With the advent of words such as green, environmentally friendly, sustainable and eco as powerful marketing slogans, it should come as no surprise that many organizations within the tourism industry have adopted these terms to attract customers.
There are financially lucrative reasons for marketing hotels, restaurants and vacation activities in this manner since surveys have indicated that travelers are willing to pay a premium for a product when they are aware that an organization is environmentally conscious.
So how can you, as a traveler, know that a tourism business is truly green? Check that they have obtained an eco-certification.
Eco-certification provides much-needed knowledge and transparency because award criteria as well as independent assessment and reauthorization processes not only help educate you about the various social, economic, cultural and environmental issues of a specific country, they provide you - the traveler - with a basis of comparison against other travel companies.
True ecotourism focuses on the discovery of a natural or wildlife habitat in a manner that maximizes local economic and social goals while reducing the possibility of environmental degradation. It is through eco-certifications that travelers can be assured that the guiding company or eco lodge supports local communities, emphasizes environmental education, sustains conservation efforts, efficiently utilizes scarce resources, minimizes tourist waste, and respects local cultural traditions.
Ecotourism companies and sustainable lodge owners undergo self-assessments, on-site visits, and training during the evaluation process which typically covers several criteria including:
- Sustainable management systems
- Customer satisfaction policies
- Local design and construction requirements
- Quality interpretation of natural surroundings and local culture
- Community development and fair trade policies
- Local employment practices
- Protection of archeological sites and artifacts, and
- Conservation and energy use policies
At this time, there is no singular international ecotourism certification due to regional interpretations of what constitutes a natural or wildlife habitat, what amounts to environmental degradation and what characterizes local prosperity. In fact, there are more than 50 ecotourism certifications at last count including Australia's ECO Certification, Costa Rica's Certificate for Sustainable Tourism, Fair Trade Tourism Alliance, Ecotourism Kenya, Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label, and Rainforest Alliance.
Learn more details about the criteria and award process for these eco-certifications within the Greenloons Ecotourism Blog, download our easy Reference Guide to Eco-certifications and Consumer Guide to Eco Labels, and read best practices from the United Nations World Tourism Organization for how sustainable tourism certifications can be used as a Tool for Development.
Either way, the next time you are planning a vacation, seek out information about that region's tourism certification standard and support eco-certified travel industry businesses that operate under ethical environmental standards for sustainability and conservation, rather than marketing tactics. You'll end up affecting more than just the environment - you'll be changing lives too!
Learn more about Greenloons' sustainability consulting services for hotels and guiding companies.