Creating Interpretive Experience In A Conservation Area

Creating Interpretive Experience In A Conservation Area

Word Count: 2,085    Reading Time: 11 minutes

Creating Interpretive Experiences in Ecotourism

 

In this post we look at How To Create An Interpretive Experience associated with an ecotourism experience within a Special Area of Conservation in Ireland.

Ecotourism, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, typically incorporates a feature of conservation that may be ecological, cultural, historical, archaeological and/or spiritual. The experience should seek to simultaneously immerse visitors in this feature and it’s characteristics whilst preserving it, thus creating a ‘sustainable experience‘.

Careful consideration need be taken to ensure the integrity of the site and features are not impacted by proposed use, nor the access to the features by local peoples affected. In essence, the conservation features should not be altered by the proposed activities, yet means for providing opportunities to immerse within the experience need to bring visitors into close contact with it for it to have any ‘interpretive value‘.

Clearly then, ensuring the sustainability of the conservation features requires considerable research, consultation and planning. It is essential that this process include and be informed by the Interpretive Theme of the experience.

 

Interpretive Themes vs Topics

 

An experience with an essence of conservation at it’s core typically can be found to have a main theme or indeed multiple themes that give meaning to, and reasons for the attitude of preservation of the feature(s).

Themes go far beyond simple topics, and it has been shown by research and experience that learning and understanding are enhanced by the thematic approach (Ham, 1992), as opposed to the instructive, topic based approach.

An example of a topic may be: Nature and Health.

An example of a theme may be: After experiencing nature first hand, interacting with plants and animals personally, people begin to sense the importance of being in nature for their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Thus to create an Interpretive experience the core themes of it must be identified and consensus reached on how best to communicate this to the visitor, while preserving the resource(s).

The concept of thematic interpretation was first proposed by Freeman Tilden in Interpreting Our Heritage (1957) and later by Dr. Grant W. Sharpe in his work, Interpreting the Environment (1976). Thematic Interpretation was later popularised by Dr. Sam H. Ham in Environmental Interpretation (1992).

The common perspective in these works is that thematic interpretation is a process that provokes the visitor or audience to think for themselves, thus developing a subjective understanding of the experience, as opposed to being instructed to accept a particular view point or set of ‘facts’.

In later years thematic interpretation has been more often referred to as ‘thematic communication‘ and adopted in programs aimed at altering environmental behaviours, occupational health and safety, risk assessment and communication and sustainable development.

Word Count: 2,085    Reading Time: 11 minutes

 


 

 

Creating Interpretive Experiences in Ecotourism

 

In this post we look at How To Create An Interpretive Experience associated with an ecotourism experience within a Special Area of Conservation in Ireland.

Ecotourism, as defined by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, typically incorporates a feature of conservation that may be ecological, cultural, historical, archaeological and/or spiritual. The experience should seek to simultaneously immerse visitors in this feature and it’s characteristics whilst preserving it, thus creating a ‘sustainable experience‘.

Careful consideration need be taken to ensure the integrity of the site and features are not impacted by proposed use, nor the access to the features by local peoples affected. In essence, the conservation features should not be altered by the proposed activities, yet means for providing opportunities to immerse within the experience need to bring visitors into close contact with it for it to have any ‘interpretive value‘.

Clearly then, ensuring the sustainability of the conservation features requires considerable research, consultation and planning. It is essential that this process include and be informed by the Interpretive Theme of the experience.

 

Interpretive Themes vs Topics

 

An experience with an essence of conservation at it’s core typically can be found to have a main theme or indeed multiple themes that give meaning to, and reasons for the attitude of preservation of the feature(s).

Themes go far beyond simple topics, and it has been shown by research and experience that learning and understanding are enhanced by the thematic approach (Ham, 1992), as opposed to the instructive, topic based approach.

An example of a topic may be: Nature and Health.

