Moraga, CA (PRWEB) July 22, 2009
A recent survey of travel professionals in the ecotourism and sustainable travel industry by the offset provider ClimatePath found that the majority of travelers engaging in green travel want an authentic experience, while doing no harm to the communities or sensitive areas they visit. But sorting out which tour providers and lodges to travel with remains a challenge.
Most tour operators responding to the survey promote and practice low impact travel, support local economies, and follow ecological and cultural sensitivity practices. But very few use third parties to guide or monitor their actions. According to ClimatePath CEO Dave Rochlin, "With such a variety of activities in the sector - from counting wild bottlenose dolphins to river rafting through rainforests - it's difficult to establish uniform best practices, and to know what is working." As interest in eco-travel increases, many in the industry are concerned about greenwashing and overreaching claims.
Informed consumers can do their homework by asking these simple questions of their prospective tour operators.
1. How do you monitor your impact? While most tour operators strive to use green practices and avoid damaging the ecosystems where they operate, not all formally measure their success. In areas where water is an issue -- such as the Amazon basin and many parts of Africa -- where does the tour's/resort's water come from, and how is the waste water dealt with? Asking about the objectives of green practices or ecosystem/community support, and for some basic data or examples of how the objectives are being met is reasonable.
2. Do you put money into the local community? Economic development via responsible tourism is often an alternative to exploiting a sensitive area's natural resources. Does the operator employ members of the local community? Purchase supplies locally when practical?
3. Who is covering my air travel footprint? A single trip to another continent can result in 3 or 4 tons of CO2, increasing your annual carbon footprint by as much as 20%, and contributing to global warming, which threatens many ecologically sensitive and exotic locations. Tour operators tend to leave this to the individual traveler. While the impact of air travel is large, doing something about it can be cheap. ClimatePath offers certified offsets originating from many eco-destination areas for as little as $11/ton. Offsetting an overseas flight adds only 2-3% to the cost of air travel.
4. What about doing more? Many travelers simply want to tread lightly. But if you are interested in doing more, ask if your operator works with local NGOs, is involved in volunteer activities, or sponsors projects in the travel area...and how you can get involved.
5. Will I be comfortable? This may seem like an obvious question, but it's important to have the right expectations. While some tours can be quite luxurious, lodging facilities in particular rate comfort and convenience as less important to travelers than sustainable practices, and accommodations can be relatively simple by Western standards. Be honest about what you really need to enjoy yourself. After all, it is a vacation.
As a final note, it also makes sense to see how long the program or operator has been in place, how it is viewed by the local community, and how experienced the staff is. Authenticity requires a good working relationship, experience, and strong partnerships in the area being visited.
ClimatePath has created a more credible and transparent way for individuals and business of all sizes to reduce and offset the impact of their carbon footprint via conservation and carbon offsets. Users of http://www.ClimatePath,org can research, select, and support specific activities and carbon credit generating projects that match their values and interests. Project categories include fair trade, forestry, alternative energy, conservation and innovation. Tax deductible donations are made to the nonprofit ClimatePath Ecologic Fund, which acquires and retires credits from projects users have chosen. Using an independent nonprofit for user donations, combined with adherence to documented third party standards and verification for credits makes ClimatePath a unique and trusted voluntary offset marketplace. ClimatePath also provides industry solutions to help consumer brands, travel providers, small businesses, and event planners reduce the climate impact of their business activities. The survey results can be downloaded at http://www.climatepath.org/forbusinesses/ecotourism.