By Mark Okrant,
NH Travel Guru
In last week’s NH Travel Guru column, we took our first look at ‘ecotourism,’ a responsible form of travel that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. We cautioned that a number of New Hampshire’s travel-oriented businesses fall short of performing in an ecologically friendly manner.
This week’s column provides a list of expectations for any business that is planning to anoint itself as eco-friendly. Additionally, the following guidelines will allow you readers to evaluate whether essential measures are being taken by your favorite travel haunts.
For a tourism business to claim ecotourism status, it must adhere to the following four principles:
- minimizing negative environmental impacts upon host communities
- building environmental and cultural awareness and respect
- providing eco-experiences for both visitors and hosts
- delivering direct financial assistance for local conservation initiatives and people
The Checklist—to qualify as an ecotourism business demands that at least one check be placed in each of the following four lettered categories. The greater the number of check marks under each category, the higher its rating:
- A) Minimizes negative environmental impacts on host communities
? provides one or more low impact activity
? makes an apparent effort to conserve the land
? develops and implements a carrying-capacity policy for the site
- B) Builds environmental and cultural awareness and respect
? provides written information for guests to inform them of the environmental and cultural issues within the host community
? guests are provided with examples of how they can support the environment and community
? staff conducts face-to-face discussions with guests about awareness and respect for the environment as well as cultural practices
? offers classes to educate guests about environmental and cultural issues in the host community, and how guests can make a difference
- C) Provides positive eco-experiences for both visitors and hosts
? there are opportunities for hosts and guests to interact in a positive way
? staff distributes surveys to the local population asking their opinions on the visitors attracted to the area, as well as locals’ suggestions for changes or improvements
? business gathers visitor feedback on the quality of their experience
- D) Provides financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
? provides and sells local products (e.g., NH Made)
? distributes a list of locally owned businesses for guests
? local residents are hired to work in the business
? discounted services are provided to the people within the host community
? business owners participate in town meetings and/or the local chamber of commerce
Now it’s your turn. Next time you travel, please bring this list along. One benefit that I can promise you—it will stimulate conversation with the property’s management.
Your guru wishes to recognize two incredible former Plymouth State students, Jennifer Aldrich and Kelly McCusker, for their work in developing this set of standards. For your edification, Jennifer and Kelly assigned a number of New Hampshire travel businesses very high ratings on their ecotourism scale. Examples include D’Acres Organic Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, Squam Lakes Science Center, and Cardigan Lodge.
After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joins IndepthNH.org to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.
For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit www.markokrant.com.
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