An example of a theme may be: After experiencing nature first hand, interacting with plants and animals personally, people begin to sense the importance of being in nature for their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Thus to create an Interpretive experience the core themes of it must be identified and consensus reached on how best to communicate this to the visitor, while preserving the resource(s).

The concept of thematic interpretation was first proposed by Freeman Tilden in Interpreting Our Heritage (1957) and later by Dr. Grant W. Sharpe in his work, Interpreting the Environment (1976). Thematic Interpretation was later popularised by Dr. Sam H. Ham in Environmental Interpretation (1992).

The common perspective in these works is that thematic interpretation is a process that provokes the visitor or audience to think for themselves, thus developing a subjective understanding of the experience, as opposed to being instructed to accept a particular view point or set of ‘facts’.

In later years thematic interpretation has been more often referred to as ‘thematic communication‘ and adopted in programs aimed at altering environmental behaviours, occupational health and safety, risk assessment and communication and sustainable development.

How To Engage Visitors By Interpretation?

 

As discussed interpretation is not direct dissemination of facts and viewpoints, but a process of communication that assists visitors to understand the story or theme within the landscape, culture or special site they are visiting. Think immersion in the experience as opposed to just talking about it.

The theme or story may be site and regionally specific, but may have further reaching implications to the region of origin of the visitor, and to the global community too! It’s easy to see then how an engaging interpretive experience may create considerable impact within the awareness of the visitor, the potential flow-on effects of which are incalculable.

When such an approach is used to share conservation and preservation themes, and other similar themes, the resulting impact is more personally engaging and thus more likely to remain within the awareness of the individual and groups.

As Sir David Attenborough puts it;

No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no-one cares about what they’ve never experienced.

 

Typical ways visitors can be engaged in thematic interpretation is by way of walks, talks, tours, media, signage and art, all containing the messages of the theme(s).

Furthermore, interactive experiences, particularly first hand of nature and animals, are very powerful experiences that create a strong personal link with the theme. In general, the more informal and fun the experience, the greater the impact of the theme.

Developing An Interpretive Experience

 

Paul King in Drummin Wood scouting an Interpretive Trail
Paul King in Drummin Wood scouting an Interpretive Trail

Some steps to take…

 

In this particular case we are talking about an Interpretive Trail we gained approval for from the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Ireland. The trail is located within a section of a Special Area of Conservation, Drummin Wood SAC 002181, registered under the EU Habitats Directive. The trail is part of the ecotourism experience we managed, Crann Og Eco Farm, Certified Gold Ecotourism Operator 2015 – 2019.

The approved trail, to be used as part of the ecotourism experience, forest school classes and guided nature therapy walks, is regarded as a blueprint project for ecotourism operators in Ireland. The trail essentially meanders through the conservation area on pre-existing ancient pathways and tracks, taking in numerous points of interest within the oak woodland. The experience is prefaced by, and used to promote the Leave No Trace Codes for Outdoor Conduct.

 

Determining the Themes

 

The starting point for the development of an interpretive experience is arriving at conscensus on the core theme(s) of the experience, and the perceived target audience of the interpretation. In this case the themes arose from years of experience engaging visitors in different activities on different scales.

Enhanced knowledge and training helped for the themes to become clear;

Re-connecting with nature and becoming aware of nature’s cycles and our inter-dependency with nature.

Disconnecting or ‘unplugging’ from information technology to slow down into the moment in nature to release stress, relax, and for benefits of emotional and physical health.

Finding ways to explore and have fun for children and parents together, naturally.

Conservation of nature and the rarity of bio-diverse habitats in Ireland. Discussions, exploration and tours of special area of conservation.

Ecotourism and it’s potential benefits to nature conservation.

Exploring edges and expanding limits of personal and familial experience and levels of comfort in a natural world setting.

Enhancing mental health through interacting with the natural world, stimulating the senses through multisensory experiences.

Conservation of resources and energy and the endless possibilities of the concepts of reduce, re-use and recycle.

Once the thematic content and aims of the interpretive experience have been determined, the means of communication and interaction, that is the content and structure, must be designed.

