• Sabi Sabi

    Photo credit by Sabi Sabi Game Reseve, Kruger National Park, South Africa

  • Tswalu

    Photo credit by Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

  • IMG_3851

    Photo credit by !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre, Western Cape, South Africa

  • Amakhala

    Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Q: Can Certification be counted as Responsible Tourism? A: No.


Professor of responsible tourism Harold Goodwin argues that responsible tourism can not rely on certification when making decisions.

Sustainable and Responsible Tourism are not the same thing, responsibility requires transparency about what you are doing and being held to account. Certification meets neither of these criteria.

I am going visit an arid area where water shortages are serious and where the local community is often without piped potable water. Will certification enable me to choose a hotel with the best, or even a good record, in the destination. No.

I choose a Gold standard certified property. I arrive, to find the air-con on in the room down to 15°C, the TV is on to welcome me, the slot on the wall where the room key is supposed to activate the lights is overridden by a piece of cardboard.  I leave my used towels carefully on the rack and return to find that they have been changed. I am offended, what remedy is open to me? How do I hold the management to account?

If I complain at the front desk or to the manager they’ll scapegoat the room attendant. I have been mis-sold but I have no legal remedy against the hotel – they did not award themselves the Gold Star – I might have a case if they falsely claim a Gold Star, or their certification is out of date. But that is generally not the issue.

The people who ought to be held to account are the certificate issuing company or NGO – but the client does not have any kind of contract with those responsible for the false claims.

So no one can be held to account for the mis-selling. Irresponsibility prevails.

Harold Goodwin is a professor of responsible tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University, as well as an author. His most recent book is Taking Responsibility for Tourism. For more information visit www.haroldgoodwin.info.


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