Study presentation: European Tourism Labelling

STUDY PRESENTATION: 29 AUGUST 2018, 3:00 pm – 3:45 pm
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The purpose of labelling in the tourism sector is to improve information flows, primarily between tourism businesses and consumers, but also business to business and business to government. However, the current volume and variety of labels in the EU has become a barrier to, rather than a facilitator of, consumer choice, and furthermore, this situation may be affecting the competitiveness of the European tourism industry. It has been estimated that there are up to 100 quality labels covering a wide range of tourism services within the European Union. Within this number, there is considerable fragmentation and diversity in the criteria applied, principles, management and governance of the labels.

The situation is similar in the area of sustainability and environmental labelling of tourism services. In this segment, the high number of labels is an issue in communication with tourists and it has been suggested that they should be reorganised into a smaller number of more recognisable labels.

A presentation of the study “European Tourism Labelling” was organised by the EP’s Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies on 29 August 2018 in the framework of meeting of the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN). The presentation focused on the following issues:

  • The general purpose of labelling in tourism sector
  • The description of the situation in the European Union in terms of certification of tourism services
  • The analysis of the actions taken previously by the EU in order to boost the competitiveness of the European tourism
  • The exploration of the results of the stakeholder consultations
  • The investigation of the best practices
  • The presentation of conclusions and recommended actions.

The experts explained that quality labels are a well-established phenomenon within the tourism sector in the EU, particularly in hospitality, and they provide benchmarks for consumers purchasing decisions. Of the 28 EU Member States, only Finland does not have a nationally accredited hotel quality label. However, desktop research for this study revealed that only eight of the Member States’ National Tourism Organisations (NTO) promote at least one or more quality label through their website.

They have also pointed out that sustainability labels present several benefits (including reducing the negative impacts of tourism) and can lead to a harmonisation of stakeholder behaviour towards sustainable practice. Achieving this is a challenge for the administration of sustainability labels, especially if they are a low priority for most tourists, as consumers may disregard the information presented and there are difficulties in implementing and monitoring these positive effects.

Summing up the results of two surveys conducted among stakeholders within the course of this research, the experts highlighted that the majority of the respondents were receptive to some form of EU action to support tourism labelling (although they varied on degree to which they wanted to see intervention in the market). The experts also emphasised that although many stakeholders recognised the conflict between some quality and sustainability criteria, there was support for a combined label, suggesting that this must be the longer-term goal if European tourism is to prosper. The development of a European set of standards was similarly supported by the stakeholders and, in this context, many of them believed that this would be best achieved by adapting existing structures, such as the EU Ecolabel.

The debate that followed the expert’s presentation revolved around the future of the European tourism and the role that a more coordinated system of certification could bring to the sector and, subsequently, to the European economy. Although the study concluded that the EU action in the field of European tourism labelling would be appreciated by the stakeholders, Members pointed out the there was no political will for the EU intervention in the market, which made the coordination at the EU level difficult. Detailed questions followed concerning, among others, the concrete actions that should be taken by the European Parliament, the minimum criteria that EU-wide standards should meet and its system of management and monitoring. The need to involve digital booking platforms and environmental organisations in the harmonisation process of the EU standards for tourism services was also mentioned in the discussion.

Link to watch video of the event (with multilingual interpretation) – Study presentation starts at 15:06:35

Further reading: Research for TRAN Committee : European Tourism Labelling


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