News Austrian Ecolabel: integrate sustainable development in touristic education!

Wednesday 05th September 2012

"It might be a good start to make environmental management and questions of sustainability an obligatory and central part of curricula in touristic education at all levels."

Regine Preslmair of the Austrian Ecolabel talks to Valere Tjolle of Vision on Sustainable Tourism:

Valere Tjolle:  Can you give me a brief outline of the Austrian EcoLabel's current work?
Regine Preslmair: We are in the discussion process for our next criteria revision so it´s interesting times for us. What we plan is especially to intensify the other pillars of sustainability namely the social and cultural criteria. Our main focus will of course be environmental issues but we see potential in many of the other aspects of sustainability to enrich our label.

VT:  Which roles have climate change, halting the loss of biodiversity, supporting regional economy, travel slow, consume less, in your certification standards?
RP: Climate change as a topic is for many people in tourism an new topic and a new impulse to start thinking about sustainability in tourism. It´s especially in our criteria for travel offers that we look closer at slow travel and the effects on climate change.  We also try to attach more importance on biodiversity in our criteria document so we had a workshop this year where we evaluated our options in tourism.

Austria as a holiday destination is still dominated by its strong regional approach in tourism. So it´s very often regional tourism organisations who try to make a statement by supporting the certification of their accommodation providers and using this for a clearer positioning as a truly sustainable destination.

VT: Which e.g. 3-5 exemplary Austrian EcoLabel businesses would you highlight to give our readers an idea of your accredited establishments in Europe?
RP: It is very difficult to pick just a few examples out of the wide variety of our ecolabelled travel offers and tourist establishments.

If you go to rural "Salzburgerland", you might find an interesting example in "Hotel Edelweiss Wagrain" ( which is breaking new ground with its "Green Spa" concept. On the other hand you will surely find  it fascinating to see what a city hotel like "Boutiquehotel Stadthalle" ( ) can achieve as first "Zero Energy-Balance Hotel"  in a city like Vienna.
There are also certified Campsites, organic farms, restaurants and Alpine huts, like for instance the Salmhuette ( ) at 2.644m near the top of Austria´s highest  mountain peak "Grossglockner", demonstrating environmental management in extremely sensitive alpine areas.

The first tour operator to offer certified travel packages in Austria was the Austrian tour operator "Mondial", offering for example a one-week-holiday-package in the certified Vila Vita Pannonia including train transfer from any place in Austria, shuttle service, bicycles, wellness and offers for sports etc. at beautiful lake Neusiedlersee ( )

And finally there are certified green meetings like the "Forum Alpbach" (, taking place in the Tyrolean mountains and showing that a meeting can not only have less negative impact on the environment but have even a clearly positive influence on the sustainability of a whole region.

VT:  Have you ever heard about GSTC international recognition of Sustainable Tourism certification standards/accreditation of certification bodies? Are you interested in such a international recognition or do you not expect an added value through this?
RP: We haven´t only heard about it we have already achieved recognition of our standards by the GSTC as we are well aware of the importance of internationalization in tourism labelling.

VT: What is your opinion of Rio+20?
RP: It´s good that we had Rio +20 and it´s sad that nothing really concrete and palpable resulted from it. But nevertheless it was many weeks where environmental issues were headline news. So another chance to reach people who still haven´t heard about climate change and environmental protection.

VT:  If you had 3 wishes:
1 what should the European Union decide?
RP It might be a good start to make environmental management and questions of sustainability an obligatory and central part of curricula in touristic education at all levels.
2 What should tour operators and travel agencies be committed to as a common rule?
RP: Maybe it would help to commit them to supply also information about the environmental effects of the travel deals they are offering.

VT To whom would you address wish nr 3?
RP:  I would address politicians in charge of traffic politics and transport authorities to support and develop public transport to make it easier for travellers to "travel lightly", leaving smaller ecological footprints.

Find out more about the Austrian Ecolabel and see all their branded destinations here

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Keywords Certification,
Target group(s) Destinations , Businesses , Education, Research, Consultancy , NGOs, Partnerships, Networks , Governments & Administrations
Topics Certification & Marketing