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A Harmonized Accommodation Grading System that Reduces co2 Emissions across Southern Africa

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  • 1.  A Harmonized Accommodation Grading System that Reduces CO2 Emissions Across Southern Africa    
  • 2. A Harmonized Accommodation Grading System that Reduces CO2 Emissions Across Southern Africa James MacGregor, President, ecoplan:net sarl,AbstractThe development of a comprehensive harmonized accommodation gradingsystem will be implemented by the 15 nations of RETOSA (Regional TourismOrganization of Southern Africa] by 2015. In 2011 a Framework Documentincluding a 4-year action plan from 2011 to 2015 was prepared. This wasfollowed by preparation of approximately 1,850 standards for six basiccategories of accommodation.The program is possibly the most comprehensive set of standards everdeveloped because it also integrates 60 responsible tourism and 40universal accessibility standards with the 200 quality assurancestandards. This will provide southern Africa member states with a gradingsystem that reflects the highest level of environmental and socialresponsibility while also providing facilities that are accessible to the disabled.Furthermore the standards reflect the most rigorous international levelstandards and will be mandatory when the program is launched. Theresponsible Tourism standards are designed to produce a 20% reduction inCO2 which will reduce emissions by approximately 1 billion kg./year by 2016Funding1. Preparation of Framework Document: Commonwealth Secretariat(London): Ms.Chanda Chellah, Advisor (Trade)2. Preparation of Harmonized Accommodation Grading Standards:RETOSA (Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa), JohannesburgOverall Project Management:RETOSA, Mr. Simba Mandinyenya, Planning and Development DirectorProject Consultant and Author:James MacGregor, President, ecoplan:net sarlThis paper was first presented at the International Institute ofPeace through Tourism Conference in Lusaka, Zambia in2011. It will be reprinted in the UNWTO Publication on‘Tourism and Climate Change’ for publication in early 2012.   2  
  • 3. 1. OverviewDespite continued market demand In 2010, RETOSA (Regionalfor recognized and credible Tourism Organization of Southerninternational tourist accommodation Africa) recognized the importancegrading systems, there continues to of accommodation grading systemsbe substantial confusion about the and decided to create a completelymerits of the various available harmonized system across the 15systems. Furthermore, in many countries in southern Africa, andcases there is an obvious including Mauritius and Seychelles.inconsistency from one national The overall goal of this ambitioussystem to another. A three-star project was to established rigorousrating in one country may not and comprehensive internationalreflect the same classification in level grading standards in concertanother. As well, with an annual with credible and coordinatedincrease in online bookings, the grading scheme within eachtravel consumers, more than ever, member nation.require a recognizedaccommodation grading system 2. The Processes ofthat is reliable. Despite theincreased use of user generated building the harmonizedcontent on the Internet grading scheme(TripAdvisor, Priceline.com, etc.]the time-tested star rating system The preparation of the harmonizedstill has substantial value and, for accommodation grading schememany travellers, is more important was developed over four phasesthan ever in their decision-making including; Phase 1: the preparation of a framework for the scheme, incorporating the identification of major issues and the resulting recommendations; Phase 2: the preparation of the individual standards; Phase 3: the integration of the various member nation grading systems into one harmonized grading scheme; and Phase 4: the launch of the overall program 2015. This article will address Phase 1 and Phase 2.     3  
  • 4. 2.1 Phase 1; 5. Identify a feedback mechanism structure to ensure the continualThe preparation of a improvement of the scheme;framework document 6. Integrate responsible tourism and universal accessibilityThe Framework document was standards with qualitylaunched with an October 2010 assurance standards;workshop where representatives 7. Identify funding sources tofrom the 15 member states develop the program.gathered in Johannesburg topresent the status of their individual The Commonwealth Secretariatnational schemes as well as funded the preparation of theidentify the major issues associated framework document.with establishing a harmonizedprogram across the region. Following an international competition, James MacGregorThey included the need for from the firm ecoplan:net was hiredrecommendations to: to undertake the research and prepare the required Framework.1. Select either a voluntary or As a first step in the preparation of mandatory harmonized grading the Framework, the consultant scheme; visited a number of member states2. Identify the needs for auditors including Tanzania, Zambia, South and supporting auditor/assessor Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique training; and Mauritius. This enabled a3. Create an overall management better understanding of the status structure that would enable of national grading schemes as RETOSA to develop and well as the obstacles to developing administer the system; both the national and regional4. Identify marketing channels and standards scheme. mechanisms to promote the system to consumers and travel trade;
