Gone are the days when travelling meant a good chance of exploring some untouched part of the world. As the population continues to grow and technology becomes more innovative in how we are able to experience the world around us, there is little left to be discovered. Gone are the days of travelling for months at sea to set off for a new life on an unknown landmass where no one has ever set foot. Instead, people can purchase a “round-the-world” ticket and go explore a handful of countries within the same amount of time it used to take Englishmen to sail over to North America.
Visiting another country or even family and friends in the next town has never been so easy. The options are simply endless. Travelling by car, bus, train, plane or boat people are constantly moving around the world at such a rapid pace, it’s amazing to think that at one point in time it was common thought to view the world as flat and the horizon as the “edge.” Now, the world has simply become a playground for us to spend time enjoying life to the full. Now, cultural experiences are no longer limited to the country they originated in. Festivals, national (and international) holidays, foreign foods and technology (think Google and Facebook) bring other countries to our front doors.
All this travel and cultural experiences have helped to pinpoint a bigger issue in the world today. The tourism and hospitality industry has woken up to the realization that the environment is a delicate balance and that certain choices we make in what we do with our time here will affect that environment for the good or bad. Ecotourism has exploded into the scene as a viable concept for travelers to be able to experience the world they want to while making as little impact to the environment as possible. So much more than simply carpooling and recycling rubbish, programs are being established within the hospitality and tourism industry to look at the big picture from all angles and assess a plan for the long term.
Enter Qualmark. As New Zealand tourism’s official quality agency established in 1993, it aims to assess “all accommodation, transport, activities and services to ensure that they deliver world-class visitor experiences” (Qualmark, 2011). That includes the affect such businesses have on the environment. Qualmark has established an Environmental Office Plan that sets out to encourage businesses (including themselves) to become more environmentally friendly. Businesses in the tourism industry within New Zealand are not simply assessed by how clean the beds are; how the staff treats customers or if the price of the service is adequate to what is provided. Qualmark assesses businesses on their environmental performance as well. This comes under a further assessment for Enviro Awards. Within this, each business is evaluated based on the following key action areas:
- Energy efficiency
- Waste management
- Water conservation
- Community activities
- Conservation initiatives
From this the top performers in these areas are able to receive either a bronze, silver or gold Enviro Award which can be then seen on their website and other promotional material for the business in question. As a result, by Qualmark taking the initiative to promote ecotourism, businesses all around New Zealand are jumping at the chance to show travelers how they are helping the environment. Even the newly established The St. James in Hanmer Springs, New Zealand is working to ensure their actions in the business minimize their affect on the environment. Ecostore (New Zealand-made) products are used in cleaning. An eco-option is available on each dishwasher within the suites. Recycling is promoted and double-glazing is used on all windows. Even Ecoglo strips are used on the stairs to light the way for customers using them in the dark.
New Zealand isn’t the only country jumping to action in order to promote it being a world-class destination. Other eco-certification programs exist all around the world with regards to ecotourism.
|Australia||Ecotourism Australia||Eco Certification Program||www.ecotourism.org.au|
|Brazil||Instituto de Hospitalidade||Brazil Sustainable Tourism Program||http://www.turismo-sostenible.co.cr|
|USA||Audubon Green Leaf||Audubon Green Leaf||http://www.auduboninternational.org/|
There are many more eco programs and business labels out there in the world that have not been listed. Feel free to comment below on any in particular that others may be interested in. For more information on Qualmark, visit their website at: http://www.qualmark.co.nz or check out:
Overall, Qualmark and all other ecotourism programs in place ensure that travelers can continue to make their way around the world with as much ease as possible, all the while knowing that the accommodation, products and services being used are making as little impact as possible.
Ecoglow, (2011). http://www.ecoglo.co.nz.
Ecotourism Australia, (2011). http://www.ecotourism.org.au.
St. James, (2011). http://www.stayhanmersprings.co.nz/.
Qualmark, Responsible Tourism – Qualmark Green, http://www.qualmark.co.nz (Online May 2011).
Qualmark, Who is Qualmark, http://www.qualmark.co.nz (Online, May 2011).
Sustainable Travel International, Eco Labels, http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org/documents/gi_ecolabels.html (Online May 2011).