Along with this, the techniques for facilitating the experience that best suit the themes, engaging facilitation for the target audience, and the overlying aims project, should be determined before moving into the application phase.

 

Attaining Regulatory Approval

 

In any interpretive experience there are likely to be organisations from which regulatory approval is necessary to conduct the proposed activity. Depending on the activity, its situation, the region and its laws and customs, this process may be lengthy and complex.

More than likely written submissions will be required to substantiate the claims of the proponents of the experience in terms of value of the interpretation to the site, visitors, the local community, the region and the overriding theme, of ecotourism and nature conservation in this particular case.

Written submissions should include, as a rule of thumb, details of potential impacts and how they will be managed, benefits to the community of the interpretive experience, levels of engagement and use of the site and technical monitoring of potential impacts.

Periodic reporting is most likely to be a condition to approval of any such activity and thus it is a good idea to include commitment to such reporting in the original submission or application.

It is a strong common sensical approach to propose higher than minimum standard levels of monitoring, management and reporting when seeking regulatory approval, as this demonstrates a very strong commitment to conservation of the resource.

It also sets a ‘tone’ of a high standard which enhances a stronger ethos within those facilitating the interpretation, which in turn reinforces the overlying aims of the theme(s).

 

Stakeholder Liaison

 

To make any submission for regulatory approval, and to conduct a thorough assessment to meet the requirements of ecotourism for example, liaison and possibly negotiation with local and regional stakeholders is essential.

It is impossible to create an ecotourism and indeed and interpretive experience involving sensitive resources without some degree of stakeholder involvement.

Particularly in developing regions, especially where foreign investment is involved in the experience, considerable scope exists for abuse of rights of local peoples and the inequitable consumption of resources as related to tourism activities.

In our view for any ecotourism venture and interpretive experience to be truly sustainable they must go beyond standards that talk more to ‘sustainable tourism development’ than they do to total sustainability. For example we suggest;

 

  • Complete conservation of the natural, cultural, historical, archaeological and ethnographic resources. Anything less than complete preservation is not sustainable and is simply ‘lip service’.
  • Equitable business models that protect and enhance the lives of the regional and local stakeholders at all levels and without exception.
  • Business and operational models of which the main aim is complete sustainability of the natural interpretive resources in perpetuity, as opposed to ‘sustainable tourism business development’. This must be inclusive of continued assessment demonstrating that the activity should be discontinued where applicable.
  • Restrictions on foreign ownership of any region’s ‘interpretive assets’ combined with capping of foreign investment share in operational profits.
  • Monetary fund with standard conditions for access by all peoples of all regions for the development of truly sustainable experiences incorporating interpretive resources, such that the need for foreign investment is negated.
  • Complete resource consumption versus waste and pollution neutrality or better, without exception.

 

Trained interpretive experience staff showing animal skull found in the wild.

Identifying Key Experience and Training Needs

 

Once themes are determined it is the essential to determine what experience and potential training will be required by those facilitating the interpretive experience, to ensure the aims of the experience are attained.

Accumulating the identified experience and training can be a long process and require input from many sources and considerable financial resources. In addition, pilot programs are a recommended next phase to assess the efficacy of the training and the interpretive experience, as well as the capabilities of those facilitating the interpretation.

Depending on legislation and insurance requirements, certification of facilitators may be required, usually where the experience involves children or some or more physical risk. This can add to the lead time to start-up of an interpretive experience and require additional financial resources.

 

Trained interpretive experience staff showing animal skull found in the wild.

Communication of The Experience Pre & Post Visit

 

Potential visitors must be able to understand what the interpretive experience offers in terms of connection with nature, education, conservation, recreation and how the experience benefits the environment and local community.

The description and promotion the experience should be accurate, complete and reflect the nature and feel of the experience.

Access to be made to additional information and interpretive resources that compliment and support the theme(s) and overlying aims.

Wherever possible proponents should endeavour to connect with other organisations, venues and networks of similar and complimentary content.

