Fair Trade Tourism has launched a new membership programme for small tourism businesses that need support with their sustainability measures but do not have the resources to become certified in the short term.

From May, Fair Trade Tourism will guide businesses along their sustainability path, providing assistance in areas ranging from legal compliance, labour and staff management, reducing energy, water and waste, fair purchasing, and improving market access.

The aim was to bring small and emerging businesses into the Fair Trade Tourism value chain, to encourage them to operate more sustainably and to expose them to tour operators interested in supporting sustainable efforts, said Jane Edge, Managing Director of Fair Trade Tourism. “We don’t mind if businesses start on a very low base as long as they are committed and want to improve, and they do improve.”

Those wishing to become a member need to be approved by FTT’s Client Advisory Committee and sign a pledge committing them to year-on-year improvements in their sustainability measures. Applicants will fill out a self-evaluation form online about sustainability actions the business is undertaking and a gap analysis is then produced highlighting areas where the business needs to improve. FTT will then provide the toolkits, templates and advice required to assist businesses along the sustainability path.

Businesses based in countries wishing to apply for membership where FTT has a mutual recognition agreement with the current certification body, will need get approval from their local certification body first. This applies to businesses in Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and Seychelles.

Membership needs to be renewed every year.

Members can state that they are members of Fair Trade Tourism but will not be eligible to use the Fair Trade Tourism label. “This is to ensure that the integrity of our certified label remains sacrosanct,” said Edge. “By lowering the threshold for small enterprises to access our business development services, we aim to broaden our sustainability impact. It also forms part of our commitment to inclusive growth of the tourism industry.”

Businesses interested in applying for membership can apply directly on the Fair Trade Tourism website.