The travel industry has suffered for years a myriad of public, semipublic and private organizations that have tried to set the standards and validate the qualify of different categories of travel players, mainly hotels and other types of accommodations. From the legal and more official classifications, we have contemplated many other approaches based on attributes like luxury, sustainability, “greenness”, etc. We all know the big difference in reliability between many of these proposals and in their capacity to trigger sales. But it is a business and everybody has the right to compete.

What seems more ethically arguable is to extend that business to take advantage of the justified fear the COVID19 has created in the travellers. There is now an abundance of health and safety guidelines, but industry protocols are only useful if they’re actually implemented. Many certification labels have surfaced, and surprisingly some rely on an honour system and others have a flexible framework that allows for only partial compliance with the recommended measures.

Goverment Certifications like Portugal’s “Clean & Safe” label, whose applicants simply need to submit a “Declaration of Commitment” in which they promise to comply with the government’s health and safety protocols. Similarly, Spain’s “Responsible Tourism” seal can be downloaded “after completing a form in which the establishment shows its commitment to following the Guidelines.” The Greek government makes mandatory for all hotels and venues to obtain its “Health First” certification but there is no verification mechanism in place.

We also find Private Certifications like the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) “Safe Travels” stamp. To obtain it the WTTC members simply have to fill in a form and accept the WTTC’s “Terms & Conditions”

The Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) STAR Facility Accreditation Program is based on the explanatory material found on the GBAC website, their accreditation process operates as a form of consultation. They provide a handbook with practical advice; they offer a number of training programs for staff; and in the final stage of certification, they review the company’s updated health and safety policies to ensure they meet GBAC standards. Notably, the vetting process does not seem to involve any on-site inspections.

Similarly, the new WELL Health-Safety Rating requires participating businesses to provide ‘documentation’ showing that their health and safety policies meet some of the WELL association’s recommended protocols for Covid-19 containment. While the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) organization acts as a third-party review agency, the verification process seems to be conducted entirely on paper.

Sharecare and the Forbes Travel Guide partnered on the Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED third-party system to evaluate and confirm an individual hotel’s cleaning regimen.  Participating hotels will go through a health security software that requires leaders to verify their property’s health protocols on a regular basis in more than 360 standards. An artificial intelligence chatbot will walk leaders through a verification process that includes cleaning standards, social distancing measures, ventilation and air-handling equipment, and health safety communication with employees and guests.

Bureau Veritas’ SafeGuard label appears to involve a third-party audit of the physical site, although the agency considers virtual site inspections acceptable.

COVID19 is too serious to treat it from a marketing perspective and the confidence of the clients in accommodations and venues must be based on processes verified in situ by independent parties, recurrently. Let see if the industry is capable to understand it and avoid the easy way.