Networking helps to further the aims of all members of that network and avail the potential visitors to create a multi faceted experience in the region.

In time it is likely the interpretive experience will be modified, taking on enhancements or potentially changes required as a result of observation of impacts of the interpretive activities.

Communication of the evolution of the experience may be communicated to previous visitors through websites, email and social media to continue the process of education.

 

 

Development of Interpretive Materials

 

The process of determining the theme(s) of the interpretation will involve the identification of materials and techniques for the facilitation of the experience.

Additional resources are likely required for the creation of a range of different materials that may include multimedia (online & in case of a centre), maps, trails, viewing structures, protective enclosures/exclosures, trail markers, interactive equipment/props and educational material.

Furthermore, depending on the type of experience, relevant infrastructure and ‘setting’ may be required involving additional planning, time, resources and approval.

Determining the interactive materials required feeds back into the Key Experience & Training stage, informing potential additional needs in this area.

 

 

Evaluation & Management

 

The efficacy of the interpretive experience and the effectiveness of impact management associated with the activities must be assessed over time and against frequency of engagement.

Achieving the aims of the interpretation and the quantitative goals of the impact management require monitoring and experience feedback collation and assessment.

Without such information feedback loops it is impossible to determine if an experience is of the proposed value and if it should be continued.

 

Resources

Interpreting Our Heritage, Freeman Tilden, 1957.

Interpreting the Environment, Dr. Grant W. Sharpe, 1976.

Environmental Interpretation, Dr. Sam H. Ham, 1992.

Eco Certification Standards & Measures, What are they?

Eco Certification Standards & Measures, What are they?

Word Count: 1,077    Reading Time: 5.5 minutes

Eco Certification Standards & Measures Explained

 

In Ireland ecotourism is overseen and certified by Ecotourism Ireland, formed and headed up by Mary Mulvey.

This organisation audits and certifies a range of sustainable tourism venues and experiences from places like Crann Og Eco Farm to Inishbofin Island.

Ecotourism Ireland is one of 14 companies in the world recognised by The Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

The Council provides the framework and criteria for ecotourism worldwide and has formulated these measures to be adaptable to local conditions with additional supplementary criteria for specific locations and activities.

 

Why Have Standards

 

Eco Certification Standards exist in order to promote a unified approach to managing sustainability and equitability in tourism development and operation worldwide.

In the process, to ensure the conservation of natural and cultural treasures while managing one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.

To create a simple recipe for all tourism development internationally that promotes the ethos of education and raising of awareness, informing policy development for governance, enterprise and other interests, monitoring and assessment and as the baseline for certification.

 

Word Count: 1,077    Reading Time: 5.5 minutes

 


 

 

Eco Certification Standards & Measures Explained

 

In Ireland ecotourism is overseen and certified by Ecotourism Ireland, formed and headed up by Mary Mulvey.

This organisation audits and certifies a range of sustainable tourism venues and experiences from places like Crann Og Eco Farm to Inishbofin Island.

Ecotourism Ireland is one of 14 companies in the world recognised by The Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

The Council provides the framework and criteria for ecotourism worldwide and has formulated these measures to be adaptable to local conditions with additional supplementary criteria for specific locations and activities.

 

 

Why Have Standards

 

Eco Certification Standards exist in order to promote a unified approach to managing sustainability and equitability in tourism development and operation worldwide.

In the process, to ensure the conservation of natural and cultural treasures while managing one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.

To create a simple recipe for all tourism development internationally that promotes the ethos of education and raising of awareness, informing policy development for governance, enterprise and other interests, monitoring and assessment and as the baseline for certification.

 

Eco Tourism Ireland logo.
ISEAL Alliance logo.

What Are the Standards

 

The GSTC developed criteria that consist of four main categories covering all aspects related to sustainable tourism that provide the basic framework for detailed measures;

Demonstrate effective sustainable management;

Maximize social and economic benefits to the local community and minimize negative impacts;

Maximize benefits to cultural heritage and minimize negative impacts;

Maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts.

