Eco adventures for a greener world

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!

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The origins of EarthCheck date back to 1997 when the Australian government created the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) in order to produce science based research about sustainability in the travel industry. In the ensuing decade, the STCRC focused on helping tourism businesses and organizations benchmark and enhance their triple bottom line first for the Green Globe certification and then under its own brand, EarthCheck.

Of all the eco-certifications available to guiding companies and accommodations worldwide, Biosphere is the only one to have been Approved (versus Recognized) by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as having an independently verified process that is reliable, transparent and aligned with the universally accepted criteria for sustainable tourism.

Formulated by social responsibility experts in the tourism industry, universities, political realm, environmental policy and development organizations, TourCert awards certifications to organizations that specify how their business activities impact social and ecological programs.

How do you know when eco-certified travel is going mainstream? It is when customers and hotel chains both extol the virtues of certification and eco-labels.

Earlier this year, a Canadian Travel Intentions Survey found that 25% of leisure travelers and 31% of business travelers said that a hotel with an environmental certification program was important to them. Overall, 42% of business travelers surveyed said that practices like recycling and energy efficiency matter to them when choosing where to stay (up five percent from 2011) and the same percentage of all travelers said they would pay $1 or more to offset their carbon footprint during a stay at a property.

Croatia has been receiving a lot of press lately as the “new” and relatively untouched area of Europe for wanderlusts to discover. The country offers pristine beaches, hiking trails and vineyards for adventures and culinary enthusiasts alike.

In addition, since 1993, Croatia has also instituted the Environmental Label, so that consumers could understand the “environmental friendliness of a product…and an indication of continuous efforts (toward) environmental protection”.

Rolling hills, castles, churches, potatoes, shamrocks and leprechauns – that’s what Ireland means to me! Since 2004, Ireland has also stood for a practical ecotourism standard. Developed by the organization, Ecotourism Ireland, and in association with Failte Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the (Ireland) Environmental Protection Agency, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the (Ireland) National Parks & Wildlife Service, the eco-label aims to expand the concept of environmental sustainability and stewardship through extensive training and accreditation procedures.

What does the term “obtained a qualified third party eco-certification” really mean to travelers? Is it a “green” seal of approval? Does it mean that a tourism supplier is also operating in a sustainable, responsible, local and eco manner too?

In a newly released Greenloons Consumer Guide to Eco-Certifications, we explain that lure of playing in the billion-dollar annual eco-travel market means that over the last decade, there has been an oversaturation of loosely applied and misunderstood eco-labels that often set the consumer up to pay higher prices often associated with ecotourism. But it doesn’t need to be confusing or expensive.

One of the primary aims of Greenloons is to educate consumers to understand both the similarities and different nuances among the various tourism certifications that exist across the globe today.

While we have offered an easy reference guide to help consumers, it can still be confusing. So much so, even tourism suppliers themselves, who are only trying to operate their businesses in a responsible, ethical and environmentally-friendly manner, can be puzzled by the distinctions.

Lately, I have received a few questions about the difference between Rainforest Alliance verification and certification, which has prompted this posting.

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steve Nomchong
    Steve Nomchong says #
    A valuable post Irene. We (Yacu Amu Experiences) are one such operator in Ecuador that has been Rainforest Alliance Verified and a
  • Andres Hammerman
    Andres Hammerman says #
    I have always been skeptical about certification and therefore have shied away from it. Understandably it can be a learning tool f

New Zealand has long been regarded as a clean and green destination as a result of its rich and fragile natural landscape. But in recent years, there had been controversy as to whether its official environmental policies and practices were doing enough to protect and conserve nature.

For example in 2008, New Zealand promoted the extension of its Qualmark certification program to include responsible tourism practices. Then in 2010, after certifying more than 500 tourism businesses, New Zealand announced the de-coupling of responsible tourism criteria from Qualmark, and the creation of the Qualmark Enviro eco-label criteria. Confused yet?

The Netherlands, best known for its tulips, wooden shoes, windmills and canals, also has its own eco-label for environmentally friendly businesses called the Green Key (formerly called the Milieubarometer).

Originally created in 1998, the Green Key focuses on “internal and external communications, sustainability in the management of the company, use of energy, gas and water, waste management, transport, food & beverage, gardening, sustainable measures in the office, paper usage, type of printing, and sustainable procurement.

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 consumers. There are financially lucrative reasons for marketing hotels and vacation activities in this manner since surveys have indicated that consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product when they are aware that an organization is environmentally conscious.

In general, European vacationers view ecotourism as a way to minimize their carbon footprint entirely by first traveling by train, for example, and then staying in rural areas where they can hike or go camping. To that end, a European Charter for Sustainable Tourism (CETS) was developed in 1995 to “to improve the sustainable development and management of tourism in protected areas, which takes account of the needs of the environment, local residents, local businesses and visitors.”

Ask most international travelers about the eco-label that most comes to mind for sustainable tourism and the common answer given will be Europe's VISIT eco-label. Yet, the European VISIT (Voluntary Initiative for Sustainability in Tourism) eco-label is actually a collaboration of existing tourism certification schemes throughout the continent. It's not an eco-label as much as an association of sustainable tourism business and certification organizations.

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    Interesting. I had no idea there was such a diversity in standards for this particular certification. Thanks for clarifying!
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    This sounds awesome, so many Americans want to visit Europe and these eco-friendly initiatives and activities are great ideas to s

As one of the 10 most visited countries in the world, Mexico is the personification of sun, sand, surf and cultural heritage. Given its importance of tourism to the economy, Mexico instituted, in 2006, a regulation that has "certified (more than 30) ecotourism businesses and provided small, rural tourism business owners with training, technical assistance, and marketing support".

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Elanthendral
    Elanthendral says #
    Aquafina Mineral Water Distrib...
    Thanks for your details and explanations..I want more information from your side..I Am working in Aquafina Mineral Water Distribut
  • Harini
    Harini says #
    Distributor Aquafina In Chenna...
    Thanks for your details and explanations..I want more information from your side..I Am working in Distributor Aquafina In Chennai.
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    I had no idea ecotourism was so popular in Mexico, this is incredible!
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    Thanks for breaking down the SEMARNAT ecotourism regulation info so clearly!

Italy's eco-label for sustainable tourism emphasizes the protection of nature, culture and heritage as well as the improvement of the environment. Since 1997, the Legambiente Turismo eco-label has been awarded to 426 accommodations including agritourism sites, restaurants, boat operators, beaches, natural parks, and tourist attractions that have raised awareness about running sustainable tourism operations as well as reducing the environmental impacts of tourism.

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Rebecca Rubin
    Rebecca Rubin says #
    So awesome to learn that the efforts are having such a great impact in Italy! Hope to continue to hear positive reports like this
  • Jamie Fernandez
    Jamie Fernandez says #
    Interesting to know these organizations are always improving their sustainability.

Sweden has long exemplified family, sustainability, rugged terrain, and hospitable tourism. Nature´s Best is the first national quality label for nature tours in Europe. In 2002 and coinciding with the United Nation's declaration as the International Year of Ecotourism, Sweden launched the Nature's Best quality eco-label so that customers would know about the best offerings for Swedish ecotourism.

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • rekha
    rekha says #
    Impressive, definitely great material. This blog is absolutely awesome.
  • Shree Reddy
    Shree Reddy says #
    Eco tourism is the best part of tourism. Eco-tourism focuses on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal grow

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.”

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.

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).

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.

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.

Read All About Ecotourism

View more blog entries