  • 5. The status of the national schemes ministries of tourism and nationalvaried widely; from South Africa, tourism authorities; national andBotswana and Namibia which have regional tourism andmature and well developed accommodation associations;systems, to Tanzania which is NGO’s and individualintegrating its proposed scheme accommodation providers.into that of the East African Collectively these variousCommunity; to Swaziland which is stakeholders can offer a substantialin the early stages of development. contribution to the preparation of the harmonized accommodationThe country visits as well as grading scheme.reviews of other internationalsystems provided the basis for a D] The overall marketing and“Recommendations Report” that promotion of the harmonizedoffered a preliminary response and program will be the responsibility ofa direction to the above-mentioned RETOSA however, it will requireissues. These recommendations substantial support from individualwere subsequently submitted at a member countries as well as their2-day RETOSA Technical associated accommodationCommittee Workshop in June associations and providers.2011. A brief summary of theresults of the discussions included: E] A feedback mechanism will be set up to enable the consumer andA] There was overwhelming the travel trade [foreign andsupport for the development of a receptive tour operators andmandatory, rather than wholesalers] to evaluate thevoluntary, harmonized systems property within the context of theacross the member nations. There prescribed rating. Feedback will beis currently a 50/50 split and a 3 provided at the ministry/tourismphase process was proposed to authority, tourism accommodationhave all systems mandatory by association, and accommodation2015. provider level.B) Lack of qualified auditors is The results will be consolidated byone of the more serious issues RETOSA and contribute to the on-facing individual member nation going upgrading of thegrading systems. This will be accommodation standards.addressed during theimplementation of the program with F] Social and environmentallythe design and delivery of auditor responsible standards, includingtraining programs throughout the fair trade practices, as well asregion. universal accessibility standards will be integrated into the national C] RETOSA will be the and regional harmonizedorganization tasked with accommodation grading program.coordinating the integration of Furthermore they will be givenvarious national grading substantial influence in determiningsystems into one harmonized the overall rating of each property.grading program. However it wellrequire the complete support fromall other stakeholders including:   5  
  • 6. With upwards of 20% to 25% of The standards would be integratedsource markets having residents into the overall system making itwith disabilities it is now considered one of the first in the world to bemandatory to have at least basic comprehensive and inclusive.Universal Accessibility standards inplace. The RETOSA Accommodation Rating Harmonizing Framework Diagram   6  
  • 7. G] Funding will come from tourism attraction. Usually full-several different sources. For service and include a variety ofinstance project support would be recreation activities.from donors for activities such astraining workshops and the 3. Self-catering Apartments -preparation of technical manuals, including the required amenitiesdevelopment of marketing strategy for meal preparation but alsoand communication plans, etc. including housekeepingProject based funding could also services.be used to both promote thescheme to the regional and 4. Nature lodges - full serviceinternational markets as well accommodation facility locatedenhance communication between within or adjacent to naturalmember nations. areas. Sub categories could include game or safari lodge,Following a complete review by the ecolodge, game reserves.technical committee the consultantprepared the final Framework 5. Guesthouses - a facility thatDocument, which was presented to offers more limited lodgingthe representatives of the member services but includes a commonnations in early September, 2011. area shared by guests and hostThe presentation also included an and may or may not includeoutline of the action plan and cost housekeeping servicesestimates required to launch the Breakfast provided.program by early 2015. Activitieswere outlined on a quarter by 6. Campgrounds - An area withquarter basis from late 2011 campsites or pads designed forthrough to the middle of 2015. mobile accommodation (motor home, caravan) and/or tents2.2 Phase 2: The providing essential facilitiesPreparation of the and services and selectGrading Standards. recreational activities.Ecoplan:net was also hired, by A number of well-known and respected accommodation gradingRETOSA, to prepare the individualstandards for six selected systems at the international level were also analysed andcategories. These categories consequently provided someincluded; direction for the harmonization1. Urban hotels - those located in scheme. They included, in part, the urban or near urban locations Qualmark system from New with particular services for the Zealand, the AA rating system in business traveller. Typically full the UK, the new French hotel rating service. scheme, as well as select standards from the Brazil, Irish and2. Resorts + Vacation hotel - Scottish programs. typically located within a tourism destination and adjacent to a At the regional level South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia feature of interest such as lakes, beaches, rivers or provided an excellent source of standards. Finally the East Africa   7  
