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Discussions Heat Up as New ISO Tourism Committee Prepares for First Meeting

New York, Dec 01, 2005

A new technical committee within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is in the process of developing a program of work for international standardization in the area of tourism and related services. ISO/TC 228, jointly administered by the ISO member bodies from Spain (AENOR) and Tunisia (INNORPI), will hold its first meeting in Tunis, Tunisia on March 27-28, 2006.

Proposed by AENOR, the proposed scope of the Committee’s activities out for ballot until December 26 is:

Standardization of the terminology and specifications of the services offered by tourism service providers, including related activities, tourist destinations and the requirements of facilities and equipment used by them, to provide tourism buyers, providers and consumers with criteria for making informed decisions.

Potential areas proposed for development include: terminology, accommodation, restaurants, convention bureaus, tourist information offices, exhibition and conference management, natural protected areas, beaches, leisure activities, travel agencies, transport and sustainable tourism.

To date, the Committee has voted to approve as ISO standards a series of European regional standards on training in recreational scuba diving. (A ballot to establish a working group to resolve comments on the diving standards is open until December 26.) At present, there is one published ISO standard — also developed at the European regional level — on terminology for hotels and other types of tourism accommodations. There is also a new ISO working group on exhibition terminology led by the ISO member body from Singapore (SPRING).

In its proposal to establish the tourism committee, AENOR cited statistics from an ISO report to the World Tourism Organization noting the contribution of the service sector—led by tourism—to the world’s gross domestic product. AENOR also noted the discussions to liberalize trade in services currently underway within the World Trade Organization. In addition, AENOR noted that the European Commission had issued a mandate to the European regional standards bodies to develop a standardization work program to support the internal market for the service sector. Finally, the proposal mentioned that ISO’s Consumer Policy Committee (COPOLCO) is completing the development of a guide to address consumer concerns in services standardization, and that COPOLCO has identified consumer priorities for tourism services standardization.

Thirty-four ISO members have registered to become participating members of ISO/TC 228, including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for the United States. Another ten national standards bodies have requested observer status. Ten organizations and related ISO groups have applied for liaison status with the committee including, among others, the World Tourism Organization, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), Hotels, Restaurants and Cafés in Europe (HOTREC), the European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations within the EU (ECTAA), the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA), a network of sustainable tourism partners in Europe (ECOTRANS), and the Rainforest Alliance.

In a prelude to what is anticipated to be a lively first meeting, IH&RA CEO David McMillan has stated that IH&RA is “vehemently opposed” to international standards for hotels and restaurants. (In the late 1990s, IH&RA led efforts to defeat the development of an international system for hotel classification in ISO.) HOTREC also has issued a position paper emphasizing the need for standards to be market-driven by industry, admonishing public authorities—specifically, the European Commission—from encouraging standards development, and taking issue with the process by which standards are developed at the European regional level and in ISO. HOTREC also has reiterated its opposition to a hotel classification scheme for all of Europe.

U.S. parties interested in participating actively or as an observer in the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG), the group that will develop consensus-based positions on issues arising within ISO/TC 228, are encouraged to contact the U.S. TAG Administrator, NSF International. Please direct inquiries to Ms. Jane M. Wilson, NSF International (tel: 734-827-6835; fax: 734-827-6155; email:

ANSI Focus on Services Standards