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[Startup Article] Sustainable tourism: how to select and certify your accommodation offering

#Startup #Bonnes Pratiques

Florian Principale  - Head of Communication on Sustainable Development at Vaovert

When Vaovert was created in 2017, the first challenge for the start-up was to find the right method for selecting and certifying a sustainable offering. The whole issue was finding the right balance between fairly promoting the actions taken by hosts and providing clear information for tourists.

The position adopted of our founder, Mélanie, made things easier for us. It must be said that Vaovert arose from a real need: easily finding environmentally friendly accommodation.

In 2017, before Vaovert was created, the sustainable tourism ecosystem was still highly institutional. Whilst at this time international platforms only pay scant regard to a host’s environmental values, tourists have to try and find their way as best they can through a jungle of labels and certifications.

Our solution: the birth of the “Vaovert Index”

There was therefore a challenge on two levels: developing a measurement tool that ensures on the one hand a demanding selection of hosts that wish to joining us, and ensuring that tourists could easily adopt it on the other; so that they could easily identify the ecological gestures made by the host and their specialities. This reasoning led to the creation of the “Vaovert Index”— our secret ingredient—that makes all the difference.

The “Vaovert Index” combines nearly 90 criteria, the eco-points, spread over five categories:

Habitat: reducing the environmental impact of accommodation.

Energy: limiting its energy consumption or even producing energy.

3R (Reduce - Recycling - Reusing) to generate as little waste as possible.

Healthy eating: offering travellers food that is healthy, locally produced and organic.

Sharing: raising awareness amongst visitors and informing them about how to be more environmentally friendly.

For hosts, the “Vaovert Index” is made up of a grid of criteria that they fill out with the help of a member of our team. This gives us an opportunity to talk with them and ask them for proof where necessary.

A rating by levels

Our algorithm awards a score to hosts for each category depending on the number of criteria that they fulfil. A weighting system also takes into account environmental gestures depending on how complex they are to implement.

The average of each category is used to determine the hosts environmental score. This is an essential factor for our selection that comes into play here, as a minimum score of 20% is needed to join our community. Finally, the host also gets awarded a level depending on their overall score:

Level 1: 20 - 49%

Level 2: 50 - 69%

Level 3: 70 % and above

To play a role in stimulating the development of an ever broader sustainable tourism offering in France, we have also created a “first steps” selection for those with a minimal score of 10%. By joining Vaovert, they commit to undertaking an environmentally friendly approach and achieving the 20% requirement within one year.

Easy to read

Tourists can see the level and check the score per category on the advertisement for every host: this means that they can identify the strengths of the accommodation in which they will be staying. By clicking on each category, they can also see the details of the environmental gestures that the host applies.

We also send our hosts an environmental responsibility certificate to display, which summarises their overall score and their score for each category. This is a good way to start the conversation and to present their commitment to travellers who are not very sensitive to the ecological issue.

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