A brief history of the ISO 21401 standard for Sustainability Management System for Hotels

WG13 23th

This year was approved for publication in the ISO/TC 228, the future standard ISO 21401 – Tourism and related services – Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments – Requirements.

This will end one more phase of a 20 years history.

Phase 1 – The bases for Sustainable Tourism (Brazil)

In 1999, a movement led by WWF-Brasil and the SOS Mata Atlântica was created in Brazil to promote more sustainable tourism.

Between 2000 and 2002, a series of workshops and public consultations was carried out by the movement, producing the Principles of Sustainable Tourism. After that the Brazilian Council for Sustainable Tourism (CBTS) was created to develop a strategy for the certification of sustainable tourism in Brazil and to establish socio-environmental quality standards appropriate to the Brazilian reality.

Phase 2 – Means of hosting as a focus for Sustainable Tourism

In 2003, the Institute of Hospitality (IH) was created a Sustainable Tourism Certification Program (PCTS), which produced a series of tools for the development of sustainable tourism. The strategy was to start with medium and small hotels as a way to increase competitiveness and create the bases for sustainable tourism in 19 Brazilian destinations simultaneously. Between 2003 and 2004, based on the Principles of Sustainable Tourism, a standard called NIH – 54: Sustainability Management System for hotels was created with the participation of all interested parties (CBTS, NGOs, Private Sector Entities, Employee Representatives, Government, Specialists and representatives of local communities).

To support that strategy, a technical assistance program was developed for the hotels, which included methodology for implementing the standard, 19 courses for the training of 375 consultants and the preparation of 7 guides and manuals to support the implementation of the established methodology. This program was applied in 365 hotels in 19 distinct destinations in Brazil between the years of 2004 and 2007.

Phase 3 – Recognition of the Certification of Sustainable Hotels

In 2005 was created by ABNT a Brazilian Standard Commission for Sustainability of Hotels, which produced based on the NIH – 54 standard, the Brazilian standard NBR 15401 Sustainability Management System for Hotels.

Between 2007 and 2009, the Certification Program of Sustainability for Hotels was established within the Brazilian Conformity Assessment System and the certification of Hotels started to be recognized by Inmetro (Brazilian Accreditation Body). During this period, more than 100 auditors was training to audit an Sustainability Management System.

Phase 4 – Sustainable Tourism at an international level

Inspired by the Rio + 20 event, held in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian Standard Commission for Sustainability of Hotels was reactivated and the process of updating the NBR 15401 began. During this process, the members of the ABNT Committee decided send this document as a suggestion for creating an international standard.

In 2014, Brazil started the process in the ISO/TC 228 and two years late (2016), the member of ISO approved a creation of working group Sustainable Tourism (WG 13). After two years and half and 5 meetings (May/2016 – Kuala Lumpur, October/2016 – Rio de Janeiro, May/2017 – Panama City, October 2017 – Madrid and May/2018 – Buenos Aires) with participation more than 60 experts from 26 different countries, the work has been completed.

Phase 5 – The future

Now a new phase will begin with publication the ISO 21401. I hope that other countries can be inspired and use this future international standard for the sustainable development of tourism.

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