Ecotourism Certification Standards: South America’s Smart Voyager Certification

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.

Smart Voyager considers rigorous environmental, social and security norms, that, when completed, guarantee a decrease in the environmental impacts that a tourist operation may generate, ensuring direct benefits to the local population and an active participation by the tourist in the conservation of natural resources.

There are two Smart Voyager certification programs – Smart Voyager Tierra for hotels and tourist operations in Latin America and Smart Voyager Galapagos for tourist boats. Both certifications are voluntary have the same goals for tourism, namely:

  • Improving the quality of life for local residents
  • Reducing the ecological impacts of tourism
  • Giving tour operators a way to directly contribute to both the economy and the environment
  • Offering travelers the chance to help people and the wildlife while visiting natural treasures

Award process:

The Smart Voyager program is managed by the Conservacion y Desarrollo, who awards the certification. For our purposes, the ecotour land or boat operator’s business must demonstrate environmental, social, safety, and comfort standards for the following twelve areas:

  1. Company Management, Social, and Environmental Policies
  2. Conservation of Natural Ecosystems
  3. Prevention of Risk of Introduction and Dispersal of Exotic Species
  4. Just and Proper Treatment of Workers
  5. Employee Environmental Education and Training
  6. Community Relations and Local Socioeconomic Welfare
  7. Strict Control of Use, Supply and Storage of Materials that Conserve Natural Ecosystems
  8. Integrated Waste Management
  9. Tourist Guidance and Information Policies
  10. Safety and Security
  11. Planning and Monitoring
  12. Quality Control

Once the tourism company has received the Smart Voyager certification, there is no formal process for reauthorization.

Click here for a listing of ecotour operator companies that have been awarded the Smart Voyager Certification.

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