The ECO certification scheme was launched in 2002 seeking to improve the environmental performance of hotels in the Maltese Islands. Within the scheme, there are several focus areas including energy efficiency, reducing water consumption, waste management and green procurement. The scheme also aims to increase environmental awareness amongst employees as well as hotel guests.
The ECO certification criteria are composed of 38 compulsory criteria and 62 non-compulsory criteria. In order to obtain ECO certification, hotels must satisfy all the compulsory criteria as well as 65% of the total criteria.
Once hotels send the application to Malta Tourism Authority, an audit by an independent environmental auditor will be done. An Eco certification audit whereby auditors assess the scheme criteria in detail and later present their preliminary findings to the ECO coordinator will furnish an overview of hotel operations in terms of environmental performance. Any deficiencies will be recorded in the audit report and an action plan to address these areas, inclusive of time-frames, will be suggested by the auditors. The hotel will need to agree to this action plan.
Once the hotel implements the action plan, a shorter second audit may need to take place for verification purposes. This is conducted at no extra cost to the hotel. The scheme criteria will require the creation of a sustainability policy, setting environmental goals, appointing an ECO coordinator, attending training seminars, informing guests about the hotel’s environmental management programme, etc. Hotels therefore gain from technical support on environmental issues, including through the annual seminars organised by the Malta Tourism Authority.
The Malta Tourism Authority’s ECO certification scheme has succeeded in encouraging hotels to deliver a better product. The latest information available shows that approximately 12% of hotels on the Maltese Islands are Eco-certified. This is translated to almost 30% of hotel rooms. Among the benefits that the ECO certification, lower energy consumption, lower water consumption, waste reduction as well as the reduction of operational costs are found.
A Research conducted by the Malta Tourism Authority (2009) shows that 68% of tourists surveyed expressed high levels of interest in environmental issues, while 57% would be willing to pay an average of 8% more for their hotel accommodation. This gives a competitive advantage to certified hotels which can also benefit from increased customer satisfaction given an increase awareness of traveller on environmental issues. Although environmental concerns still have little effect on the choice of tourist accommodation, it is likely that proportion of ‘green’ hotel customers will increase in the coming years.