Tour Operators – Become CertifiedRandy Durband2024-01-31T14:50:32+08:00
Why Become a Certified Tour Operator?
Being certified by an Accredited Certification Body (CB) means that your operations comply with the highest social and environmental standards on the market. As public concern grows about the harmful effects and the positive impacts of travel and tourism, certification provides a credible solution to complex environmental and social issues.
Being certified by an Accredited Certification Body means that your tourism product or service complies with the highest social and environmental standards on the market. As public concern grows about the harmful effects and the positive impacts of travel and tourism, certification provides you a credible solution to complex environmental and social issues. Businesses certified by a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body, meeting all the GSTC Criteria (or a GSTC-Recognized Standard), have the highest level of assurance* and credibility available. With an accredited certification, customers and buyers are assured that the business was certified in a credibly verified procedure in a transparent, impartial, and competent manner.
Logo for businesses certified to the GSTC Criteria
Travel providers proudly display information regarding their certificate and the certifying body that issued it. Doing so informs your stakeholders — from customers to ownership and to your supply chain — that your business is operated with sound management that looks to the future and not merely at today. Businesses certified by a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body can display a unique GSTC logo with a traceable code.
Increasingly, travelers and your fellow travel provider clients are seeking confirmation that sustainability practices are in place. Also increasingly, travel companies are looking for a product that is not only certified sustainable, but certified sustainable by a certification program that is GSTC Accredited. For example, Royal Caribbean Cruises give preferential buying treatment, when feasible, to operators of shore excursions that are certified by a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body. MSC Cruises follow a similar model. Other travel providers give preferential buying treatment to suppliers that are certified sustainable.
Join the growing number of tour operators throughout the world that have become certified sustainable, here is how.
How To Become Certified: Key Stages
1. Compare and Select a Certification Body Choose from the list below, of “Certification Bodies” that are Accredited or “Certification Schemes” that are committed to partnering exclusively with accredited Certification Bodies.
2. Register and/or Contract with a Certification Body The Certification Body may require tour operators to officially register, fill out an application and pay a one-time fee. Some certification bodies may require tour operators to enter into a contract with the certification body. Prior to starting the certification process, some certification bodies offer the option to conduct a short self-evaluation to determine if certification is worth the time, money and effort. Costs may be associated with this step.
3. Submit Application/Documentary Evidence to the Certification Body When ready to formally start the certification process, the tour operator will submit an application. The certification body will request information and various business documents to see how the tour operator’s practices and procedures comply with the GSTC standard. The documents should be submitted within the deadline stipulated by the Certification Body. The Certification Body will review all documentation submitted and compare to their GSTC Recognized Standard. During this period the Certification Body will consult the tour operator to clarify any questions about its operations. The length of this process can vary depending on the extent of the tour operator’s documented policies.
4. Onsite Audit The Certification Body will visit the tour operator’s office to see how its policies are put into action. A part of the Certification Body’s process would also evaluate a sample of Tour Operators’ services providers that represents the whole group to ensure that those service providers are in line with its declared business practices. After the Certification Body’s assessment, the tour operator should have a chance to view a draft report and voice any factual objections. This period allows the operator to contest or provide any supporting information to support certification. The Certification Body’s report will then be finalized, shared with the tour operator, concluding whether certification can be awarded.
5. Certification issued Certification is issued once the Certification Body has confirmed that the tour operator meets the GSTC standard. A formal certificate will be issued by the Certification Body. If the certification application is not approved right away, the assessor would provide the tour operator with recommendations and corrective actions. Tour operators can then work with the Certification Body’s dedicated customer service representative to show the Certification Body that these corrective actions have been followed, so the tour operator can achieve certification. Tour operators should check with the Certification Body to see when the certification renewal process should begin. It generally is between 4-6 weeks prior to the expiration of certification.
GSTC-Accredited Certification Bodies for Tour Operators
Tour Operators and tourism land transport providers may gain certification to the GSTC Criteria by contacting one of the organizations here. These certification providers fall into two types: Certification Bodies that are accredited to certify, and Certification Schemes that provide pre-certification consulting and training and guide the client to an accredited Certification Body to complete the certification. As such, these certification programs and their certificate-holders are authorized to display the designated GSTC Logo (per the terms of formal licensing agreements with the GSTC).
