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.

Recently, a set of 37 standards developed by the U.N. Foundation’s Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), which Greenloons is a member, have come to serve as the basis for most eco-certification standards and have effectively established the GSTC as the leading accreditation authority for eco-labels (much like the Liaison Committee on Medical Education accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada).

While not perfect, GSTC recognized eco-certifications provide much-needed knowledge and transparency because award criteria as well as independent assessment and reauthorization processes not only help educate the consumer about the various socio-economic and environmental issues of a specific country, but also provide the consumer with a basis of comparison against other eco-travel suppliers.

For additional information about the nuances of the 20 major eco-certifications around the world, you can read the Greenloons Reference Guide. In addition, Greenloons only lists ecotourism vacation packages offered by certified tourism suppliers.

Examples of GSTC recognized eco-certifications that are featured on Greenloons include Certification for Sustainable Tourism (Costa Rica); Advanced Eco Certification (Australia) and Smart Voyager (Ecuador).

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