By Dian Hasan | September 23, 2009
For hotels and resort companies and other travel-related business that have been left in the dust amid the latest wave of “going green”, scratching their heads for the umpteenth time wanting to pursue the “green route” but not knowing what to do or where to ask for guidance. Help may be closer than you think. Rainforest Alliance.
A New York-based organization that essentially helps businesses that desire to become more eco-friendly and responsible toward their immediate environment and communities. In short: interested in Sustainable Tourism. Here’s a little background about Rainforest Alliance and some of commendable projects they carry out.
How Rainforest Alliance presents itself to the world, in a nutshell:
The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversityand ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.
~ Rainforest Alliance
Sustainable Tourism Initiatives
The International Alliance for the Marketing and Commercialization of Sustainable Tourism Products and Services
The International Alliance for the Marketing and Commercialization of Sustainable Tourism Products and Services — funded by the Inter-American Development Bank/Multilateral Investment fund — aims to increase the competitiveness and international recognition of small and medium sized businesses that have adopted best management practices in participating Latin American countries.
The project has four components, all of which share a common goal — to create international market linkages for tourism companies who have demonstrated a proven commitment to the wellbeing of the environment and local communities. By facilitating communication between these like-minded tourism businesses on a local level, creating links between these businesses and tour operators, and promoting these businesses to consumers and to the media, the Rainforest Alliance is helping them become more competitive in a rapidly growing industry, and ultimately helping protect the very natural and cultural treasures that their guests travel from far and wide to see. The project monitors and evaluates the benefits of responsible tourism practices and shares the results with others.
The project began in 2007 as a sequel to the Project for the Implementation of Best Management Practices and Certification Support for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises, to provide market support to businesses that have participated in the Rainforest Alliance’s best management practices training and technical assistance program. Tourism entrepreneurs from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru will benefit from the activities of this project until its end in October 2011.
The World Heritage Alliance for Sustainable Tourism is an industry-led, membership-based initiative led by Expediaand the United Nations Foundation that has 50 members and partners working together to contribute to World Heritage site conservation in seven different countries. The partners believe that conscientious efforts by the travel industry and its customers can contribute directly to nature conservation, historic preservation and poverty reduction through responsible tourism.
Rainforest Alliance is an Associate Partner of the World Heritage Alliance and is committed to promoting and preserving World Heritage sites through sustainable tourism by:
- implementing the World Heritage Alliance principles
- participating in staff training programs
- educating customers about World Heritage
- supporting community development around World Heritage sites
- engaging employees to support the local community
- supporting the United Nations in its efforts
“We are excited to be part of this innovative partnership to promote sustainable travel,” said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. “We look forward to offering training and technical assistance to World Heritage Alliance members through our sustainable tourism program, and we hope to help them lead the way in protecting some of the world’s most valuable places for years to come.”
The Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon
The Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon — funded by the United States Agency for International Development — aims to promote the long term sustainability of the Amazon River Basin and to protect its great wealth of biodiversity.
Under this initiative, the Rainforest Alliance is working with Conservación y Desarrollo, our partner group based in Ecuador, to provide technical assistance and training to community organizations and local businesses, and to encourage them to adopt environmentally and socially responsible practices. Our training helps these groups to attract the increasing number of eco-conscious travelers and to make tourism an effective tool in supporting conservation and socio-economic development in protected areas, especially in the Sucumbios, Orellana, Napo and Pastaza provinces of Ecuador. As part of the project, the Rainforest Alliance is also working with universities and community groups to provide workshops in best management tourism practices for tourism businesses operating in the Peruvian Amazon, especially in Cusco and Madre de Dios regions.
In recent years, pristine forests, remote beaches and other fragile environments have attracted an unprecedented number of visitors. This growth of nature-related tourism has spurred the development of an ever-increasing number of independent certification programs, all seeking to control unchecked development and to foster responsibility among hotels and tour operations.
To create international recognition of sound certification programs and to make their standards widely available to local and regional groups, in March, 2003 the Rainforest Alliance completed an 18-month study to determine the feasibility of an international Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council (STSC). Scores of non-government organizations, inter-governmental agencies and industry representatives took part in the study, which envisions an STSC that would promote globally recognized, high-quality certification programs for sustainable and ecotourism and act as an accreditation body.
The Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council feasibility study recommends the establishment of regional networks to encourage dialogue among stakeholders and act as clearinghouses for certification information. The first network for the Americas was launched in Bahía, Brazil in September, 2003. Because significant interest in certification exists in Latin America and because the region boasts the largest concentration of certification programs of all developing nations, the Rainforest Alliance believes the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas will evolve into a model that can be replicated in other regions.
Find out about the Rainforest Alliance’s program to help small and medium sized tourism businesses in Latin America to best protect natural resources and to be competitive in the global market.
The natural and cultural riches of Belize’s Cayo District, the Galapagos Islands and Mindo, in Ecuador’s Choco bioregion, will be better protected thanks to the collaboration of the Rainforest Alliance,Conservation International and the United Nations Environment Programme, which are working together on a project called “Promoting biodiversity conservation in tourism through the development and dissemination of good practices.” The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility.
The tourism businesses that are part of this initiative commit to protecting biodiversity, and in turn receive various benefits such as:
- a more efficient business
- greater customer satisfaction and loyalty
- access to international markets that value good environmental and social practices
- brand fortification
- better relations with local communities and government
- motivated and committed personnel
- better marketing opportunities
[Note: The sustainable tourism portion of this project has concluded.]
Many of the most innovative conservation initiatives undertaken in Central America and Mexico have focused on the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Stretching from southern Mexico to the border of Costa Rica and Panama, the corridor holds a treasure-trove of both flora and fauna, and encompasses both terrestrial and marine protected parks and reserves, along with a number of privately owned wild lands.
The Protected Areas and Environmentally Sound Products Component of the Central American Environmental Program (PROARCA) was a three-year effort to consolidate the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor by strengthening management of the area’s parks, and by expanding both production of and market access for environmentally sound products and services.
Aimed at promoting higher environmental and social standards for tourism, the project is designed to help tourists choose responsible companies, to strengthen government guidelines and “best practices” for sustainable tourism, and to promote sustainable practices within the industry.
The Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Tourism program is collaborating withConsultancy and Research for Environmental Management, a specialized bureau for sustainable development in the Netherlands, to promote sustainable tourism in Costa Rica.
Source: Rainforest Alliance