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?

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