According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education" (TIES, 2015).
Uniglobe Let’s Go Travel supports accommodation that is eco rated or have attained sustainability certified standards, we recommend these more to our clients as we believe in making travel meaningful by thinking local and thinking about what benefits the traveller, the trip and the planet best.
The Kenya Eco-rating Scheme is a voluntary certification scheme (label), designed to promote sustainable tourism. Launched in 2002 by Ecotourism Kenya, in cooperation with tourism stakeholders in Kenya, the scheme focuses on tourist accommodation facilities and awards qualifying applicants a Bronze, Silver or Gold accreditation based on performance. Eco-rating refers to a systematic approach for verifying a tourism organisations environmental, economic and socio-cultural performance when evaluated against an agreed set of criteria. The evaluation is meant to determine how responsible the operations of the facility are.
Who can participate in the scheme?
The types of accommodation that qualify for rating under this scheme include: Hotels, Lodges, Camps, Bush homes / Home stays, and Bandas.
What are the objectives of the scheme?
The overall objective of the Eco-rating Scheme is to achieve highest levels of environmental, economic and social practices within the tourism industry for sustainable growth of the sector. Specific objectives of the scheme include:
- Promote and increase awareness of environmentally and socially sound business practices (educational/ change of attitude towards environmental governance and social responsibility)
- Increase contribution of tourism to social development (developmental)
- Increase contribution of tourism to conservation natural resource upon which Kenya’s tourism is dependent (Conservation)
- Improve destination image, thus potentially attracting more tourists (marketing advantage)
What is best practice (values) of the scheme?
Best practice refers to highest quality, excellence or superior practices in a particular field. It is used to designate a leader in the field. Under the eco-rating scheme, best practice includes, among other things:
- Protecting, conserving and investing in the environment
- Reducing, reuse and recycling waste
- Preventing pollution
- Responsible use of resources such as land, water, energy, culture etc
- Investment in people (employees and local population)
- Local people empowerment programmes
- Fair (favourable) workplace policies
- Fair business practices
- Support for local economy trade linkages with local communities/economy
- Responsible tourism Education environment
What are the criteria used?
The criteria cover environmental and socio-economic issues. Emphasis has been given to sustainable use of resources and protection of the environment; and support to local economies through linkages and building of capacity of local communities and employees.
What are the levels of certification?
There are three levels of certification: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Bronze Eco-rating demonstrates a facility’s awareness and commitment to good environmental, economic and social practices. Silver Eco-rating means a facility has achieved excellence in some of the areas of focus by the scheme while Gold Eco-rating demonstrates that a facility has achieved outstanding performance that can be described as ‘industry best practice’ in environmental, economic and social practices.
How does the scheme work?
Interested facilities complete a self-assessment tool or questionnaire and return to the scheme secretariat at Ecotourism Kenya. For each level of certification there are specific requirements, which must be met for application to be valid. These requirements are available in separate documents.
Bronze applications go through two levels of evaluation, which involves a desk appraisal followed by a committee review. When an application for Bronze is received, the secretariat undertakes a desk evaluation and produces a brief report, which is presented to the eco-rating committee. A detailed report is then produced and shared with the applicant. It is at this point that applicant get to know whether they have received a rating or not.
Silver and Gold applications go through three levels of certification: desk evaluation, field audit and eco-rating committee evaluation. In this case, the desk evaluation is followed by a field audit and review by the evaluation committee before the final report is produced.
All successful applicants receive a certificate of recognition and are allowed to display and use the scheme logo on their stationery and on promotional material.
How long do ratings last?
Certification is valid for 24 months from date of award. This date in indicated in certificate of accreditation. A new application for evaluation must therefore be lodged at least three months before expiry of validity.
Who manages the scheme?
The day-to-day management of the scheme is done by the Ecotourism Kenya secretariat with support from the management committee. The eco-rating/evaluation committee provides second party verification of certification.