What is a Qualmark Rating?
The Qualmark endorsement or rating means that tourism companies have chosen to be measured for quality, safety and environmental standards. Each business receives onsite evaluations against up to 300 criteria tailored to the specific tourism experience they offer. We’ll dive a little deeper in what the Qualmark ratings mean and whether they are useful for travellers.
Side note: if a tourism business does not have a Qualmark rating, this is not necessarily a bad thing – it just means they have not opted (and paid the hefty fee) to get the assessment done.
What is Qualmark?
Qualmark is an organisation owned by Tourism New Zealand, New Zealand’s governing board for tourism. They offer endorsements for tourism activities, services and transport providers, as well as a rating system for tourist accommodations, for a fee.
Sustainable Tourism Business Award
Tourism businesses in New Zealand, such as tour operators, transport companies and accommodations, who choose to be assessed by Qualmark are awarded one of three types of “Sustainable Tourism Business Award”: Bronze, Silver or Gold.
The key areas that Qualmark focuses on in their sustainability assessment are:
- Social and people
- Environment and culture
- Health, safety and wellness.
While Qualmark outlines criteria on their website, note that they are not “absolute requirements” for tourism businesses. As Qualmark states: “More so they represent a progression of what processes, products, and experiences a business can demonstrate.”
The ratings of Bronze, Silver and Gold imply what they traditionally represent where Bronze is the lowest rating to Gold being the highest. In short, the Qualmark ratings appear to show that Bronze award businesses demonstrate that they are “aware” of meeting the Qualmark criteria, Silver award businesses are “improving” on the criteria, and the Gold award businesses are “leading the way” on the criteria. For example, Bronze award businesses demonstrate that they have an “awareness” of environmental impact, while the Silver award businesses are “improving their economic, social and environmental performance”, and Gold awards “recognise the best sustainable tourism businesses in New Zealand”.
Qualmark Accommodation Ratings
In addition to the Qualmark Bronze, Silver or Gold award, accommodation businesses, such as hotels, motels, holiday parks, hostels, etc. are given a five-star rating to indicate the quality of the facilities that they offer. This star rating is applied to accommodations only.
The Qualmark website states that the star ratings for accommodations represent the following:
- 1 Star – Facilities and service meets customers’ minimum requirements
- 2 Star – Exceeds customers minimum requirements
- 3 Star – Good to very good facilities and services
- 4 Star – Consistently high-quality levels of facilities and service
- 5-Star – Facilities and services amongst the best on offer in New Zealand.
What Does Qualmark Mean for Travellers?
In short, Qualmark is designed more for the benefit of the New Zealand tourism industry than for travellers. For instance, “Preferential promotion is given to Qualmark accredited operators on Tourism New Zealand’s website,” according to the Qualmark website and “operators must be Qualmark accredited to take part in Tourism New Zealand’s international trade marketing events and offshore trade shows.” In addition, with tourism businesses having to pay a significant fee to become a Qualmark member, Qualmark is an economic tool to help with the promotion of the New Zealand tourism industry.
That’s great for the industry, but it provides not much value for the travellers.
So, what do the Qualmark awards tell us travellers about an activity, transport or accommodation? Much of the Qualmark criteria represents the day-to-day running on the business and its social and environmental impact, which, to the more philanthropic traveller, provides some reassurance. However, this is based on a four-hour assessment of the business when the business initially signs up to be a member, as well as an assessment only once a year following. Travellers will get a better idea on the quality of a tourism business from comparing traveller reviews on websites like TripAdvisor, Viator and Expedia and watching video reviews.