Bureau Veritas is a world leader in testing, inspection and certification services. Since its creation in 1828, Bureau Veritas has been supporting its clients on every continent to continually improve their performance via certification of management systems, product certifications and customized audits. The Group has more than 78,000 employees located in more than 1,500 offices and laboratories around the globe. Bureau Veritas helps its clients improve their performance by offering services and innovative solutions, in order to ensure that their assets, products, infrastructure and processes meet standards and regulations in terms of quality, health and safety, environmental protection and social responsibility.
Control Union Certifications offers a global one-stop-shop for a wide range of certification programmes. We understand the importance of impartiality and objectivity, and how to professionally manage conflicts of interest. From the beginning, sustainability has been the main focus of our certification services. Control Union Certifications presents a wide range of programmes in agriculture, food, feed, forest products, textiles and bio energy. In 2016, Control Union Certifications became the first Accredited CAB for the GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which provides the highest level in terms of credibility within the GSTC Integrity program. This means that Control Union Certifications can certify hotels and tour operators directly against the GSTC Criteria.
RoyalCert is a reputable certification body based in Germany, operating in 25 countries globally. RoyalCert offer assessment and certification services to a wide range of industries, including Tourism Industry, and serving thousands of customers. RoyalCert core strength lies in their experienced auditors, who have over 20 years of auditing expertise. The company is committed to sustainable growth and adheres to high ethical standards, focusing on integrity and customer satisfaction. By partnering with RoyalCert, customers can improve their operations, enhance business performance, and make a positive impact on society and the environment.
United Certification Systems Limited (UCSL) is an independent international certification body with Headquarters in EU and operating globally (except Türkiye). UCSL is accredited for various volunteer sustainability certification schemes including Hotels & Tour Operators (GSTC), Marine (ASC, MSC), Global Sustainable Enterprise System (GSES) etc. The team of certification body involves numerous experts and professionals with vast local and international experience in the auditing and sustainability sector. UCSL aims to contribute to the UN SDGs, environmental well-being of the planet through provision of excellent services to like-minded sustainable businesses.
Vireo Srl is a certification company whose commercial activities consist of providing Italian and foreign companies with environmental certification services. Vireo provides worldwide recognized environmental certification schemes such as FSC, MSC, and GSTC – as a GSTC-Accredited certification body. The professional approach and deep knowledge of standards are the key elements that mark Viero’s services. Based in Padova, Italy, Vireo has international experience and works with professional and highly qualified auditors.
The Mauritius Standards Bureau (MSB) is a non-profit parastatal body in the island of Mauritius that certifies Hotels & Accommodations and Tour Operators operating within the Mauritian jurisdiction and territories, as per the GSTC-Recognized Standard MS 165 (Sustainable Tourism Management System) labelled as the Blue Oasis. MSB holds a prominent regional and international presence, contributing to standardization and conformity assessment bodies. The paramount goal of MSB is to drive industrial advancement and foster economic expansion in Mauritius, by boosting the local tourism industry towards sustainability.
* The above certification programs are Accredited for compliance with the requirements of the GSTC Accreditation Manual. These are considered “Certification Bodies” according to relevant ISO standards, the ISEAL Alliance Assurance Code, and the GSTC Accreditation Manual. Accredited means that the certification procedures largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence.
The above Certification Bodies have been Accredited for compliance with the requirements of the Manual for GSTC Accreditation. GSTC-Accredited mean that the certification procedures largely meet international standards for transparency, impartiality, and competence.
Certification by a Certification Body whose standard is “GSTC Recognized” does NOT carry the same meaning as certification by a Certification Body that is accredited by GSTC. “GSTC Recognized” relates to a published set of standards and NOT to the process of certification or accreditation.
3rd-party certification by an Accredited Certification Body (impartiality is certain) 3rd-party verification (impartiality is not certain) 2nd-party verification (not impartial) 1st-party self-assessment No verification at all
Sample Questions to Ask a Certification Body:
How much will it cost to become certified? Do you offer group pricing in order to reduce costs? Are there other special pricing arrangements you can offer me?
Do you offer the option to conduct a pre-assessment to see how my business measures up to the GSTC Criteria and whether we might run into any challenges prior to conducting the certification audit?
How long do you anticipate the certification assessment process will take with a company of our size?
During the assessment process, what type of documents will you ask our company to provide? Is there a document noting what we will need that we can review beforehand?
During the assessment, do you evaluate all of our tours, or only a selection?
In addition to conducting the assessment, what other support services and/or tools are included for me to manage my compliance with the sustainability standard?
Does your company offer tour operators undergoing certification a dedicated customer service personnel?
What happens if we fail to attain certification?
Can you provide a reference from a customer, comparative to our business that has undergone an assessment with your certification body?