  • 8. Community (ECA) standards were tourism and the 40 universalconsidered as an important source, accessibility standards for eachparticularly with the possibility of category of accommodation. Asintegrating East Africa standards well these standards representwith the Southern African in, say, approximately 30% of the total2016. number of standards so their impact is significant. Several newer2.2.1 The integration of grading systems, developed withinresponsible tourism and the past few years, have added a few environmental standards butuniversal accessibility they have relatively little influencestandards with the on the final rating of the property.quality assurance The responsible tourism standards, within this RETOSA harmonizedstandards. system, will however be specific and comprehensive. As well theThe complete incorporation of universal accessibility standardsresponsible tourism and universal refer to actual dimensions andaccessibility standards with quality spatial requirements that need toassurance represents one of the be respected to achieve a grade.first efforts, world-wide, to combinea comprehensive set of standards This program identifies more thanthat embraces the entire 1,850 standards across the sixaccommodation product. Several accommodation categories.countries have an independentecotourism, sustainability, or green Collectively they will ensure acertification program, however substantially level protection for thethese environmental programs are local environment, greatertypically separate from the basic integration of the facility into theaccommodation rating system. community, and assured access to many more individuals withOf significance is the integration of disabilities.approximately 60 responsible         8  
  • 9. 2.2.2 Reducing carbon UNWTO proposals to reduce accommodation related Greenemissions across house gases by 30% in 2020.southern Africa Furthermore the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC)The southern Africa tourist proposes a 50% reduction inaccommodation sector does not accommodation greenhouse gasesitself generate comparatively by 2035. The RETOSA projections,significant levels of CO2. therefore, seem to be realistic andNevertheless a concentrated effort in keeping with other internationalacross the approximately 20,000 agencies.properties [by 2015] can still makea meaningful contribution to By using the average daily CO2reducing CO2. Few production figures from the Worldaccommodation grading systems Resource Institute it is possible totake this issue into account. calculate the decrease inHowever when designing the emissions. It appears that thesesystem within the context of standards, particularly becausegrowing concern for climate change they are mandatory, would haveit is possible to integrate particular the significant effect of reducingstandards that will contribute emissions from the accommodationdirectly to reducing accommodation sector. It is estimated that CO2related CO2. The responsible emissions will be reduced bytourism standards, in particular, approximately 1 billion kg of CO2have been specifically designed to per year across southern Africa byreduce carbon emissions. In fact 2016.the scheme should result in anoverall reduction of CO2 byapproximately 20% by 2015. Thiswould seem to be in keeping with   9  
  • 10. • Carbon emission standards • The introduction of short duration local tours usingFurthermore implementing the bicycles and low-impact waterstandards would not necessarily be transport. These trips alsoonerous on the operations of even encourage an extended lengththe smaller facilities such as of stay thus requiring lessguesthouses and self-catering travel.apartments. In most cases the • Preparation of manuals thatstandards will actually result in demonstrate to employees andreduction of the overall operational the adjacent communities thecosts. Specific standards that have various techniques for reducingbeen identified to reduce CO2 greenhouse gases [GHG]include; • Annual audits to identify how• Generating at least 50% of targets can be met with respect energy from alternative sources to local purchasing, reduced in 4 and 5 star properties travel, improved energy• Extensive use of energy saving conservation, etc. appliances, compact • The regular use of reusable fluorescence or LED lighting, rather than disposable materials and the use of equipment such and equipment. as solar ovens where applicable • Working with distributors and such as in the lodge operations suppliers to ensure as much• Substantial reduction in recycling as possible transportation related fuel • Energy reduction through consumption through local decreasing demand for hot purchases. This is a significant water and preference for natural consideration in southern Africa ventilation and ceiling fan over where so many products used air conditioning by the accommodation sector, Of coarse many of the currently throughout the region, come accepted standards, such as a from Johannesburg, usually by towel and linen re-use programs, transport truck. room sensors and the use of• Use of carbon credits for compact fluorescent light bulbs administrative and marketing have been integrated the overall related travel program.