 

As you can see these are broad categories, each of them incorporating large areas of study, consultation and assessment

How to make these categories workable and achievable while remaining relevant internationally?

Decades of experience, research and consultation by the Council looked at the range of guidelines and standards implemented around the world by different countries and organisations.

Consultation was conducted on every continent and in multiple languages whilst trying to arrive at a set of formulae that could be easily adapted to differing cultures, environments, laws and customs.

 

…the Criteria was designed to adhere to ISO codes of conduct and the standards-setting code of the ISEAL Alliance, the international body providing guidance for the development and management of sustainability standards for all sectors. (GSTC)

ISEAL Alliance logo.

Detailed Criteria for Certification of Ecotourism

 

The four main categories identified by the GSTC led to the development of eight detailed Certification Criteria Categories:

1. Environmentally Sustainable Practices

2. Natural Area Focus

3. Interpretation and Education

4. Contributing to Conservation

5. Benefiting local communities

6. Visitor Satisfaction

7. Responsible Marketing

8. Cultural respect and awareness

 

Each of these categories comprises a number of measures that countries, sectors and operators must attain in order to achieve certification by this system.

Together they comprise what is defined as the minimum standard in approaching ‘social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability.’

 

Certification Measures Summarised

 

A little more information on the measures in each criteria category.

 

Environmentally Sustainable Practices

 

From the adoption of minimal impact codes to regulatory compliance and implementation of Sustainability Management Systems.

The use of renewable energy technologies, non-motorised transport and promotion of environmentally friendly transport.

Staff training and education regarding environmental impacts, and communication to the public of commitment to sustainable practices.

Adoption of an energy and waste management plan, use and promotion of ethical and eco-labelled services and products.

 

Leave No Trace Codes For Outdoor Conduct logo.

Natural Area Focus

 

Work with local stakeholders and ensure that local access to sites of environmental, cultural , spiritual and historic sites are not impeded.

Implementation of the Leave No Trace Codes of Conduct.

That the experience involves personal experience of nature by the visitor while ensuring visitor to guide/staff ratios remain moderate.

That a protected natural, cultural or historical area is included as part of the experience.

 

Interpretation and Education

 

Educational staff are appropriately trained and experienced.

Interpretive experience plans are in place and inform design of the experience/program/product.

Specific interest groups and demographics are catered to and interaction with other visitors and interest groups is incorporated into the experience.

Information is provided to past and future visitors of improvements.

 

Contributing to Conservation

 

Active involvement in a payback schemes involving conservation and membership to conservation groups.

Actively involved in local environmental project(s) and information events.

Provide information on local flora, fauna and nature reserves.

Tree planting programs and creation of natural habitats for endemic species.

 

Benefiting Local Communities

 

Work with the local community and support employment of local guides.

Provide access to work experience and involve community members/groups in development of the experience/product.

Encourage the purchase of local and organic foods.

Membership of local and regional tourism business networks and support local businesses.

 

 

Visitor Satisfaction

 

Comply with all relevant legislation and monitor visitor satisfaction.

Review by industry peers and professionals on an ongoing basis.

Share insights gathered by visitor satisfaction feedback.

 

 

Responsible Marketing

 

Description and promotion of product is accurate and complete and reflects the nature and feel of the experience.

Potential visitors to be informed as to what the experience offers them in terms of connection with nature, education, conservation, recreation and how the experience benefits the environment and local community.

Minimise use of paper based promotion and utilise internet based methods or promotion and marketing, exclusively if possible.

Develop and enhance networking and promotion of other ecotourism and conservation organisations, venues and networks.

 

Cultural Respect and Awareness

 

Local access to the experience and resources is not impeded by the operation.

Information is provided on local heritage and foster where possible cross border and international cooperation with similar operators and networks.

 

High Level Of Certification Is A Great Achievement!

