With tourism a very important part of the economy, the United Kingdom has worked diligently for decades to make sustainability and green tourism a mainstream concept – and it is working! According to Green Business UK Ltd.,"demand has grown for simple labels that allow consumers to make purchasing decisions based on environmental and ethical grounds as consumers become increasingly aware of sustainability issues.”
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Ecotourism Blog!
Welcome to the Greenloons Blog, your go-to ecotourism / sustainable / responsible (or whatever term you feel comfortable with) travel resource. Here, you will find eco travel destination profiles, environmentally friendly travel tips, ecotourism certification information, eco trip reviews and much more! Read, share and let us know your thoughts about ecotourism!
Irene is the founder & president of Greenloons. She is a dual EU citizen who has lived in 5 countries and visited 32 more in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe. Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences to address authentic ecotourism from community, ecological and financial points of view, Irene is a frequent conference speaker, Huffington Post blogger and radio talk show guest.
Although a small country, Belize is host to more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems, which make ecotourism and agriculture the lifeblood of its economy. Slightly larger than Massachusetts, Belize is located in Central America at the southeastern tip of Mexico and east of Guatemala. The parliamentary democracy, which is part of the British Commonwealth, is well known for its Mayan temples, tropical rainforests and boasts the world’s second longest barrier reef.
Captivating Botswana has largely abandoned mass tourism in recent years in favor of low volume, high quality safari travel into the Okavango Delta and surrounding Kalahari Desert. Roughly the size of Texas, this progressive democratic republic has a stable economy, which also has taken steps to protect 40% of its land for wildlife, thereby creating one the highest game concentrations in southern Africa.
In line with its deep traditions of environmental consciousness and sustainability, Norway has many environmental and quality labels for the travel and tourism industry including Green Key for lodging and restaurants, the Blue Flag for beaches, and the Nordic Swan for consumer products. I still remember seeing in the outskirts of Oslo beautiful green turf roofs on relatively new homes that helped to maintain interior temperature during all seasons. With all that, only in January 2008 did Norway formalize ecotourism with its own ecotourism certification standard.
Fresh off the heels of Machu Picchu winning the 2010 World Travel Awards as the best ecotourism destination in South America, Peru is ready to showcase to the world its many cultural traditions, festivals, and natural landscapes. The Amazon River's origins are in Peru and its rainforests are home to some of the diverse habitats on Earth and presents a wonderful option as an ecotourism destination for families.
According to the International Ecotourism Society (TIES), 83% of developing countries rely on ecotourism as a major export while others, such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, Madagascar and Antarctica, also rely on ecotourism as the major contributory factor in their gross domestic product and employment level calculations.
Costa Rica is sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama and is often called “the Switzerland of Central America” due to its politically stable democracy, technological advancements, high literacy rate, high standard of living and medical facilities, and no standing army. About the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, ecotourism is the lifeblood of this relatively rural country with its vast areas of protected lands.
The country comprises only .01% of the earth’s landmass, yet is home to 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. With more than 10,000 identified plant species, 880 bird species, 9,000 butterfly and moth species, and 500 mammal species including capuchin monkeys, poison dart frogs, and sea turtles, there's much flora and fauna to observe.
Ecotourism is full of what educators call teachable moments or, more definitively, unplanned opportunities to explain a concept that has unintentionally captured a child’s interest. Whether it is touring the rainforests of the Amazon, observing blue footed boobies throughout the Galapagos Islands, or understanding the water issues that surround the Okavango Delta in Botswana, ecotourism is a vacation experience that provides boundless opportunities to teach younger generations about the fragility of ecosystems and the significance of heritage.
The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continues with the Ecotourism Kenya Eco-Rating certification. Kenya boasts seven diverse habitats within its borders; they range from open savannah to sandy beaches, deep forests to snow-capped mountains, wild deserts to coral reefs and river deltas. Besides elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards, several endangered species can be found in Kenya including the Grevy zebra, black rhino, African hunting dog, sable, and Hirola antelope. Not surprisingly, Kenya has a long tradition of hosting safari travelers and relying on tourism receipts for much of its gross national product.
Alaska is the personification of travel adventure, community support, and respect for environment and cultural heritage. Two years ago, in response to consumer confusion about the term green travel, the Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association (AWRTA) created “the voluntary certification program for tourism businesses that operate in Alaska and meet standards of economic, social and environmental sustainability”.
Situated due north of South Africa, Botswana has differentiated itself as an ecotourism destination since 2002, when it first developed the Biokavango Project, which was a national ecotourism strategy aimed at conserving the Okavango wetland system. The Project, which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Government of Botswana, has been implemented by the Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research Centre (HOORC) and culminated in the introduction of an Ecotourism Certification System in 2008. The Ecotourism Certification System is based on such standards as the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and Green Key.
