Sustainable tourism certification in the African hotel sector: Journal paper released

The purpose of this paper is to review the current status of certification and certified hotels on the African continent, and to discuss the implications for mainstreaming sustainable tourism on the continent.

Design/methodology/approach – The research design focused on a literature review and an online survey. The survey was used to consult stakeholders on options for incentives, and future interventions, which was distributed to 80 stakeholders from the government, certification bodies, intergovernmental agencies and NGOs. The survey resulted in 41 complete responses from 18 countries.

Findings – The study identified nine African certification programs, and nine international certification programs operating in Africa. Collectively, the African and international certification programs have certified at least 715 accommodation facilities in 19 African countries, against their environmental, social and economic criteria. So only a very small proportion of all hotels in Africa have been certified (certainly less than 3.4 per cent) and that these are patchily distributed across the continent. A number of incentives have been used in Africa, including marketing and promotion; interest free loans for new technologies; preferential inclusion in tour itineraries; free or discounted application processes; and technical support. Consultees suggested that hotels were generally motivated to seek certification to: promote their achievements to environmentally conscious clients and avoid negative criticism, and save money by conserving resources. However, hotels do not understand the financial benefits of sustainable practices.

Research limitations/implications – Research limitations include the modest sample size. For the purposes of this research, there was a greater emphasis in targeting a modest number of key respondents who could provide expert opinions on the topic, rather than a more extensive sample size of lower quality.

Practical implications – Practical implications include recommendations of incentives and approaches to mainstream tourism certification in Africa. These include promoting programmes and their returns on investment more broadly, promoting market advantage for certified accommodation (i.e. preferential marketing or concession terms) and the value of integrating sustainability criteria into national and regional quality-rating standards.

Originality/value – This is the first study of its kind to analyse certification on the African continent, which was presented at the Climate Change Summit (COP22) in Morocco in 2016 and the BEST EN Think Tank XVII in June 2017.


Citation: Spenceley, A. (2018) “Sustainable tourism certification in the African hotel sector”, Tourism Review, https://

Access the full paper here 

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