France Leads On Ecotourism

France Leads On Ecotourism

France leads on ecotourism



Eco-friendly tourist accommodation on the rise

Sustainable tourism is becoming ever more mainstream. Ecotourism, no longer necessarily a walk through the wilderness, can be experienced closer to home: travellers mindful of their environmental impact, who take measures in their daily life to reduce this impact, expect to be able to find their values reflected and enhanced in their holiday accommodation, without having to pay a premium. Good business sense on the owners’ part also guides them towards the adoption of energy-saving measures and other sustainability-oriented actions. 


In the label jungle

There are an ever increasing number of ‘green’ tourist-related certifying schemes in Europe, as is the case globally, in particular in the area of accommodation, which can leave the consumer in a state of some natural confusion. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which has regularly analysed environmental labelling for more than twenty years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of environmental labelling and information schemes, especially in the period 2007-2010.(1) While many of these voluntary schemes share a common approach and ethos, they vary greatly in terms of credibility, as there is a tendency towards self-regulation of the application of their standards.


France ahead in Europe

EU EcolabelThe one scheme valid in all European Union member countries, and certified by an independent organization in each country is the EU Ecolabel for tourist accommodation, which was developed in 2003 alongside the Ecolabels already awarded to a range of environmentally-friendly products – the difference being the establishment of the label in relation to a service. The country with the highest number of accredited establishments is France: 352 out of a total of over 600 in the whole of Europe. Certain regions of France, like Brittany and Provence-Alps- Cote d’Azur are amongst those that have accumulated the highest number of tourist accommodation Ecolabels. Others are Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes, where there is a recognition of the importance of sustainable tourism and a corresponding dynamic of support for the certication at the level of the regional administration.


Strength in diversity and discipline

For Philippe Mangin, collaboration and cooperation between the eco-labelled establishments is key. He is president of the Ecolabel Club of Poitou-Charentes, which regroups 36 members. They work together to share their knowledge and experience with each other and to achieve greater visibility collectively. He explains, « Today, with around thirty members, we are much more structurally diverse, with membership prole ranging from big hotels, to campsites, to rental accommodation and bed and breakfasts (for the owners of which,it is not their principal livelihood). »


However, they all have to adhere to, at a minimum, the thirty-odd base criteria. These cover commitments in the following areas: low energy consumption; low water consumption; low waste production; use of renewable energy sources and of substances that are less harmful for the environment; communication and education of the clients regarding the environment. The adherence to these criteria is strictly monitored by Afnor, the French certifying body, who grants the Ecolabel in the rst instance and carries out audits every two years, to check that standards have been not only maintained but improved – this being an inherent part of the Ecolabel certification.


Learning with nature

France AgritourismPascale Charlassier runs a holiday village near the Atlantic coast in an area known for its sand dunes and pine forests (the Landes). She was inspired to apply for the certification by a local campsite that had obtained the Ecolabel. It was a way of highlighting and formalizing their existing best practices in relation to the environment. The educative dimension is very important. For example, she explains, « We have a pedagogical vegetable garden, and we use the compost [made from waste food] to feed the garden. In this way, urban kids gain a better understanding about the provenance of their food ». Exhibits for the adults focus on aspects of local biodiversity such as marine and bird life. This tied in well with the fact that there is a conscious drive on the part of the municipality in their immediate area (Seignanx) to promote its natural capital and attract visitors who are appreciative of these facets. 


Save energy, cut costs

A reduction in the ecological footprint of any tourist accommodation entails a certain initial investment, but the economic benefits to the owners are clear. Kusters, campsite owner in the Dordogne, explains that he initially signed up to the Ecolabel primarily as «a tool for internal management». Checking for water leaks every day and installing thermostatic mixing-valves in showers and flow-restrictors in taps ensures a reduced water bill, while better insulation and other energy-efficient measures in relation to heating and electricity can lead to appreciable annual savings. For hotels, getting rid of the individual packets of butter, sugar, jam, shampoo, etc. reduces expenditure overall as well as cutting down on waste. Subsidies from regional state bodies in Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes are also in place to facilitate the procedure for establishments that undertake to obtain the Ecolabel and need to carry out renovations.


Towards convergence: the bigger picture

According to a recent study (2) consumers care about the source of the label and the quality of information it contains. Government labels are more likely to be trusted than corporate ones. The EU Ecolabel criteria for Tourist accommodation services and Campsite services are currently under revision, and indications are that closer alignment with other existing schemes are to take place. Candela Vidal-Abarca Garrido at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre explains more: « … the revised proposal suggests the inclusion of social criteria aligned to other environmental schemes that deal with wider sustainability issues» (e.g. Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria, Green Globe Certification). The revised criteria will also be even more ambitious, for example in terms of increased electricity procurement through renewable energy.

To find out more:


by Bridget FARRELL


 France EU Ecolabel ecotourism 

AND INFORMATION SCHEMES (ELIS), OECD Trade and Environment Working Paper

(2) Signaling the Green Sell: The Inuence of Eco-Label Source, Argument Specicity, and Product Involvement on
Consumer Trust, L. Atkinson & S. Rosenthal


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