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Is New Zealand Doing Enough With its Qualmark Enviro Eco-label to Support Ecotourism?

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 official response from the Qualmark program is that for those tourism companies who want to go the extra mile, the New Zealand public and private tourism organizations recommend the Qualmark Enviro certification. The Enviro eco-label was developed with help from the Green Tourism Business Scheme (United Kingdom) and expanded the existing Qualmark criteria to include requirements for energy efficiency, conservation initiatives, waste management, community activities and water conservation.

Accommodation providers and transportation businesses are awarded one of three Qualmark levels for tourism, namely Enviro-Gold, Enviro-Silver or Enviro-Bronze. The Enviro-Gold eco label is awarded to tourism businesses (like ZipTrek pictured below) that have submitted to a third-party review of its assessment whereas Enviro-Silver and Enviro-Bronze businesses merely have to provide evidence and endorsements of their sustainable policies to the Qualmark inspector.

Qualmark Enviro award process:

  1. Tourism company makes initial inquiry and is sent Qualmark criteria and endorsement information, Qualmark Enviro responsible tourism criteria and an application form
  2. Based on the type of category (backpacker, holiday park or home, hotel, etc.) the tourism business is applying for, management submits a self-assessment report and endorsement
  3. Business is audited by a Qualmark inspector and an independent auditor (if pursuing Enviro-Gold designation)
  4. Business is provided with an Enviro rating
  5. Certification is sent to tourism operator and assessments are conducted annually by an inspector

Best practice case studies also are available to all tourism companies.

Click here for a listing of Qualmark certified businesses.


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