Toolbox for Travel Agents and Tour Operators

Travel Supplier Certification


There are a number of schemes that certify and award a label for sustainability and corporate responsibility in tourism. Of relevance for travel agents and tour operators are the following:


  • Travelife for tour operators

Travelife for tour operators is a leading training, management and certification initiative for tourism companies committed to reaching sustainability. The Travelife certification standard integrates both management and performance criteria and is based on leading international sustainability and CSR standards and guidelines, including EMAS III, ISO 14001, UNEP - Tour Operators’ Initiative, Global Reporting Initiative, GSTC - Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprises and ISO 26000.


  • Travelife for accommodations

Travelife for Accommodation, run by ABTA, is an international sustainability certification programme that helps accommodation providers of all sizes to improve their social, environmental and economic impact. Today Travelife supports over 1,500 Member hotels in over 50 countries with improving their sustainability performance and highlighting their achievements to both travelers and travel companies.  Travelife certifies accommodation providers against a GSTC-recognised standard containing 163 criteria.


  • TourCert 

TourCert provides certification and awards the TourCert label for sustainability and corporate responsibility in tourism, including travel agents and tour operators. Similarly to Travelife, TourCert offers an entry-level award programme called TourCert Check, which serves to familiarise tour operators and travel agents globally with internationally recognised standards and prove a basic commitment to sustainability. The TourCert system is based on international quality and environmental management standards according to ISO and EMAS, and is oriented on the international regulations of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).






CO2 Emission




CARMACAL is an application that allows tour operators to measure and manage every carbon footprint aspect of their products in detail. The carbon footprint of flights is specified up to the level of airline and type of plane, for all scheduled flights available. CARMACAL differentiates the footprint for 25 modes of transport, 21 emission-intensive activities, and gives exact distance calculations. Accommodation carbon footprints are calculated on an individual basis for some 550.000 accommodations worldwide. For other accommodations, 20 different types with individual emission factors are available. Further details are available here




Plastic in Tourism


The Global Tourism Plastics Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution. It enables businesses, governments, and other tourism stakeholders to take concerted action. Organisation signing up pledge to make a set of concrete and actionable commitments by 2025, among other (i) eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and items; (ii) take action to move from single-use to reuse models or reusable alternatives; (iii) engage the value chain to move towards 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, etc.  


In the frame of the EU-funded project SUSTOUR (2020-2023), a very comprehensive Plastic Waste Reduction Toolkit has been developed. This toolkit gives tour operators and their suppliers (hotels) practical, hands-on and easy to understand guidance for switching to more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic. The toolkit includes, among others, 11 decision trees for the reduction of plastic in the context of different businesses, rating charts for the impact of different plastic alternatives, standard operating procedures to implement more sustainable alternatives to plastic step by step, and starters manuals for a “plastic pollution free holiday”. You can access the plastic waste reduction toolkit here or download the documents here.



Protection of children


The Code (short for “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”) is a multi-stakeholder initiative with the mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. When companies join The Code they commit to six essential steps to keep children safe: establish a policy and procedure; train employees; include a clause in supplier contracts with zero tolerance for child exploitation; provide information to travelers; support, collaborate and engage with stakeholders; and report annually on implementation.


A free e-learning tool on child protection is available in a number of languages provided by ECPAT.




Human Rights


The Round Table of Human Rights is an international multi-stakeholder initiative promoting human rights in tourism. It acts as an open network to support tourism businesses on their way to respect of human rights in tourism according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights through preventing, addressing and remedying human rights abuses committed along the supply chain in their business operations. The Roundtable has created a number of practical and user friendly guidance documents that can be used by the tourism industry, among other:





Animal Rights  


ABTA’s Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism together with a series of six supporting guidance manuals introduce minimum requirements, good and best practice for the most popular types of tourist activities involving animals. The aim is to encourage good practice in animal protection and welfare by providing businesses with knowledge and guidance. An online version of this Best Practice Handbook is available from the following link


The ANVR has also developed guidelines on animal welfare that have been compiled in consultation with travel organizations, animal welfare organizations (Stichting Spots, World Animal Protection) and on the basis of the ABTA global guidance.



Management of tourism flows


Overtourism describes destinations where hosts or guests, locals or visitors, feel that there are too many visitors and that the quality of life in the area or the quality of the experience has deteriorated unacceptably. Too often, the solution is to either restrict travel or raise taxes to dampen travel to these destinations. But there are better ways to deal with the problem.


The UNWTO, the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH) of Breda University of Applied Sciences and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) of NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences have studied the phenomenon and offer a number of policy recommendations. The report is available here.

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