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European Tourism Quality Label
Date: 2nd May 2012

On the 25th of January 2012, the open conference for the European Tourism Quality Label (ETQ) was held in Brussels.  Tourism actors, including various stakeholders, European member states and trade unions participated.  The aim of this label is to increase tourists’ confidence in European destinations, develop the tourism sector and its competitiveness, and expand the European brand.

The label’s organisation has not yet been decided, however, three options are being discussed: decisions would be taken at European; European and national; or national level.  Whilst there is common consensus on which option should be discarded (which one???), the majority seem to opt for full European coordination, with recognition of all types of quality systems (national, regional or private for example). The European model is supposed to be the one which would offer more clarity and transparency for all States. The legislation to be chosen for the ETQ is also cause for concern with the tourism stakeholders: the Commission could opt for a regulation, which would be a problem for the countries, as they would have to change their national regulations. This would not guarantee flexibility to the label and no national adaptations would be possible. Ultimately, the participants want this label to be flexible and voluntary and want to avoid harmonisation of each State’s quality systems.

The member states require an analysis to know the benefits and their compliance rates with the ETQ criteria.  With regard to Malta, we can expect that the compliance rate would be quite high, as three “labels” created by the Malta Tourism Authority already exist: the eco certification, the quality seal and the star awards. The eco certification is related to hotels, with 15% of the 5, 4 and 3-star hotel all being eco certified on the Maltese Islands. The criteria are based on environmental and waste management and the water and air quality for instance.  The quality seal exists for destination management companies (with criteria such as financial stability and the number of MICE events held being taken into consideration) and attractions (based on the safety, the staff, the quality of content and service, the value for money, etc.). The last Maltese label, the star-awards, rewards service providers with the star service awards; selects the hotel worker of the year; and honours tourism establishments, with the star product award.

A testing phase for the ETQ was also proposed: some would rather start on a specific sector (the accommodation was singled out), whilst others would rather carting out testing on a larger scale (within a minimum of two sectors). There were also calls for appointing geographic scales, with a few countries proposed, and also starting at a European level and doing away with the testing phase altogether.

Most of the participants are not yet convinced about the label and its benefits. The stakeholders have to relay their position to the Commission and most of the countries are waiting for the Impact Assessment Report.  The subject of the ETQ is to be discussed again in October, during the European Tourism Forum.

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This article was written by Flavie Esnard. 

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