Standards and tourism
October 2011 | August 2011 | February 2011 | May 2010 | June 2009
Update November 2012
The Council of the European Union recently adopted a new regulation aimed at improving the European standardisation system. The new regulation, applying from 1 January 2013, will allow European standardisation bodies to develop standards for services and not only for products. It will also include a greater involvement of consumer and social organisations in standardisation activities and will facilitate representation and participation of SMEs in this process.
The basis for the standardisation reform is explained in the Commission communication A Strategic Vision for European Standards.
Update October 2011
The European Parliament has long been a supporter of standardisation and when it comes to product standards, many in the tourism industry would agree. The attractions sector's standard on amusement park safety, EN 13814, which has recently been revised by industry representatives, is highly regarded.
The controversial area remains the development of standards for services. The EC's new proposals are intended to pave the way for precisely that, but many in the tourism sector are opposed to the idea. The Commission official who met NET members in September emphasised the importance of standards proposals being market-driven. He was surprised to hear from NET of CEN's lack of transparency and consultation with industry in initiatives for developing tourism service standards. NET agreed to brief him further (CEN is the European standardisation body).
The current timetable for the Parliament's report is for the IMCO committee to vote at the end of March 2012 with the final vote being taken in the Parliament as a whole at the end of May.
Update August 2011
The Commission's new proposals follow the public consultation held in 2010, to which IAAPA Europe contributed. They amend existing European directives and create a new legislative framework for the EU's support and sponsorship of standardisation.
There is considerable support in the European institutions for the use of standards as a way of promoting the competitiveness of European businesses and serving consumers. As the Commission itself says, "Standards are sets of voluntary technical and quality criteria for products, services and production processes. […] They help businesses work together and save money for consumers." Standards are also regarded as important for the proper and effective functioning of the EU single market.
IAAPA Europe members have long recognised the importance of European standard 13814 to the safety of their customers and the success of their businesses. This is now forming the basis of discussions to develop a new international standard for attractions safety and is an excellent example of the industry and standards bodies working together in a common cause.
What is new in the current proposals is the fact that, for the first time, standards for services will be included in the scope of the legislation. If adopted, the revised legislation will allow the European Commission to "request the development of market-driven and consensus-based voluntary standards for the service sector".
The words 'market-driven' and 'consensus-based' are important. Many of the previous and current attempts at developing tourism service standards have been neither market-driven nor consensus-based and have, instead, often been proposed by career standardisation officials. (See the IAAPA newsletter update of February 2011.)
IAAPA will be joining its colleagues in NET at a meeting with EC officials in September where the tourism sector's concerns about service standardisation and the EC's new proposals will be prominent on the agenda.
The secretariat will keep members informed of developments.
Update February 2011
IAAPA Europe joined colleagues from other tourism trade associations at a meeting on 8th December last year in Brussels discussing the work done so far within Europe on the development of standards for tourism. The meeting was called by the European standardisation body, CEN, to consider the "needs and opportunities" for new tourism standardisation work.
CEN's initiative coincides with work by the European Commission on proposals for revising the overall standardisation system in Europe (the EC funds much of CEN's work, giving the organisation mandates to work in given policy areas). The EC held a public consultation in 2010, to which IAAPA Europe contributed, and its new proposals are expected to be published in March/April 2011.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament has just published a report on the European standardisation system which was commissioned to feed into the EC consultation process.
The international standards body, ISO, is also co-ordinating the development of tourism servivce standards through its technical committee, TC 228, which is run jointly by the Spanish and Tunisian standards bodies. IAAPA Europe has a seat on the committee as a purely advisory 'industry liaison body', a status which allows it to attend meetings and receive papers - but not to have voting rights.
Standardisation at both European and international levels is a controversial topic when it is applied to tourism, provoking strong feelings in many European trade associations.
The controversy does not concern such common-sense standards as those that have been developed for rides and machinery at amusement parks. Instead, it arises in the development of standards for tourism services (the ISO and CEN initiatives described above), provoking questions about the relevance of such standards when a business's ability to compete is often determined by differences in the services it provides - and not by being the same as its competitors.
