Analysis - June 19, 2012



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June 2012


Print Products and activities, Sustainable tourism,

Eco-Friendly Beaches Lead to Higher Profits

As the spring and summer months approach, our heads begin to fill with thoughts of sun, sand and surf, but with every beach offering plenty of all three, locations need to find other ways of setting themselves apart from the competition. Many beaches in Europe and now Ontario are accomplishing this by adopting the Blue Flag certification program: a widely recognised eco-label developed especially for beaches.

Source: Rachel Dodds

About Blue Flag

The Blue Flag program was developed in France in 1987 by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) and has since certified over 3000 beaches in 44 countries across the globe, making it the most well- recognised eco- certification program for beaches ( While the majority of the certified beaches are in Europe, the program has been gaining popularity in Canada and 16 have been certified in Ontario. For a beach to become Blue Flag certified, it must meet standards in the 4 categories outlined below:

  • Environmental education and information
  • Water quality
  • Environmental Management
  • Water safety

Once these standards are met, the beach can begin flying its Blue Flag and enjoying free promotion on the Blue Flag website (

Choosing a Beach for Your Vacation

A recent study in Ontario funded by the Ausable Bay Conservation Region (Dodds, 2010), found that the health of a beach was a key factor in their overall beach satisfaction and although many Canadians don’t check the health and safety status of a beach before embarking on their vacation, 26% would pack up and leave for another beach if it was deemed unsafe for swimming.

In Ontario, Blue Flag certification was not found to be a significant influencing factor for beach selection as the majority of beach- goers are still generally unaware of the program. However, a similar survey in done in Wales, a country with 42 Blue Flag certified beaches (over 2.5 times as many as the amount in Canada), found that over 63% of survey respondents were aware of the program and that a beach’s certification status was more important than the distance they had to travel to reach the beach (Dodds, 2010). Since Canada is currently planning to expand its portfolio of Blue Flag beaches, it can be expected that certification will become an increasingly significant factor in years to come.

Source: Rachel Dodds

What This Means for a Beach’s Popularity and Profitability

Since local residents spend about $10 each time they visit a beach in their area (about 3 times per week during the summer), their total beach expenditures for July and August total $270. Meanwhile, tourists visit less often, but spend closer to $50 each time they visit a beach. This means that a beach will lose a significant amount of income if patrons, especially locals, decide to leave for another location if their current beach becomes unsafe for swimming.

If a beach chooses to become Blue Flag certified, it will ensure that the beach consistently meets and exceeds safety standards by making sure that water clarity, quality and cleanliness are up to standard and that lifeguards and beach patrols are ready available in case of emergency. These standards will put beach- goers at ease and keep them happy and spending money for longer periods of time.

In addition, certification also requires beaches to have garbage and recycling containers, washrooms and change rooms, access for persons with disabilities and dog- friendly beach areas. Research has found the presence of these features be related to overall beach satisfaction, further improving the beach’s profitability.

Forward Thinking

A sustainable beach can enjoy a wide variety of benefits expanding out not only to the environmental side of sustainability with improved water quality and clarity and protection against erosion, but also towards the social and economical sides of the equation by improving beach patron satisfaction and increasing local business. European beaches have found that by implementing the Blue Flag certification program and increasing its awareness, they have been able to successfully promote this concept. As this idea is just in the process of developing in Canada, it can be expected that as more beaches become certified, Blue Flag status will begin to play a more significant role in influencing where patrons choose to spend their beach vacations.



– Blue Flag. “Programme eco-label for Beach and marinas”, 2012

– Dodds, R. “Determining the Economic Impact of Beaches: Lake Huron Shoreline from Sarnia to Tobermory”. Ryerson University and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority, Toronto, 2010

– Tudor, D. & Williams, A. “A rationale for beach selection by the public on the coast of Wales, UK”, Area, vol 38 no 2, 2006, p. 153


Rachel Dodds, Professor, Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management à l’Université de Ryerson
spitality & Tourism Management, Ryerson University
Rachel Dodds is recognized around the world as an expert on sustainable tourism. She is professor at the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University and Director of Sustaining Tourism consulting firm. She is the author of the books “Power and Politics” and “Sustainable Tourism in Islands”. Her fields of expertise focus on sustainable tourism, climate changes and social responsibility firms. She holds a Ph.d. from the University of Surrey in England and a master’s degree in tourism management at Griffith University in Australia. She is a founding member of the Canada’s Icarus Foundation, participated in the Sustainability Council for the Tourism Industry Association and is former member of the Travel and Tourism Research Association of Canada. She has lived and worked on four continents and traveled in more than 75 countries. Web siteRachel Dodds analysis


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