For decades, the concept of sustainable tourism was an intriguing and profitable one that, without defined criteria, resulted in the utilization of greenwashing practices by various travel industry suppliers. In order to build consumer confidence and promote industry efficiencies, the Rainforest Alliance in partnership with 27 other organizations including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) developed a set of 37 voluntary principles that have come to be known as the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC), which is undertaken by the Tourism Sustainability Council (TSC).
Recently, the Rainforest Alliance introduced its stricter Rainforest Alliance Verified ™ seal to delineate, for ecotourism purposes, tourism enterprises and projects that meet criteria developed by the Rainforest Alliance or by other aligned organizations.
So, why is the seal so important? When Rainforest Alliance opened its doors in 1987, people were largely “unaware that 50 acres of rainforest were disappearing every minute (resulting in) two dozen species going extinct every day.”
The United Nations Global Compact (Global Compact) is a voluntary, strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and coordinating their strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the four issue areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. Since ecotourism addresses each of these four issue areas, some international ecotour operators have aligned their business practices with the Global Compact.
The Green Globe program grew out of the 1992 United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, where 182 heads of state from around the world endorsed the Agenda 21 principles of sustainable development. Subsequently, Green Globe International, which is a publicly traded company based out of Los Angeles, California, branded its sustainability and benchmarking program, carbon footprint calculation and offset program, and consulting services to help companies achieve certification. Green Globe is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and provides certification for hotels, conference centers, attractions, tour operators, businesses, cruises, and spas.
The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continues with Sustainable Tourism Eco-certification Program (STEP). The STEP program was created by Sustainable Travel International, which is a non-profit organization “dedicated to promoting responsible tourism, supporting sustainable development, and helping travelers and travel providers protect the environments and cultures they visit.”
South America's Smart Voyager is the sustainable tourism certification program for tourist boats, tour operators and hotels operating in South America. The program is so rigorous that in 2002, it was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an example that should be implemented in all of the natural patrimonies of humanity. Created in 1998 by Conservacion y Desarrollo, an independent, non-profit, non-governmental citizens group, in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, scientists, conservation experts and tour operators, the Smart Voyager program covers a range of environmental, social, and economic concerns facing the region.
This weekend (October 23-24), the Washington Convention Center will host one of the nation’s premier sustainable living events. In addition to information about green career, media, product, food, energy, investment, transportation, fashion, and construction industries, the festival will also be feature ecotravel speakers and exhibitors.
The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continues with South Africa’s Fair Trade Tourism (FTT) program. South African tourism is synonymous with nature and wildlife safaris, cradle of humankind exploration, hiking and water adventure, and most recently World Cup soccer. Developed under the auspices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) South Africa, the FTT is a non-profit initiative aligned to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and is now expanding into the southern African region.
The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continue with Costa Rica’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism. In North America, the term ecotourism has become synonymous with the country of Costa Rica. Its lush natural environment coupled with an incredible diversity of wildlife makes it a favorite destination for vacation adventure, enrichment and relaxation. The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program was developed by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT) and is regulated by the Costa Rican National Accreditation Commission. It was designed to differentiate tourism companies based on the “degree to which they comply with a sustainable model of natural, cultural, and social resource management.”
The Ecotourism Certification Standards series continues with Brazil’s Adventure Tourism Safety (Aventura Segura) program. With the recent granting of both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil’s conscious stepping up of efforts to attract foreign visitors to its internationally recognized nature reserves, parks, and biosphere reserves has begun to pay off dividends.
Australia’s strong efforts toward building an ecotourism certification program has resulted in a globally recognized brand that is slowly being utilized by other countries that have recognized the need for providing “ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”
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, rental cars, and vacation activities in this manner since surveys have indicated that customers are willing to pay a premium for a product when they are aware that an organization is environmentally conscious.
Unlike ten years ago when the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle, reclaim was in vogue and hailed by people, especially those in developed countries, who wanted to do their part to stem climate change, the de rigueur standard is now carbon offsetting. Specifically for tourism, carbon offsetting presents an opportunity for people to counterbalance their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in certain forestry, renewable energy, or development projects since their travels require a car rental, airplane flight, train trip, or hotel stay. But does carbon offsetting really work to reduce energy dependency or to create local jobs? The answer largely depends on what type of projects one supports.
In the last installment of the family ecotourism series that takes you through the highlights of Northern Europe, I invite you to appreciate lovely Gothenburg. Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm. It is located on the southwest coast of Sweden and is equidistant between Copenhagen, Denmark and Olso, Norway. According to the Gothenburg city council, each resident enjoys 300 square feet of green space, which explains how one can readily reach the forests, meadows, lakes, parks and gardens that are peppered throughout the city.