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Certification and Education: Shaping the Future of Ecotourism Todd Comen Johnson State College, Vermont North American Ecotourism Conference – Vancouver, BC October 27, 2008


What do PGA Golf and Skiing Have in Common?

Set atop an ocean bluff, overlooking 50 miles of coastline, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is a 26l-room golf and spa resort

Revolution Bowl at Telluride ski resort with new lift installation for ease of access.


Ecotourism of Course! Telluride Announces New Ecotourism Division

Committed to the Environment


Beyond Ecotourism: Traveling Green Stowe Mountain Lodge, Vermont •Over 50 % of the power purchased by the resort is from renewable resources. •All guest rooms will have CFL bulbs, low flow showerheads, low flow toilets and recycling programs in place. •Bamboo sheets and robes, recycled paper products and eco-friendly cleaning solutions are used in all guest rooms. •The lodge was constructed with local granite and recycled steel. •A solid waste management system is in plan. •Pedestrian paths, a trolley system and a transfer lift help reduce transportation related carbon emissions.


Green = $$ Martha Honey firmly states that “the principles underlying ecotourism are being “greenwashed” by superficial, feel-good rhetoric and minor cost saving modifications that do not transform tourism into a tool that protects the environment, benefits local communities, and educates the tourist”. (2008)


Building trust in the ecotourism brand • Is “beyond ecotourism” misleading the consumer? • How far should we go to retain integrity in the ecotourism products? Conventional Tourism

Sustainable Tourism

Eco Tourism

The Green Tourism Continuum


Principles of Ecotourism “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.� (TIES, 1990)


Principles of Ecotourism Described by TIES (2006)

• Minimize impact • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people • Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate


Key Elements of Ecotourism Construct • • • • •

low impact, small scale, educates the traveler, provides funds for conservation, directly benefits local communities.


So, what is the problem? • Prodyut Bhattacharya and Smriti Kumari (2004) suggest that “Ecotourism can be the thin edge of a wedge, which opens the door to mass tourism and has every possible scope to be used by general tourism practitioners as brand name. •

What seems to be happening is that “soft ecotourism” is quickly becoming the norm. (Weaver 2007)

• Vivanco suggests that ecotourism is a convenient and widely recognized marketing tool that can attract visitors. (2007, in Black and Crabtree ed.)


Searching for Ecotourism in the U.S.

• Google.com • www.gordonsguide.com • www.realadventures.com • www.ecotourdirectory.com


Responsible travel to natural areas & directly related cultural resources

That -1.conserves the environment 2.provides extensive opportunities to learn 3.sustains the well being of local people Slides courtesy of HMB Chamber of Commerce


• Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce & Visitors’ Bureau: only “broad based” ecotourism program in state of California • Travelers look for interactive nature experiences • Use the Geotourism mold – less stringent & includes history museums, the arts, etc.


• • • • • • •

State Parks Conservancies Open Space City Parks Bird Refuges Farms Create a referral system


Parklight Inn, Chester Vermont


Eco-Tourism in Vermont at An Award Winning Green Hotel • Heating and hot water insulation and upgrades resulting in greater energy efficiency •

• Efficient faucets, toilets and fixtures installed • Nature's 100% wool carpet, rugs along with natural fiber area rugs in most rooms and common areas • Wi-Fi internet for carbon free communications and paper waste reduction • Recycling stations in common areas and individual recycling units in each guest room • Bulk amenity dispensers installed in all guest bathrooms


Consider reviewing our eco-tourism travel packages for a variety of sustainable travel offerings. The traveler’s guide to Southern Vermont Seasonal Getaway Packages: Winter— click for full listing Snowshoeing Snowmobiling Skiing Sledding—guided Ice Climbing Snowmobiling Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride Winter Wonderland Romance Package

Summer— Rock Climbing Multi-sport Adventure Tours Picnic Tour Summer Romance Getaway Weekend Scenic Rail Tour Summer Concert Series Weekend Getaway Lobster-Bake Tour Getaway Horseback riding Shopping Night at the Theatre Local Museums & Antiquing Golfing


Maine Nature Vacations: Ecotourism and Maine Wildlife Viewing The Cozy Moose, located in Greenville, Maine directly on Moosehead Lake, offers one of the most appealing Maine vacation lake lodging properties available in New England.


Telluride Ski Resort Announces New Ecotourism Division

Committed to the Environment •Watershed Protection •Air Quality and Fuel Reduction •Waste Reduction and Recycling •Water Conservation •Energy Conservation •Education and Community Programs •Environmental Awards


Ecotourism from The Sonoran Institute Tucson, Arizona • Sonoran Desert ecosystem • Multitude of cultural sites • Small groups • Leave each guest with their own unique understanding of the Sonoran Desert


Exploratory Research Results •Ecotourism in the U.S. appears to be a mix of products and services that are operating in tandem with conventional tourism in the same location.

Halfmoon Bay Ecotourism Groups

Photos by Wendy Lama


The Question: In light of the appropriation of ecotourism by the mass tourism sector, can certification shape a future ecotourism brand identity that reflects the original intent of the pioneers of ecotourism? And Can education play a role in shaping how future travelers define ecotourism?


Ecosystem Services

Halfmoon Bay Estuary

Photo by Wendy Lama


Experiences in Nature Are Often Free of Charge


On a global scale, public protected areas are increasingly short of funds. (Buckley, 2004)


• • • •

D.3. Conserving biodiversity, ecosystems, and landscapes D.3.1. Wildlife species are only harvested from the wild, consumed, displayed, sold, or internationally traded, as part of a regulated activity that ensures that their utilization is sustainable. D.3.2. No captive wildlife is held, except for properly regulated activities, and living specimens of protected wildlife species are only kept by those authorized and suitably equipped to house and care for them. D.3.3. The business uses native species for landscaping and restoration, and takes measures to avoid the introduction of invasive alien species.

• D.3.4. The business contributes to the support of biodiversity conservation, including supporting natural protected areas and areas of high biodiversity value. •

D.3.5. Interactions with wildlife must not produce adverse effects on the viability of populations in the wild; and any disturbance of natural ecosystems is minimized, rehabilitated, and there is a compensatory contribution to conservation management


Building Consumer Awareness • One step towards survival [of ecotourism], suggests Martha Honey is helping to build a more discriminating and informed traveling public. (2008, p. 33)


Ecotourism in Higher Education • • • •

Travel and tourism programs Recreation management Natural resource management Community development and public policy programs • Anthropology, Sociology, and Cultural Studies


Experiential Learning • Students create ecotour businesses focused on local natural areas • Study tours to ecotourism destinations • Assisting an organization in designing ecotourism products and services • Guest speakers from ecotourism enterprises and NGO’s engaged in ecotourism.


Students designing and experiencing an Ecotour of Lower Saranac Lake


Rustic Ecolodge Renovated with funding from UNDP Small Grants Program and Monteverde Institute


Key Elements of Ecotourism Construct • • • • •

low impact, small scale, educates the traveler, provides funds for conservation, directly benefits local communities.


-Global Certification Standards -Consumer Education -Local Solutions

Conventional Tourism

Sustainable Tourism

Eco Tourism

How Public Education and Certification can be vital forces in the fight against green-washing....  

ESTC 2008: How Public Education and Certification can be vital forces in the fight against green-washing and the appropriation of the ecotou...

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