Eco adventures for a greener world

Wednesday, March 14 2012 08:03

Popular buzzwords-- green, sustainable, responsible, eco – are often just marketing hype used to seduce travel consumers

Vienna, VA, March 14, 2012– The best intentions can sometimes go awry, especially when dipping travel toes into what may – or may not – be authentic green travel.

Greenloons http://www.greenloons.com/, the company that helps travelers make sustainable travel choices, explains that slogans like and eco are being used to seduce consumers.

"Good intentions aside, given 'eco' marketing tactics, it's difficult to discern just what authentic ecotourism really means," says Irene Lane, Greenloons founder. She offers five clues for helping read between the lines.

1. Understand the three foundational pillars of true ecotourism. Ecotourism travel focuses on discovering a natural or wildlife habitat, maximizing local economic / social goals and reducing the possibility of environmental degradation.

2. Focus on the experience instead of comfort and amenities. Ecotourism is about preserving ecosystems, educating visitors about conservation, empowering localities and operating sustainable tourist attractions, not how many luxury stars a place may have.

3. Recognize legitimate eco-certification labels. There are a myriad of eco-labels throughout the travel / tourism industry. Fortunately, the U.N. Foundation's Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) has begun authorizing some of them, providing the much-needed legitimacy for award criteria, assessments and reauthorization processes. At present the GSTC applies 37 criteria to assess what is an authentic and sustainable experience. http://new.gstcouncil.org/

4. Choose activities that emphasize environmental awareness rather than outdoor sports and adventure. If guests are being taken by a gas-guzzling double coach bus to experience a unique "eco" activity, it's not about ecotourism. Eco-activities, which can include kayaking, hiking and sailing, are led by certified naturalists guiding small groups of no more than 12 to experience first-hand interpretation of local flora and fauna. Learning about the fragility and sensitivity of ecosystems is more important than focusing on photo ops.

5. Support travel suppliers who are embedded in the community. Genuine eco-travel organizations understand that tourism can be utilized as a tool for poverty alleviation as well as achieving community economic and social goals. Therefore a crucial distinction for ecotourism is not only resident employment or local food provision or even contributions to local conservation organizations, but also local management and ownership of the ecotourism business as well as incorporation of local cultural traditions.

Eco-certification is awarded to companies that have disclosed their sustainable operations, participated in training on new technologies and undergone stringent on-site visits by independent auditors. Presently there are more than 25 major eco and sustainable tourism certifications around the world and while it can be difficult to understand their nuances, Greenloons' reference guide helps consumers. See: http://www.greenloons.com/about-ecotourism.html#why not one

Greenloons only lists eco-tourism vacation packages offered by certified tourism operators. Examples of GSTC recognized eco-certifications that are featured on Greenloons' website include Certification for Sustainable Tourism (Costa Rica); Advanced Eco Certification (Australia) and Smart Voyager (Ecuador).

About Greenloons

Greenloons guides adults and families to travel experiences managed by certified third-party suppliers engaged in eco- and sustainable tourism. Greenloons is a first-of-its-kind online resource aimed at answering the growing need for accredited eco-tours and sustainable holiday travel in the tourism industry. Greenloons.com provides eco-tourism education, news, comparable certified eco-tour and volunteer conservation program listings, tour reviews and booking services, plus a forum for the community to share its personal vacation stories and tips for establishing eco-tourism in any corner of the world.

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