 

As you can see meeting all of the measures and criteria, which serve as the minimum standard, is no small or easy task for any operator, region or country.

To achieve such standards requires development of a management system that allows for and fosters continued improvement and innovation.

This in turn requires comprehensive monitoring and feedback loops across all categories of the criteria assessment program.

How can the small to medium sized operator or a region new to the concept of sustainable ecotourism hope to meet such standards?

This is a good question that lands right in the middle of that blurry zone where tourism morphs into ecotourism.

It raises lots of questions about what is really sustainable, and from what perspective?

This will be the subject of a Free Resource, designed to help the smaller operator or newcomer fast track to the cutting edge of ecotourism, that will be the subject of another post coming soon!

 

CRann Og Eco Farm Gold Certification Certificate from Eco Tourism Ireland

The Gold Certification from Eco Tourism Ireland we managed for Crann Og Eco Farm, preceded by 2 years at Gold standard 2015 – 2017.

Resources

Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria
VERSION 1, 1 NOVEMBER 2013
AND
Suggested Performance Indicators
VERSION 1, 10 DECEMBER 2013
FOR
Destinations

Why Gold Certified Ecotourism is a big deal!

Why Gold Certified Ecotourism is a big deal!

Word Count: 943    Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Gold Certification is a Big Deal…

 

Because it requires incremental improvement, innovation and maintenance of very high levels of commitment 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 exhaustive and cover commitments to responsible, sustainable and educational ecotourism.

Achieving Gold Certified Ecotourism is not easy.

 

Word Count: 943    Reading Time: 5 minutes

 


 

 

Gold Certification is a Big Deal…

 

Because it requires incremental improvement, innovation and maintenance of very high levels of commitment 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 exhaustive and cover commitments to responsible, sustainable and educational ecotourism.

Achieving Gold Certified Ecotourism is not easy.

 

Make no mistake, this is not green washing!

 

In total there are 59 Measures (covering many criteria) that are to be addressed by a certified ecotourism operator.

These 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.

 

Crann Og Eco Farm Ecotourism Gold Certification from Ecotourism Ireland.

A Venue We Managed To Gold Certification

 

In 2017 we attained Gold Certification by Eco Tourism Ireland for the venue we managed, Crann Og Eco Farm in County Galway, Ireland.

This was the second Gold we attained resulting in four consecutive years certification at this high standard from 2015 to 2019.

We managed the project from no certification to Gold since 2014, and maintained an ethos of continued improvement in management and the ecotourism experience itself.

The venue is currently certified Gold until July 2019 and has now evolved into a small eco sustainable community, focussed on community building and nature based education and therapy.

 

 

Challenges Related To Scale

 

In this particular project it was not an easy task because;

• It is a small, family owned destination with many other priorities.
• The experience partly involves a Special Area of Conservation and a small permaculture focussed farm.
• Numbers of visitors had to be kept low to preserve both the conservation area and permaculture zones.

 

The venue is about getting back to nature, not how many visitors can be squeezed through the venue and how much money can be made as a result!

Therefore turnover is small and resources limited. This means everything must be done in house and to make use of every resource that comes along.

We became masters of the principles of reduce (consumption & waste), re-use (whatever possible) and recycle (everything imaginable). See Waste Heirarchy at Wikipedia.

Continuing to improve performance in terms of eco certification, while maintaining the standard of the experience offered, requires constant commitment.

Furthermore, the preservation of the the sensitive natural features requires vigilant attention and diligence in environmental impact management.

Certainly having greater throughput of visitors and subsequently higher revenues would make a project easier to manage.

Above all, it would be possible to outsource some of the functions performed in house, while returning more time resource to the core team.

Consequently enhancing ROI for our time and increasing additional vacation opportunities, enhancing morale and resilience of the core team.

 

Crann Og Eco Farm Ecotourism Gold Certification from Ecotourism Ireland.

