Sustainability Communication: How to Read between the Lines
What do you look for when searching for information on responsible travel?
With a large – and ever increasing – amount of free information readily available on the internet, is it easy for today’s responsible traveler to search for credible information on ecotourism and responsible travel? Or does more information mean more confusion for conscious consumers?
Here are a few suggestions on what to look out for when doing your pre-vacation responsible travel homework:
- What IS Ecotourism? Does the company tell you, in an uncomplicated way, what ecotourism (or responsible tourism, sustainable tourism) is and what it means to their tours, products, destinations and impacts on local people and communities?
- Ecotourism and YOU: Does the website effectively encourage you to learn more and get engaged, in addition to offering useful and practical information? Does the company go beyond describing and promoting ecotourism and inspire you to think about the way you travel and the footprint you leave?
- WHY Ecotourism? Does the company honestly share information about the reality of ecotourism and sustainable travel in the specific communities or destinations in which they operate? Do they offer unbiased perspectives on both achievements and challenges?
- HOW to Support Ecotourism: Does the website clearly describe the how – in addition to the what and why – when discussing sustainability practices? How, for example, the company’s environmental policy help local conservation? How does it support sustainable development?
… and a few examples of TIES members effectively utilizing their websites to share information on their sustainability practices, to educate site visitors about important social and environmental issues, and to encourage travelers to make responsible travel choices.
Describing true ecotourism as “an innovative tool to promote the conservation of wild areas”, Alaska Wildland Adventures informs visitors about what ecotourism means for the remote wild areas, such as the wild and natural Alaska in which the company operates, and about the opportunities that successful ecotourism can bring to communities and destinations.
Alaska Wildland Adventures promotes and practices ecotourism by offering trips with a primary focus on visiting remote and relatively unaltered natural environments; maintaining a low impact on the natural environment, without altering the resource or negatively affecting the experience; promoting travel experiences with an educational emphasis; providing direct benefit to the local economy and inhabitants, thereby providing an incentive for the local community to support the preservation of wild areas; and willingly accepting limits to economic development in order to seek growth while protecting the natural environment.
“Often misused as a catch phrase describing nature travel, ecotourism actually represents a means of protection for remote wild areas through sound and sustainable economic development. To truly be successful, ecotour operators not only tread lightly but must also set limits upon their use of the land and its resources.”
As you can see on the “Ecotourism” page on the David Morton’s Roman Road Walks website, sharing information about environmental practices and sustainability initiatives is not just about explaining what the company does, but it can also be a great way to encourage site visitors and travelers to get engaged in the goal of promoting socially and environmentally responsible travel.
Encouraging interested travelers to be part of a wider network supporting ecotourism, David Morton offers a 10% discount to TIES members. Part of David’s commitment to to contributing to the efforts to promote “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” (TIES definition of ecotourism) in concrete ways is giving back to the destination – the beautiful and countryside surrounding Rome that offers a truly magical experience of little-known Italy.
Roman Road Walks supports the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI), a non-profit foundation dedicated to preserving Italy’s natural and cultural heritage. A portion of each participant’s tour payment is donated to FAI. Since 1975 FAI has helped save and restore castles, villas, historical parks and natural areas, managing them for public use.
Ecotourism – RomanRoadWalks.com
For Nomadic Journeys, operating in remote areas of Mongolia has meant that they are blessed with a naturally well-preserved environment largely due to the small population with small footprint. Tourism in these areas, however, presents a unique set of challenges and issues.
Explaining that the current state of ecotourism in Mongolia is not perfect or ideal, Nomadic Journeys shares information about their efforts to design low-impact tours by detailing what some of the companies key priorities are and why their tours are the way they are – for example, based on the company’s belief that traditional hospitality should not be commercialized, homestays, which essentially relies on food and board from the nomad families, are not offered as a way to encounter the local people.
Nomadic Journeys encourages travelers to share their unique Mongolian experience, to help provide ideas and suggestions for their local partners, and to contribute to the development of ecotourism – a kind that “strikes a balance between sustainability and profitability” – can be achieved in the way that makes sense for the local community members living in the 21st-century reality of social, economic and environmental situations.
Low Impact – NomadicJourneys.com
O.A.R.S. emphasizes the importance of collaborating with “like-minded partners in the U.S. and abroad” that share the company’s mission and vision. In addition to the O.A.R.S. Foundation, O.A.R.S. works with and support non-profit organizations such as: American Rivers, American Whitewater, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and the Outdoor Foundation.
Part of “walking the talk” about responsible travel operations for O.A.R.S. means encouraging each traveler to do their part in supporting socially responsible and environmentally sustainable travel practices.
- Respect native artifacts and leave them untouched
- Respect wildlife
- Respect cultural differences
- Reduce waste and leave no trace
- Respect the environment
- Utilize biodegradable products in the wilderness
- Support local vendors
Responsible Travel – OARS.com
Pacuare Lodge’s “Our Commitment” page offers details of what practicing sustainable tourism means to the company, and what the lodge’s sustainability practices mean for the guests’ experiences. The page lists the following as examples of the steps the lodge has taken in order to improve their relationship with the environment:
- No trees were cut to accommodate the bungalows and main lodge, which are built of lumber from a reforestation project run by small farmers.
- The thatch roofs were made by local Cabécar Indians in their traditional style using palm leaves collected in our forest reserve.
- The lodge’s bathrooms are equipped with biodegradable soap and shampoo and the water for their showers is solar heated.
- Organic waste is composted and recyclable materials are sorted and transported to recycling companies.
- Reusable plates, cups and cutlery are used for or lunches served during the river trips.
- The lodge helps scientific research of jaguars by providing biologists with food, lodging, and logistical support.
Our Commitment to Sustainable Tourism – PacuareLodge.com