SUSTAINABLE SURF TOURISM CERTIFICATION
The following sustainable surf tourism certification criteria are based on the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) which were developed by an international collaboration of experts across a broad range of multilateral conservation and development agencies and refined over several years. They represent the gold standard of sustainable tourism practice. They are however necessarily broad to encompass the length and breadth of the tourism industry from the largest hotels in the developed world to the smallest tour operator in developing settings. The SDSU Center for Surf Research Certified (CSRC) certification program takes this globally accepted standard of operation and tailors it to the specific circumstances of the surf tourism industry.
The surf tourism industry is typically constrained by the nature of surf tourism itself. These include the self limiting nature of surf resources. E.g. there is no such thing as a large scale surf resort, cruise ship, or tour. As a result of the often remote settings and small scale of businesses within the surf tourism industry there are constraints on the industry with regard to the adoption of capital or technology intensive fixes to many of the (GSTC). The CSRC program worked in partnership with surf tourism industry partners committed to sustainability to develop criteria, metrics, and reporting procedures which represent best practice given the constraints of the industry.
A sustainable tourism criteria specific to the surf tourism industry makes sense on a number of levels including the constraints particular to the scale and scope of the industry referenced above but also with regard to the following.
- Existing sustainable tourism certification programs are prohibitively expensive for the scale of most surf tourism operations – the CSRC program requires only its costs be covered by the industry as it was developed and is administered by a university based non-profit research center.
- Existing certification programs suffer from credibility issues as all are ‘for profit’ programs and a great many of these are examples of ‘greenwashing’ requiring little more than payment of a fee in order to claim ‘eco’ certification. The credibility of any certification program can be determined by examining
- The basis of the certification – what standards are criteria based on?
- The rigor of certification – what is required to be certified? In order of increasing rigor these might include: Fee payment only? Submission of documents? A cursory on-site inspection? Full onsite certification auditing?
- The basis of ongoing certification – ongoing payment? Regular compliance auditing?
The CSRC program is based in a non-profit university research center dedicated to the development of a sustainable surf tourism industry. There is no ulterior motive. Certification is based on the universally agreed best practice standard represented by the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Certification requires onsite auditing and ongoing certification requires annual reporting of sustainability indicators and metrics and triennial onsite re-auditing.
- The nature of the global surfing fraternity, particularly the more dedicated traveling surfers, renders them relatively accessible as a group of travel consumers. A key issue with existing sustainable tourism certification programs is the lack of a definitive return to businesses for the considerable expense invested in certification
compliance – brand recognition of the general traveling public to existing generic certification programs is notoriously low. On opportunity exists to develop brand recognition within the surfing fraternity utilizing surf media channels.
- A barrier to entry for many businesses is the significant investment of time required to shift to compliance of sustainable tourism criteria. The CSRC program can offer low cost/free assistance to surf tourism businesses by utilizing the resources of the Center for Surf Research.
SUSTAINABLE SURF TOURISM CRITERIA
Reflecting the GSTC and in addition the specific requirements of the surf tourism industry the SSTC developed here are divided into five broad sections.
1. Sustainable Management
2. Social and Economic Impact Management
3. Cultural Heritage Impact Management
4. Environmental Impact Management
5. Surf Tourism Specializations
It should be remembered that the impacts of tourism can be positive as well as negative. The goal here is to maximize the positive impacts and minimize the negative impacts of tourism.
THE CERTIFICATION PROCESS