Committing To Sustainability

 

Make no mistake, maintaining a quality ecotourism experience with;

Very high levels of customer interaction, education and recreation;
• At levels of visitor satisfaction returning nearly 100% 5 star reviews;
• With a core team of just 4 people;

Requires an enormous commitment of time, energy, personal involvement and diligence.

 

It is very nearly a 24/7 undertaking, certainly during the ecotourism season.

As we also hosted third party events and provided additional wellness experiences aside from ecotourism throughout the year, it was a full time, 10 months per year commitment.

Finally the other two months were for 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 seems this is a trend that will continue well into the future and that proof of sustainable management standards will become increasingly important.

Certification to high standards by world renowned organisations enhances reputation and authenticity.

Furthermore, it demonstrates commitment, diligence and quality of experience to potential tourists.

 

Unwavering Principles And High Performance Standards

 

We at Eco Freelance Support strongly advocate a return to nature of humanity as a whole for well being, education and health.

Similarly for the conservation of the environment on which we all depend for our survival.

Assisting the projects we do to achieve high levels of quality, sustainability, conservation and education strongly promotes to the progression of this ethos.

Therefore, an operator of a venue and experience that strives to achieve such standards, must by definition ascribe to unwavering principles and high performance in areas of;

• Sustainability in environmental management and future development;
• Efficiencies in resource consumption and waste generation;
• Carbon neutrality or better;
• Maintaining revenue generating activities at not more than the maximum carrying capacity of the natural resources, or lower;
• Complete transparency in ownership (e.g: foreign ownership ratios), management, assessment and marketing;
• Visitor education and overall environmental and cultural awareness;
• Preservation of All natural resources worldwide.

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!

 

Resources

Our experience;
Two successful applications for Gold Certification
Four Years Operating as Gold Certification Level
95% plus 5 Star visitor reviews, 2015 – 2018

Practical Guide: What is Ecotourism?

Practical Guide: What is Ecotourism?

Word Count: 1,005    Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ecotourism: What Is It?

 

Ecotourism is a nature based form of speciality travel defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as:

Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.

 

The Quebec Declaration was established In 2002, The International Year of Ecotourism, suggesting five criteria by which to standardize the definition of ecotourism:

nature-based product;
• minimal impact management;
• environmental education;
• contribution to conservation;
• contribution to community.

 

Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) define ecotourism as:

Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that:

conserve the environment,

socially and economically sustains the well-being of the local people, and

creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (including staff, travelers, and community residents).

 

It is also their view the label ecotourism is often applied to tourism activities that fail to meet the definition and the basic principles behind it.

And that Ecotourism is:

• non-consumptive/non-extractive;
• creates an ecological conscience;
• hold eco-centric values and ethics in relation to nature;
• good for both visitors and visited.

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) define sustainable tourism as:

Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

 

Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity;

 

• respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance;
• ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

Word Count: 1,005    Reading Time: 5 minutes

 


 

Ecotourism: What Is It?

 

Ecotourism is a nature based form of speciality travel defined by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) as:

Responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.

 

The Quebec Declaration was established In 2002, The International Year of Ecotourism, suggesting five criteria by which to standardize the definition of ecotourism:

nature-based product;
• minimal impact management;
• environmental education;
• contribution to conservation;
• contribution to community.

 

Global Ecotourism Network (GEN) define ecotourism as:

Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that:

conserve the environment,

socially and economically sustains the well-being of the local people, and

creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (including staff, travelers, and community residents).

 

It is also their view the label ecotourism is often applied to tourism activities that fail to meet the definition and the basic principles behind it.

And that Ecotourism is:

• non-consumptive/non-extractive;
• creates an ecological conscience;
• hold eco-centric values and ethics in relation to nature;
• good for both visitors and visited.

 

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) define sustainable tourism as:

Sustainable tourism takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.

 

Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity;

 

• respect the sociocultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to intercultural understanding and tolerance;
• ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

 

Common Terms Confused with Ecotourism

 

Furthermore, TIES define other terms that are often confused with ecotourism, in the Ecotourism Fact Sheet of 2007:

 

Adventure tourism: A form of nature-based tourism that incorporates an element of risk, higher levels of physical exertion, and the need for specialized skill.