Industry representatives also question the transparency of the CEN and ISO committees' procedures and the place/role of business representatives in them.
This controversy spilled over into the discussions on 8th December which were characterised by strong differences in opinion between industry bodies on the one side and standards bodies, consumer interests and public authorities on the other. IAAPA Europe's colleagues in Hotrec made a presentation on behalf of all NET members at the meeting.
The CEN meeting ended with a commitment by the CEN secretariat to develop work on the accessibility of tourism services and to consider the scope for developing accommodation safety standards. Importantly, they have also pledged to improve their dialogue with industry bodies.
Update May 2010: Consultation on EU standardisation policy
The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the EU standardisation system and ways in which it can be improved.
EU-level standardisation (and wider global standardisation) is a controversial topic when it is applied to tourism, provoking strong feelings in many European trade associations. The controversy does not concern such common-sense standards as those that have been developed for rides and machinery at amusement parks. Instead, it arises in the development of standards for tourism services, provoking questions about the relevance of such standards when a business's ability to compete is often determined by differences in the services it provides - and not by being the same as its competitors.
The current consultation is timely in giving all interested parties the opportunity to raise concerns about the way in which standards are developed at the moment. A key issue for tourism associations is the transparency of the system and the place of business representatives in it. Another is the potential use of standards as a basis for legislation/regulation through the back door.
IAAPA Europe has responded to this consultation on behalf of its members. You can download the consultation document and IAAPA Europe response here.
Update June 2009
IAAPA Europe has just joined the tourism committee of the international standards body, ISO, as an observer.
Standards are technical documents, designed to be used as voluntary rules, guidelines, or definitions. They are created by standards organisations at national, European or international level, all of which are now showing increasing interest in devising standards for tourism services.
Tourism representatives are watching developments closely to ensure that any new standards are practicable and meet proven industry and consumer need.
ISO set up a technical committee on tourism and related services, TC 228, in 2006 and this draws its members from national standards bodies all over the world. European examples include BSI in the UK, DIN in Germany and AFNOR in France.
IAAPA Europe has just been admitted to this committee as an observer - 'liaison status' in the jargon - and this puts us in a strong position to influence future standards initiatives that may affect the interests of our members. We are working alongside several colleagues from the tourism industry, including representatives of the hospitality sector, travel agents and campsites (to name but three).
Liaison status gives us access to all discussions being held in the committee and to all the meeting documents. It does not give us, or any other industry representative, the right to vote when decisions are made; this right is reserved for the national standards bodies, 53 of whom are active members of the committee.
TC 228 meets once a year, usually in March or April. The detailed work of the committee is done by smaller working groups meeting as and when they decide to meet. Current projects include development of standards for
→ Recreational diving services
→ Health tourism services
→ Tourist information and reception services at tourist information offices
→ Golf services
→ Natural protected areas
In addition to these, the committee is considering six further proposals:
→ Adventure tourism
→ Congress centres
→ Industrial tourism
→ Management of safety and security in the tourism industry
→ Yachting clubs and marinas
→ Revision of an existing standard on tourism terminology.
CEN is the EU standards body and receives much of its funding from the European Commission. It, too, has a tourism services committee: TC 329. This committee is chaired by the German standards body, DIN.
Standards have been published on terminology (terms applying in different languages to services provided by tourist accommodation, tour operators and travel agents), language study tours, recreational diving services and local guiding services.
There are no standards currently under development in this committee. However, the terminology standard may soon be revised by the ISO tourism committee (see above).
In addition to the work of TC 329, the wider CEN organisation has recently submitted a series of reports to the European Commission on the feasibility of drawing up European standards in eleven categories of service provision. Two of these eleven reports could affect tourism businesses:
→ Accessibility of transport and tourism services (to people with disabilities).
→ CHESSS (CEN's horizontal European service standardisation strategy). As a horizontal standard, this would include the handling of customer complaints, safe service delivery and customer satisfaction.
Decisions on both of these are expected shortly.