journey.

From November 2023 the scheme had 2,400 businesses registered to the scheme, spanning all three levels. Find out more about the Swisstainable Model here.

Are you thinking about setting up a national certification scheme or identifier? Here at Acorn Tourism would be happy to discuss this with you and help you decide which route to go down and build your strategy. Please contact Alison Burgh on


Sustainable Tourism Strategy for the Falkland Islands
Strategic Planning
Sustainable Tourism Strategy for the Falkland Islands

Developed an eight-year Tourism Development Strategy for the Falkland Islands with the aim of increasing tourism numbers and expenditure, lengthening the season, and creating an industry that will provide better employment opportunities for the population.

Sustainable Tourism Landscape in England - Certification and Support
Market Research
Certified Hotel in England

Research was undertaken for VisitEngland to help understand the current state of sustainability within the tourism industry in England to help guide the development of their sustainability strategy.

Jordan Sustainable Tourism Programme 2021-25
Strategic Planning
Jordan, Wadi Rum

The overarching objective of the Jordan Sustainable Tourism Programme 2021-25 is to support the Jordanian tourism sector to operate in a more sustainable and responsible manner. We are supporting local partners to work towards this common goal, encouraging collaboration between the public and private sector and to plan for and develop a diversified offer focused on ecotourism, community-based tourism and protection of the natural environment and marine reserves.



Nobody has commented on this post yet, why not send us your thoughts and be the first?