Sunday, 27th September marked the 40th World Tourism Day. Every year since 1980, the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) has been commemorating the tourism industry worldwide. This year, UNWTO is working to promote a more sustainable, inclusive, and most of all resilient tourism in the midst of a global epidemic.
This year’s theme focused on ‘Tourism and Rural Development’, where tourism’s unique role of creating jobs outside of big cities was celebrated.
For the first time in 40 years, World Tourism Day has been met with facts and data that show how much tourism has been affected by COVID-19. For example, tourism employs one in every ten people on Earth. Yet due to the global pandemic, 100-120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk. And because there was a travel standstill, the world lost 300 million tourists and USD $320 Billion in international tourism receipts – more than three times the loss during the Global Economic Crisis of 2009.
Travel and tourism’s revival depends on safety
The travel sector is proving to be ever hardy and resilient. Six months into the pandemic, and after worldwide lockdowns have taken place, destinations and certain travel and tourism brands are slowly and gradually re-opening. Though people are thrilled at the prospect of being travellers and tourists once more, the question that remains is, ‘Is it really safe to travel yet?’
In a bid to gain traveller’s confidence, and to provide a world standard in safety protocols, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) introduced the ‘Safe Travels’ stamp for travel companies in May 2020. To date, there are now 100 destinations that proudly carry the ‘Safe Travels’ stamp, which indicates that they have adopted WTTC’s core protocol requirements.
And while it’s great for a travel brand to be carrying the green stamp, It’s important to know that the ‘Safe Travels’ stamp is based on self-assessment and is not a certification. Destinations and companies using the stamp have confirmed that they have implemented and will ensure ongoing compliance to the Safe Travel protocols. It’s also worth noting that the core protocol requirements are actually recommendations / guidance. The first Safe Travels protocol being: Unless critical, provide recommendations / guidance rather than requirements.
Stamp vs certification: what is the difference?
For travel companies and establishments seeking to get a more stringent, personalised and tailored protocol requirements, a clean certification is recommended on top of a Safe Travels stamp. The stamp is great to show travellers that your brand has complied with the WTTC protocol. When you get a certification, it doesn’t just act as a clean badge of health for your brand, but it’s also for your own peace of mind, knowing that a tailored and personalised protocol has been created just for your establishment. It will also be fulfilling to know that your company has done their best to ensure the safety of both guests and employees.
An in-depth look at certification
Clean & Care is an independent global company that conducts safety audits and certifications for hotels and travel brands with the aim of not just certifying them but to make the company as COVID-safe as possible.
Pierre Blime, board member and chief marketing strategist of Clean & Care shares that while their inspections are done online, their approach is scientific
Pierre explains their audit certification process:
“First, travel brands fill an initial application where they can specify which of their activities / areas are to be audited and certified. The board, whose majority is made up of scientists, three of them being direct consultants to WHO, evaluates whether a certification is possible. If they deem that a travel brand / establishment cannot obtain a certification, their application is denied, and the travel company will not have to pay the application fee.”
“An example of a certification hurdle,” Pierre shares, “are hotels which have centralised air conditioning systems, and whose rooms do not have windows, or if the establishment does not allow guests to open windows.”
Second, based on the application that the travel company has filled out, Clean & Care will send a questionnaire / audit tailored specifically for them. This will also include protocols and recommendations from their national health board.
Third, the travel brand has to submit proof of evidence on the specific points of the investigation and required protocols. The board then reviews the audit. This can result in three things: immediate approval and certification, or the board may require more supporting evidence or, they may reject the application and will give the travel brand two weeks to implement the protocols designed for them.
Travel brands who are not certified will be given 50% of its audit fee back. Those who are certified are still subject to random unannounced visits / inspections throughout one year.
How reliable are online audits?
When asked about the effectiveness of the audits given that the inspections are merely done online through a questionnaire, Pierre discloses that it is to their best interest to be completely honest and transparent. More than the certification, what the companies are after is receiving the tailored protocol / procedure personalised for their establishment. In plain and simple terms, “it’s for their own good.”
Pierre reveals that all their clients have been so far honest. Perhaps at this stage, everyone is genuinely concerned and would like to know how best to operate effectively under a pandemic.
Clean & Care also have a number of global ambassadors. Apart from representing the company in their respective cities, one of their responsibilities is being the eyes and ears of the board, randomly visiting travel companies and confirming their claims on the questionnaire.
Certification for Peace of Mind
Currently, there are no regulatory boards that require travel brands to have a certification. Pierre says they prefer it this way, as it works best when travel companies seek protocol requirements on their own accord. Knowing that your company has a stamp of approval from a global tourism council (WTTC) and also a certification following tailored protocols given by experts in public health and safety will give everyone peace of mind.