CREO, C and FRABONI, C, 2011. Awards for the Sustainable Management of Coastal Tourism Destinations: the Example of the Blue Flag Program. In: Micallef, A. (ed.), MCRR3-2010 Conference Proceedings, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue, No. 61, pp. 378–381. Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy, ISSN 0749-0208.
Local authorities, particularly coastal municipalities are gradually incorporating sustainability as one of the core values to drive the tourism industry forward, in an attempt to be more responsive to current market, environmental and community requirements. Central to this process is the adoption of voluntary initiatives such as environmental guidelines and certification schemes that encourage commitment to change. The Blue Flag Programme, run by the independent non-profit organization Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), brings a reliable guarantee to tourists regarding the environmental quality of beaches and marinas. Therefore it serves to encourage local authorities and other tourism stakeholders to constantly enhance the environmental quality of their destinations as a whole. The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development through strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, safety and other services at the beach. This study presents the results of work undertaken for a pilot project contracted by ENEA and the University of Bologna, under the patronage of the Foundation for Environmental Education, which had the central aim of conducting research on the role that the Blue Flag award can play, working together with local authorities to build a common conscience, and providing guidance towards sustainable tourism development. The research was performed through a questionnaire, which was sent to all the Blue Flag awarded municipalities across Italy. In future, this method could be extended to all the Blue Flag beaches/marinas around the world. Results confirmed the validity of the Blue Flag Programme as a tool for improving coastal zone management in a holistic way, promoting the incorporation of environmental issues in the decision-making processes of local authorities and their partners.