After three years of developing the new criteria for sustainable boating tourism operators, this April the first companies will be awarded the Blue Flag. While the first six applications from the Northern Hemisphere have been reviewed by their National Juries and sent to the International Jury for the award, our National Operators in the Southern Hemisphere are preparing for their first applicants this summer.
The National Blue Flag Operator in Spain, Virginia Yuste Abad, sees a great future for the new certification as there are many whale watching and diving operators in her country. “Spain’s National Blue Flag Jury highly welcomed the initiative, as well as several representatives from different regions in Spain. They considered it to be a useful tool for selecting tour operators that want to develop tourism activities in marine protected areas,” she says. In addition, she sees great potential in the connection of Blue Flag marinas with certified sustainable boating tourism operators.
Salome Hallfreðsdóttir, Blue Flag National Operator in Iceland, is also very positive about the new criteria. “From my experience, the tour operators were very enthusiastic during the application process. The new criteria represent a helpful and also much needed tool to make tourism businesses more responsible as tourism has increased a lot in the last years in Iceland.”
Our National Operator in South Africa, Vincent Shacks, has been enthusiastic about the new criteria from the beginning. “The close pilot work with the tour operators on the criteria is the main reason why I thinkthat the award has great potential in South Africa. The tour operators need to feel that they have been a part of the process of developing the standard,” he says. “I am of the opinion that international labels run the risk of becoming so accommodating to every member country that they eventually become too generalised or bland. With Blue Flag, however, this will not be the case as the National Operators in each of the host countries were asked to take the new criteria to the market and test them in local conditions,” he concludes.
In regard to the positive feedback of Blue Flag’s National Operators and of the first companies applying for the Blue Flag prestigious award Blue Flag International feels that the expansion of the programme to sustainable boating tourism operators was the right step to further encourage sustainable tourism development in marine environments.