Eco Travel Destinations: Leaders of the Pack

In the late 1970’s, “ecotourism” entered the travel lexicon, and an emerging number of resorts have embraced environmental and educational attractions ever since. In fact, ecotourism is the fastest growing sector in the travel industry since the early 1990’s.

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Photo credit: Cesiak.org

As with any growing trend, some companies/entities will drive the trend, setting the highest examples, and others will follow.

Ecotourism has in many ways morphed into rather broad and unclassified meaning in the marketplace. As a value-added buzzword, some companies adopt the term when beneficial, without full demonstration of environmental commitment.

According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people.” While this definition sounds terrific, an increasing number of travel entities use ‘eco’ simply to benefit their business.

The travel destinations that are leading the pack however, should be given due attention for their pioneering efforts. This past week, The Guardian highlights a few eco-leaders in their top five (5) green destinations post. MSNBC also reviewed Forbes’ top 10 Best Eco Luxury Resorts this year, highlighting what they viewed as destinations with genuine commitment to the environment.

One such place, which was highlighted by MSNBC is Sian Ka’an, Cesiak eco resort in Mexico. As a fully sustainable, 100% energy efficient destination, CeSiak offers pristine, comfortable accommodations situated in one of the most beautiful bioreserves of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Run completely on sun and wind, the power is generated in 24 volts DC and stored in a large battery bank. CESiaK also uses a rainwater collection system for all guest water needs, other than drinking and maintains a wetland waste treatment systems to recycles greywater and treat all blackwater.

Beyond energy conservation, CeSiak, and other resorts like this one, approach every aspect of the business from the ecological conservation standpoint. Wind, rain, water, land are at the forefront of not only managing the destination, but also providing the educational and enjoyment capital for the eco-minded tourist. As such, restoration, preservation and education are front and center to the resorts mission, vision, and attractions.

Movement toward Accreditation:

One response to the increasing use and value of ‘eco’ in the travel industry, the International Ecotourism Society, in collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, plans to introduce a global accreditation system, the Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council, to certify individual programs within the next two years that meet certain criteria. While this accreditation may certainly help consumers make more informed choices, we must continue to remain educated and up-to-date on the latest innovations and models for the industry.

Guardian’s top five eco travel picks: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2007/sep/19/green.travelwebsites

MSNBC’s Top Ten Luxury Resorts: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18057687/
Also on Forbes Traveler: http://www.forbestraveler.com/2006/ft400-slide-200.html?thisSpeed=20000

Cesiak: http://www.cesiak.org/accommodation.htm

What similarities can be drawn from the trends in eco-tourism and eco-fashion? For one, they are both on the rise and two of the fastest growing categories in their respective fields. In the case of eco-tourism, the trend has been increasing longer, faster and steadier, but both harness the eco-conscious consumer paradigm. As such, there is much to be learned from the eco-tourism industry. For example, we can expect a fair number of companies to embrace the ‘green fashion’ paradigm, whether there is genuine commitment behind the ‘green-washing’ or not. In addition, green fabrics, organic fabrics and socially conscious production process will need to monitored, with perhaps one or more accreditation systems in place, coupled with continuous information sharing with consumers. Finally, there may be a viable opportunity here for eco-friendly fashion companies to capitalize on this travel market and formalize some b2b partnerships.

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