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TOURISM | Quality Mark

Quality Mark Manual, and its application to Southeast Europe


The Authentic Quality Mark program, authored and implemented by international consultant Susan Warren, working with different USAID programs and in-country teams, was first implemented in Croatia (Small and Family Hotels)  five years’ ago, then Bulgaria, and now in SE Europe in Albania and Macedonia.  It was inspired by QUALMARK: New Zealand tourism's official mark of quality and the world's first integrated quality assurance system, developed more than a decade ago.


The Authentic Quality Mark program combines business training for owners, with promotional initiatives that are industry-wide and targeted to travelers looking for quality, authenticity and responsible tourism practices. Owners are assessed and supported through ongoing training to improve their product and services, business practices and market focus, thus also improving country tourism competitiveness and sustainability.


The Authentic Quality Mark will soon be accredited by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) as a vehicle to deliver on responsible tourism, targeting smaller, authentic accommodations.

This is because the assessment and licensing of accommodations to carry the mark has a major focus on supporting responsible tourism. It encourages owners to adopt and implement relevant global sustainable tourism criteria (GSTC). These are a set of 37 voluntary standards representing the minimum that any tourism business should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world’s natural and cultural resources, whilst ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for poverty alleviation. The 37 criteria have four main themes:


1) effective sustainability planning;

2) maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community;

3) enhancing cultural heritage;

  1. 4)reducing negative impacts to the environment.


Accommodations carrying the Mark are smaller (with typical categories being under 20 and under 50 beds), and focus on authenticity and a personal approach. They are integrated into their host communities, offering local activities, the chance for visitors to meet with local people and explore the environment, and enjoy local food and wine, craft, and culture.


The rollout of the program is resulting in a network of country-specific Authentic Quality Marks all reflecting the same disciplines and standards, providing recognizable and credible endorsements to travelers. Based on strict program protocols, the private sector leads and owns the process of developing and implementing the quality standards to ensure their transparency and sustainability. Each country identifies the coordinating and certifying body for the program.

 

The Quality Mark Manual (2008), authored by Susan Warren, is the guiding resource for the program. It is being updated to align with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC). It provides a step by step guide to introducing an Authentic Quality Mark and each country, working with RCI and their country implementation team, adapts the details to suit national conditions.  The result will be country-branded Authentic Quality Marks which will reflect consistent disciplines and standards throughout the region.

Introduction

The plan is to have country-specific Quality Marks all reflecting the same disciplines and standards across the region, providing recognizable and credible endorsements to travelers.

The Quality Mark program was inspired by QUALMARK: New Zealand tourism's official mark of quality and the world's first integrated quality assurance system, developed more than a decade ago. New Zealand tourism consultant Susan Warren adapted the original model for developing tourism economies, working with USAID to implement the first bespoke program in Croatia (Small and Family Hotels) and then Bulgaria

The Quality Mark program combines business training for operators to improve the quality and sustainability of their offers, with promotional initiatives, that are industry-wide, targeted to selected travelers looking for quality, authenticity and responsible tourism practices.

The Authentic Quality Mark


  1. BulletMeasures what is important to traveler (authenticity, professionalism, safety, cleanliness, comfort, visitor place-based experiences, sustainable practices)

  2. RCI LogoEncourages sustainable business practices) environmental awareness in response to consumer trends - soon to be GSTC accredited!

  3. BulletSupports accommodation providers to run profitable businesses offering quality excellence and at the same time ensure sustainable tourism practices

Areas of Assessment

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Authentic Quality Mark


RCI is introducing a Quality Mark within SE Europe, to encourage and guide authentic accommodations such as small hotels and guest houses within each country in the region. The program focuses on improving product quality, business practices, market readiness and profile, and has a major emphasis on responsible tourism. This will support sustainable competitive tourism sectors in each country. The first Quality Mark programs are in Albania and Macedonia. There will be country-specific Authentic Quality Marks all reflecting the same disciplines and standards across the region, providing recognizable and credible endorsements for travelers.