Why Gold Certified Ecotourism is a big deal!
Gold Certification is a Big Deal…
As it requires incremental improvement, innovation and maintenance of a very high level of committment to ecotourism, sustainability, conservation and customer satisfaction.
Internationally ecotourism is overseen by The Global Sustainable Tourism Council and in Ireland the ratified certifying body is Ecotourism Ireland, headed up by Mary Mulvey. The criteria for certification are lengthy and cover the full spectrum of committments to responsible, sustainable and educational ecotourism. Achieving Gold Certification is not easy.
Make no mistake, this is not green washing!
In total there are 59 Measures (covering multiple criteria) that are to be addressed by a certified ecotourism operator, which are assessed by formal application and a comprehensive audit by an ecotourism industry professional. Finally the application and audit are reviewed by The Assessment Committee consisting of representatives of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), National Parks &Wildlife Service, Irish Trails Office and Tourism Ireland.
Ecotourism Ireland defines Gold Certified Operators as:
“These Ecotourism approved experiences are at the forefront of the industry. They are provided by businesses dedicated to educating tourists about the natural world and local culture. They are striving to be environmentally innovative and socially responsible.
Their ecotourism products have a positive impact on the environment, local communities, and their clients. They will invest both time and money to maintain positive ecotourism practices.
These Ecotourism approved experiences have had an on-site assessment, which verified that they have received 85-100% of the available points.”
We have recently attained Gold Certification by Eco Tourism Ireland for the venue we manage Crann Og Eco Farm in County Galway Ireland. This is the second Gold we have attained resulting in four consecutive years certification at this level. We managed the project from no certification to Gold since 2014, and have maintained an ethos of continued improvement in management and the ecotourism experience itself. The venue is currently certified Gold until July 2019.
It’s not easy!
In this particular case it has not been an easy task because we are a small operation and we deliberately keep the numbers of visitors to the experience very low to preserve the venue itself, the surrounding natural habitats and the overall experience. It’s all about getting back to nature, not how many people we can squeeze through the venue and how much money we can make as a result!
Thus our turnover is small and resources limited. This means we must do everything in house and make use of every resource that comes our way. We are masters of the principles of reduce (consumption & waste), re-use (whatever possible) and recycle (everything imaginable).
This also means that continuing to improve our performance in terms of certification, while maintaining the standard of the experience we offer and conserving the environment, requires an enormous committment and plenty of sacrifice.
Having a higher throughput of visitors and subsequently higher revenues would make it easier as we would be more able to outsource some of the functions we perform in house, thus returning more time resource to the core team. This in turn would provide greater scope for enhanced ROI for our time and addtional vacational opportunities, all of which help to enhance the morale and resilience of the core team.
Make no mistake, maintaining a quality ecotourism experience with very high levels of customer interaction, education and recreation, at levels returning nearly 100% 5 Star reviews requires an enormous commitment of time, energy, personal involvement and diligence.
It is very nearly a 24/7 undertaking, certainly during the ecotourism season, and as we also host third party events and provide additional wellness products aside from ecotourism throughout the year, it’s a full time 10 months per year committment. The other two months are usually taken up by planning, marketing (constant), maintenance, renovation and improvements. Somewhere in there we try to take a break too!
What are the benefits of Gold Certification?
Ecotourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world and is a major employer in some regions. It appears this is a trend that will continue for a considerable period. Certification to a high level by world renowed organisations enhances reputation and authenticity. It demonstrates committment, diligence and quality of experience to potential tourists.
We at Eco Freelance strongly advocate a return to nature for wellbeing, education and conservation of the environment on which we all depend for survival (check out Our Mission Statement). Assisting the projects and people we do to achieve high levels of quality, sustainability, conservation and education strongly contributes to the progression of this ethos.
An operator of a venue and experience that promotes this ethos must by definition ascribe to strong principles and performance in areas of sustainability, efficiencies, transparency, education, conservation and cultural awareness.
In doing so such an operator, venue, experience and community demonstrate to others, local and foreign, more symbiotic ways of living and relating to the natural world. And that’s what we’re all about!