Ecotourism certification

The Association of Ecotourism in Romania (AER) considers it absolutely necessary to develop a System of Certification in Ecotourism – a mechanism that puts into practice the basic principles of ecotourism – to ensure nature conservation and sustainable development of local communities through tourism. This is an important step given that, since March 2003, the World Tourism Organisation has recommended that governments support initiatives that promote certification in sustainable tourism.

We have developed a system of certification in ecotourism so as to objectively assess how tourism services and programmes comply with the principles of ecotourism. The criteria are divided into eight groups, which correspond to the principles that govern ecotourism:

  1. Sustainable management
  2. Focus on natural areas
  3. Heritage interpretation
  4. Protection of natural environment
  5. Nature conservation
  6. Development of local communities
  7. Tourist satisfaction
  8. Correct marketing

The criteria are divided into two categories:

  • Basic criteria. They are the basic rules that must be met by the product subject to certification in order for the evaluation to continue.
  • Complementary criteria. They are the rules that finalise the evaluation of a product and define it as an ecotourism product. In addition to meeting the basic criteria, meeting at least 50% of the complementary criteria certifies the product as complying with the principles of ecotourism.

To obtain ecotourism certification, the product must meet all the basic criteria and 50% of the complimentary criteria applicable to the product.

The Eco-Romania ecotourism certification system adapts the international experience to the Romanian context. It was developed between 2005 and 2007 in accordance with the Nature and Ecotourism Accreditation Programme promoted by the Australian Ecotourism Association (NEAP is the world’s first ecotourism accreditation system) and Nature’s Best developed by the Swedish Ecotourism Association (the first ecotourism certification system in the Northern Hemisphere).

Benefits for businesses:

  • The certification logo is a powerful marketing tool that can be used by each business to differentiate itself from the competitors;
  • The opportunity to address a market segment interested in responsible business and willing to pay extra for such services;
  • Free advertising on the ecotourism advertising platform www.eco-romania.ro administered by AER;
  • Free advertising on the platforms of our international partners: www.destinet.eu (a professional platform for sustainable tourism certification systems at a European level, which includes a map of the certified products) and www.bookdifferent.com (a booking platform for responsible accommodation affiliated with booking.com);
  • Priority promotion of the certified services and certification system, through AER promotional materials, at the travel shows we attend and through the relationship with our members and partners.

Benefits for tourists:

  • Tourists can identify more easily the products that offer a high-quality experience and a high degree of responsibility for the natural and socio-cultural environment of the local communities;
  • The certification logo guarantees that the certified tourism product aims to reduce the negative environmental impact and strives to generate benefits for the local communities;
  • It ensures services of a higher quality;
  • It offers the possibility to contact AER directly if there are any problems. In some cases, if some criteria are not met, penalties are applied and the certificate can be withdrawn.

What kinds of products can be certified?

  • Tourism products (tours) provided by licensed travel agencies or guides, which include at least one-night accommodation and have a maximum of 15 clients per guide.
  • Accommodation units such as guest houses (maximum 15 rooms, in total no more than 60 places) and other tourism accommodation facilities authorized under the current legislation with a maximum of 25 accommodation units (rooms, bungalows, camping, caravans, etc.).

The evaluation procedure involves evaluators and fieldwork, and the decision to award the certificate is taken by a certification committee that has three members, only one being an AER representative.

The validity of the certificate

The result of the evaluation can provide three options for the certification committee:

  • to award the Eco-Romania diploma, an ecotourism certificate for a period of 36 months,
  • to award the Eco-Romania diploma, an ecotourism certificate for a period of 18 months,
  • to postpone a decision until the minimum recommended criteria are met.

The certification committee may award the certification diploma along with a set of recommendations based on the criteria that have not been met or have been partially met.

THE CERTIFICATION PROCEDURE

1

Read the guidelines for a better understanding of the steps that must be taken to obtain the Eco-Romania certificate of good practice in ecotourism.

2

Complete the evaluation request form and the corresponding self-evaluation form and send them to us at info@eco-romania.ro. We consider this step extremely important because the honest completion of the form will indicate the chances of success in obtaining the certificate. We want to start the evaluation procedure only in the case of those products that have a real chance of obtaining the certificate. This step is particularly important for becoming familiar with the set of criteria based on which the evaluation will be made, as well as for continuing the evaluation procedure only in the case of the products that have a real chance of obtaining the certificate.

The evaluation fee will be paid only if it has been decided that the certification procedure will continue.

3

Establishing an evaluation visit by mutual agreement and payment of the evaluation fee. The estimated cost of assessing a service is maximum of 300 euro and includes the evaluator’s fee, transport costs, meals and a small percentage of administrative costs for AER. We encourage evaluators to stay overnight and, if possible, we appreciate if you can provide a free room.

4

The evaluation visit itself. At the time of the evaluation of an accommodation unit, it is compulsory that it has guests. Evaluation of tours will be carried out during a tourist programme with clients. It is necessary for the evaluator to have access to all the spaces of the accommodation unit and to be able to interact with customers and staff. The evaluator will also be presented with documents that will certify the fulfilment of the criteria (certificates, accreditations, contracts, invoices etc.).

5

The documents prepared by the evaluator are then sent to the AER Certification Department which, depending on the number of requests, plans the meeting of the Certification Committee.

6

The Certification Committee will decide if and under what circumstances the Eco-Romania certificate will be awarded. The beneficiary will receive the diploma and the certification logo after signing the agreement to use the logo.

Certified products

The Ecotourism Certification System was created to ensure nature conservation and sustainable development of local communities through tourism. Choose Eco-Romania certified services for a special holiday, responsible for people and nature!

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