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The ESOK Eco-rating Scheme: A Certification Scheme for Tourist Accommodation Facilities in Kenya
November 7, 2002

Kenya’s tourism industry will achieve yet another first. Kenya will become the first African destination to implement a voluntary certification scheme, aimed at checking and improving the performance of tourism accommodation facilities in a bid to further the goals of sustainable development. The scheme, dubbed the ESOK Eco-rating Scheme, can be described as a voluntary initiative for sustainable tourism. Under this scheme, Eco-rating is defined as a systematic approach for verifying an organizations’ performance when evaluated against an agreed set of criteria (environmental/socio-cultural and economic).

In developing this scheme, the Kenyan tourism industry had come to the realisation that like consumers of other goods and services, consumers in the tourism industry require clear and reliable information about goods and services in the tourism industry. This certification scheme provides that orientation, along with guarantees of quality standards for different accommodation facilities. Apart from responding to changing consumer needs, the industry was concerned about the future of the natural resource base upon which tourism is dependant. The concern has been about the limits on consumption of the natural resource base, limits on destination space, limits on pollution-in short the limits of mass tourism.

The scheme, a quality assurance logo, is one amongst other tools that will help the industry to deal with these limits and to show that a product/service does not have negative environmental/socio-economic impacts.

The envisaged benefits of the scheme in the short and medium term are the potential to attract more tourists, while at the same time enabling significant resource management related savings to tourism businesses. In the longer term, sound environmental management and social accountability aimed at benefiting local communities are central for ensuring sustainable tourism development.

The scheme, developed by the Ecotourism Society of Kenya (ESOK), on behalf of Kenya’s tourism industry, is the product of several stakeholder consultations.

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