Africa mulls tourism certification framework to manage water and waste

10/11/2016
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Experts at the ongoing climate talks in Marrakech have advocated the development and adoption of a policy and strategic framework that support expansion and mainstreaming of sustainable tourism certification in Africa.

Speaking at the side event on sustainable tourism certification in Africa organised by the African Natural Resources Centre (ANRC) of the African Development Bank on Day 2 of the COP22 climate conference, water and tourism experts were unanimous in their view that African states should encourage and incentivise green certification of tourism, specifically in relation to monitoring and reducing water and waste.

This, according to them, will allow existing African and international certification programs to have adequate criteria and established processes and systems for working with the hotel sector to assess and monitor their waste and water management systems.

In addition to other environmental and socio-economic components of sustainable tourism, the framework will provide a mechanism to recognise that certification standards use a common and comprehensive approach to sustainability.

The mechanism will also summarise existing monitoring data being gathered by national tourism authorities and international/regional certification bodies specifically relating to the accommodation sector in Africa.

Setting the stage for discussions, Tarek Ahmed of the African Natural Resources Centre stated that “water can no longer be managed in isolation of other sectors and in order to measure the dependency between water and the sector that uses it, we have to put in place some sort of measuring tools.

“Hotel certification displaying hotel guest consumption of water and production of water goes a long way in assisting governments to determine the gains from reducing environmental consumption for the good of the whole society,” Ahmed said.

According to Anna Spenceley, a consultant with the African Development Bank, African states can integrate sustainability criteria into their hotel quality-rating programs as a way of supporting Sustainable Development Goal 12, which places emphasis on responsible consumption and production, and also contribute to the objectives of the United Nations 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Tourism.

Jean Michel Ossete, the Acting Coordinator of the African Water Facility (AWF), said the AfDB could support its member states to raise awareness on the benefits of sustainable tourism certification in Africa particularly among those with low levels of certification. He said the Bank could assist in improving linkages between established certification programs and member states, where there the program is aligned with the country’s objectives, and provide guidance on the design and implementation of incentives to promote improved waste and water management.

Recognising that sustainable tourism certification provides an independent mechanism for evaluating and measuring water and waste management in African hotels, Oseloka Zikora of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) advocated support for the development of national waste and water management capacity, to ensure that countries are able and willing to establish an enabling policy framework for good practices, and that hotels can implement them. 

For his part, Emad Hassan of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Alliance recommended the adoption of a train-the-trainers approach to making the outreach cost-effective and locally relevant, as well as establish an online resource library containing tools on waste and water management, training guides and case study examples.

Reasoning along the same line, the Chief Executive Officer of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Ahmed Abou Elseoud, urged stakeholders on the need to develop external coordination and cooperation mechanisms to ensure good communication, linkages and compatible approaches.

Among the strategic partners identified were multilaterals such as the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), bilateral organisations such as the German development agency GiZ, and NGOs like the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the Travel Foundation and International Tourism Partnership, and also networks such as the Sustainable Tourism Certification Alliance Africa.

Collectively, the African and international certification programs have certified at least 715 accommodation facilities in 19 African countries, against their environmental, social and economic criteria.

Though the total actual number of hotels in Africa is not known, Booking.com lists 20,844 hotels in 51 of Africa’s 52 countries. It therefore implies that the number of hotels that are monitoring their waste and water consumption, and taking efforts to improve their practices, are a tiny proportion of the number of accommodation facilities on the continent.

The African Natural Resources Center remains poised to collaborate with governments of AfDB member states as well stakeholders in developing Africa’s natural resources to benefit as many sectors as possible, notably tourism.