Geotourism: Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place-its environment, heritage, aesthetics, and culture and the well-being of its residents.

Mass tourism: Large-scale tourism, typically associated with ‘sea, sand, sun’ resorts and characteristics such as transnational ownership, minimal direct economic benefit to destination communities, seasonality and package tours.

Nature-based tourism: Any form of tourism that relies primarily on the natural environment for its attractions or settings.

Pro-poor tourism: Tourism that results in increased net benefit for the poor people.

Responsible tourism: Tourism that maximizes the benefits to local communities, minimizes negative social or environmental impacts, and helps local people conserve fragile cultures and habitats or species.

Sustainable tourism: Tourism that meets the needs of present tourist and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future.

 

Other Ecotourism Definitions

 

Following are some more ecotourism definitions for you to consider:

Nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable.

Commonwealth Department of Tourism, Australia, 1992.

 

A sustainable form of natural resource based tourism that focuses primarily on experiencing and learning about nature, and which is ethically managed to be low impact, non-consumptive, and locally oriented (control, benefits and scale).

It typically occurs in natural areas, and should contribute to the conservation and preservation of such areas.

Ecotourism: An introduction, David A. Fennell, 1999.

 

Ecotourism can contribute to both conservation and development and involves,

as a minimum, positive synergistic relationships between tourism, biodiversity

and local people, facilitated by appropriate management.

Ecotourism: Towards congruence between theory and practice, Ross & Wall, 1999.

 

What Do You think?

 

Clearly the GSTC definition of sustainable tourism is the most all encompassing definition, but is not a definition of ecotourism as such, and is rather cumbersome.

GEN definitions are very workable and to the point, and we like Fennell’s definition.

The plethora of definitions and perspectives raise pertinent questions in our view:

  • Is ecotourism actually ecologically sustainable?
  • Is ecotourism a conservation oriented movement, a philosophy, or a product with excellent marketing and branding strategies?
  • Is ecologically sustainable tourism realistic or achievable?
  • How can ecologically AND economically sustainable tourism exist or operate where foreign ownership prevails?
  • Who or what is the actual driving force behind ecotourism development and who actually benefits?
  • Can ecotourism be truly ethical?

 

Additional Standards We Propose

 

It is our view that ecotourism is possible and that it can be ecologically sustainable.

Obviously parts of the industry are guilty of green washing in many respects and that true ecotourism, that is, completely ecologically and economically sustainable at the local level, is not the norm.

In conclusion we strongly advise the following standards must be adopted world wide:

 

 

> Absolute conservation of natural, cultural, historical, archaeological and ethnographic resources and features. Anything less than absolute preservation is not sustainable and is simply ‘lip service’.

> Equitable business models that protect and enhance the lives of the regional and local stakeholders at all levels and without exception.

> Business and operational models of which the primary aim is complete sustainability of the natural interpretive resources in perpetuity, as opposed to ‘sustainable tourism business development’. This must be inclusive of continued assessment permitted to demonstrate that the activity should be discontinued if applicable, irrespective of private capital interests.

> Strict international restrictions on foreign ownership ratios of any regions’ ‘interpretive assets’ combined with capping of foreign investment share in operational profits, should they exist.

> Monetary fund with standard conditions for access by all peoples of all regions for the development of truly sustainable experiences incorporating interpretive resources, such that the need for foreign investment is eliminated.

> Complete resource consumption versus waste and pollution neutrality or better, without exception.

> Removing corporate barriers and restrictions to world wide distribution of new generation, clean, renewable and free energy sources to facilitate and underpin all previous points.

 

Resources

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

The International Ecotourism Society

The Global Ecotourism Network

The Quebec Declaration

Ecotourism: An introduction, David A. Fennell, 1999

Ecotourism: Towards congruence between theory and practice, Ross & Wall, 1999