• Energy and water conservation education programs in local communities• Concerted visitor awareness programs to encourage reducing water and energy requirements• On-going climate change related discussions with the local communities to ensure the residents are doing their best to reduce CO2 emissions.   10  
  • 11. 3. Benefits to the Other benefits that will contribute substantially to the improvement ofSouthern Africa tourism the Southern Africaindustry and the accommodation product and itsaccommodation sector competitiveness include;Since this harmonization scheme is • The new standards willthe first of its kind in the world, stimulate significant upgradeswhen fully developed it should be across all accommodationable to solicit substantial media categories. Facilities that wishattention and exposure for to emulate internationalSouthern Africa. standards must make the effort to ensure that, say, their four-However the greater benefits will star property is equivalent to thecome from those long-haul travel same grade in the sourceconsumers who appreciate that the markets.grading system is equivalent or • The development of the newmore rigorous than those systems harmonized system will includefound in Europe and North the delivery of training programsAmerica. This is particularly for auditors and gradingimportant to both the individual FIT officers. This information willtraveller as well as the tour then be distributed to theoperator since much of the travel to accommodation suppliers andthe region is multi-destination and will further contribute to producttypically includes visits to several upgrades and improvementscountries. The travel consumer • With a harmonized system inwants to know that a three-star place, southern Africa willproperty in one southern Africa become competitive with othercountry is the equivalent to a three- multi nation regionalstar property in another location. destinations where there may be a lack of consistency inThe notion of a harmonized grading product quality across eachsystem that blankets all of these country.nations reinforces the concept ofsouthern Africa as a unified • The pricing structure across thedestination. This is particularly various nations will be moreimportant for the long-haul traveller credible. Despite slight areawho prefers an extended stay [10 conditions, the rates for a three-days or more] and a visit to several star guesthouse in one countrydifferent countries. should not be noticeably different from those in another.   11  
  • 12. 4. ConclusionThe Harmonization of About the Authoraccommodation grading standardsacross this multi-nation destinationregion is an essential to position James is an internationallySouthern Africa in the international recognized sustainable tourismmarketplace. However the initiative consultant with more than 35 yearsrequires a major effort on behalf of of experience 22 countriesnumerous stakeholders at both the including Africa and North Africa,regional and national level, But South East Asia, North, South andthere is commitment at all levels. Central American and EasternUnder the direction of RETOSA, Europe.the various nations are movingquickly to adopt or integrate the Several of his mandates have beennew standards. awarded prestigious international awards including, most recently,This effort demonstrates that the 2009 and 2010 Tourism forsouthern Africa believes Tomorrow Award from the Worldunequivocally that tourism will play Tourism and Travel Council.a central role in the economicdevelopment of the region. As with He has established a reputation forany product, quality assurance and developing responsible tourismenvironmental responsibility are destination management plans andcritical to the commercial and social effective marketing and investmentsuccess of the business. strategies, sustainable tourism products and attractions, and moreAs tourism expands exponentially recently certification and gradingover the next two decades, programs.particularly with travel from BRICSnations, southern Africa is clearly His training programs, which havepositioned to be a major destination also won of the Green Globefor these emerging markets as well Achievement award, have beenas maintain or strengthen their offered to more than 6000market share in their traditional participants in 12 countries andmarkets. several languages.Harmonization of the James can be reached at;accommodation standards and theresulting product upgrades and jmacgregor@ecoplannet.comimprovements are a significant part  of that process.     12  

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