Below are some of the questions we ask of travel and tourism providers as part of our Sustainable Tourism Eco-certification Program™. We believe you should take these thoughts into consideration when planning and booking a trip. So consider developing a checklist of questions to ask when you are planning a vacation or booking travel services.
Looking at their marketing materials, what is the travel provider’s environmental policy? Is it obvious? Does it take into consideration environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts? Is the travel provider actively involved in supporting environmental issues, particularly in the areas visited? Do they raise environmental awareness by distributing environmental or sustainable tourism guidelines to consumers? Do they offer training for their staff in these areas?
Will you be supporting travel providers who have good conservation ethics? Will your trip strengthen the conservation effort for, and enhance the natural integrity of, the places you visit? Does it affect locals in a way that causes them to proactively support the preservation of their environment?
Do their guides foster a respect for the environment, particularly in the areas visited, and encourage their guests to do the same? Do guides ever intentionally disturb or encourage the disturbance of wildlife or wildlife habitats? Do they keep vehicles on designated roads and trails and abide by the rules and regulations of the natural areas they visit?
Are locals benefiting financially from your trip, directly or indirectly? Is the travel provider or accommodation locally owned and operated? Are locals receiving sufficient economic benefits from them as guides, cooks, crew, suppliers, etc.? Will you be eating in locally owned restaurants and buying locally made crafts (that are not made from rare or endangered species) versus imported goods?
Will you be using public transportation during your vacation? Will you take advantage of group taxis and vans? Or will you cycle or walk and see local communities and meet local people first-hand?
Natural Resource Use
Is the travel provider efficient in the use of natural resources, such as water, energy and building materials? For example, do they use water and energy sparingly, taking into consideration that local people may not have sufficient clean water? Or that energy may be at a premium in less developed countries? Are low-impact, energy efficient technologies utilized in operations: e.g., fluorescent or other low-energy lighting, renewable and sustainable building materials, rainwater showers, composting toilets, and solar electricity?
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Does the travel provider work towards cutting down on or eliminating waste? Do they purchase or produce items that use less material, have a longer life and can be readily recycled? Do they use an item again for its original purpose or for new purposes rather than throwing it away?
Respect Local Culture
Are you prepared to immerse yourself in and accept cultures that are different from your own? Has your travel provider informed you of the local environments or social customs of the places you’re planning to visit so you may avoid accidentally offending them or harming their environment? Does your travel provider advocate respect for local cultures, traditions and holy places? For example, are tour guides well versed and respectful of local cultures and environments? Do they encourage their guests: to ask permission before photographing local people, to dress a certain way, to be respectful of local norms, and/or to adopt local cultural practices without seeming patronizing?
Food and Dining
Where will your food come from? Is it locally produced or organically grown by local farmers and ranchers? Are the locals educated about sustainable farming practices? Are you eating endangered species or beef from rain forest-grazed cattle that are exacerbating the rapid rate of local deforestation.