The Socio-Cultural Side of Certification Programs: a Case Study of Green Globe in Barbados
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Certification programs have grown exponentially over the past decade to respond to the increasing demand for more green and sustainable modes of operation from the part of customers. These schemes can be used as powerful tools to assist in the conservation of natural, human and cultural resources, helping better protect popular tourist destinations for future years to come. However, despite their potential to help codify important principles such as ecotourism and sustainable tourism, certification programs are currently facing several challenges that are hindering their overall practices. Much of the present tourism literature has examined the environmental aspect of these programs and the monitoring challenges they are currently facing. However, little research has explored the socio-cultural side of certification programs even if current literature increasingly demonstrates the strong connection that exists between environment, community and local culture when aiming to properly develop tourism in host destinations. Therefore, this study aimed to examine the importance and feasibility of adopting socio-cultural criteria in existing certification programs as to achieve proper sustainability. This goal is attained by using a qualitative research approach and by examining Green Globe certified hotels on the island of Barbados. The results of this research confirms that the culture, history, geography and/or policies of a tourist destination can shape and influence certification programs and their overall practices. This study also provided several examples of social and cultural actions that hotels could adopt, or have already adopted, demonstrating that it is feasible for certification programs to require tourism businesses to adhere to socio-cultural criteria before achieving certification. Moreover, results revealed several benefits that the accommodation sector can gain by becoming environmentally, socially and culturally responsible. The main conclusion of this study is that socio-cultural practices are necessary components to properly achieve newer designations of ecotourism and sustainable tourism, and therefore, certification programs need to include and/or make mandatory socio-cultural criteria in their programs. It is hoped that this information can provide guidelines on how to further implement both environmental and socio-cultural criteria for both certification programs and the accommodation sector. Although this research revealed interesting information on the socio-cultural aspect of these programs, much remains to be examined on this matter and recommendations for future studies are suggested at the end of this thesis.