7 indicators to check and select sustainable accommodations as a tour operator

Tour operators have the power, influence and social responsibility to select sustainable accommodations for their clients, to offer responsible tourism throughout the whole holiday package. To add value, authenticity and also to make sustainability easy for them.

However, as a tour operator it might be difficult to find sustainable accommodations when you are selecting them from overseas. Even when you are on the ground, you are still facing a challenge to determine which accommodation is sustainable and the right choice. This blog gives you seven indicators to check and select sustainable accommodations.

7 indicators to check and select sustainable accommodations as a tour operator


The easiest way to work with sustainable accommodations is to work with those that are certified, those who have been verified by a third-party verification scheme such as Travelife for Accommodations, Green Globe or Green Key. They have proven to comply with over a hundred sustainability criteria. However, the downside is that many local and smaller-scale accommodations such as lodges and bed & breakfasts are often not certified. Important to keep in mind here is that all accommodations who are certified are sustainable, but this doesn’t mean all those who are not certified are not sustainable.

Communication is key

The seven steps below are simple indicators to test if an accommodation works in a responsible way and takes social responsibility. In checking these indicators, communication is key. Talk to the owners, check their website and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to commit parties to practicing sustainable & responsible tourism.

1. Commitment to sustainability

Those accommodations who are committed to sustainability are proud of their performance and are invested in sharing their story. On their website and in their (personal) communication they will be enthusiastic and passionate about their property and share their way of working. Those who are truly committed will add value to the client experience and be good for their environment at the same time.

2. Local communities

Sustainable tourism is only possible when local communities and their culture are treated with respect and where tourism maximises economic and social benefits of these communities. Sustainable accommodations will highly value local communities and operate their business in a way the community directly benefits. Think of employing locals, supporting local initiatives such as schools and community centres, and giving back to the community.

Do you also want to work together with local communities as tour operator? Read my blog about developing community-based tourism.

7 indicators to check and select sustainable accommodations as a tour operator

3. Local products

Very much related to benefitting local communities, is the use of local and organic products. Not only will accommodations be able to provide clients with a healthy, local meal, they will also directly benefit the community by buying products off their market. Some accommodations even have their own vegetable garden where clients can pick their own food and fruits, guided by a local gardener. Authenticity all the way!

4. Single-use plastic & waste management

Waste management and especially single-use plastic is a hot topic in the tourism industry at the moment, and there are many ways accommodations can reduce the use. For example, by offering clients opportunities to refill their water bottle instead of offering plastic ones, by offering soap and shampoo in refillable bottles, by separating and recycling waste, and last but not least communicating this to their clients asking for collaboration and support.

Do you also want to reduce single-use plastic as tour operator? Read my blog with 10 ways to reduce single-use plastic in your supply chain.

5. Efficient water use

It’s always shocking to hear how much water accommodations use (and waste!) on a daily basis. Luckily, many accommodations are aware of the issue and are taking proper action. Select those who are actively doing something about this, who are collecting rainwater, who are asking clients to reuse linens, to take shorter showers, and who have water efficiency systems in place, and who are not compromising local communities’ access to water.

6. Saving energy

When it comes down to energy, the best-case scenario would be for all accommodations to opt for renewable energy, such as solar or wind power. While this is often too expensive for small-scale accommodations, they can still score points by saving energy! Check for installed LED lights and occupancy sensors, policies for turning off all lights when not in use, and sufficient isolation for colder periods.

7 indicators to check and select sustainable accommodations as a tour operator

7. Responsible activities

Not all accommodations offer activities for their guests, but for those who do such as safari and jungle lodges, taking care of their environment and wild animals will be on top of their list. They will have a sustainability policy, proper guidelines and a code of conduct to ensure guides and guests will not disturb nature and leave nothing but a footprint.

Let’s get to work!

These are just the first steps to determine if your selected accommodations are sustainable. Do you want to take it a step further and stimulate existing partners to become more sustainable or internally rate accommodations so you can make responsible choices for your clients?

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Photos by Mara Bush Camp (Kenya), Eco Gold Rated & Eco Warriors 2019. Do you want to know what they do about sustainability? Click here