The VEEP Sustainability Partners program is designed to motivate large organizations, both in the public and private sectors of Virginia, to practice sustainable environmental practices. These practices are intended to reduce or eliminate damage to natural ecosystems, such as carrying out environmental impact assessments, minimizing visual impacts on site development, using greywater, not using pesticides, composting kitchen waste, using renewable energy, using a garbage and waste collection policy, and setting limits on group sizes (Charters et al.). These dimensions of sustainability are relevant in the provision of ecotourism, as ecotourism seeks to promote environmental conservation and provide socio-cultural and economic well-being in local communities. Applying practices in your ecotourism business to address these dimensions provides a variety of valuable economic and non-economic benefits for you, as well as for your business, environment and community.
A critical examination of your ecotourism operations will show you where to make improvements to improve sustainability. Companies that operate better are more efficient and tend to attract more customers. Implementing sustainability practices in ecotourism companies dramatically reduces the costs of water, electricity and fossil fuels, without reducing the quality of service (Hagler Bailly 199). Ecotourism consumers are environmentally conscious in their demands for tourist experiences (Bien 200).
Practicing sustainability provides a marketing advantage to meet the demands of this target market. Ecotourism is based on a healthy and attractive natural environment for its product. Supporting conservation initiatives protects your product and, ultimately, its long-term profitability. There are particular strategies to implement sustainability dimensions in the provision of ecotourism services.
Specifically, you can choose to follow a code of conduct for your ecotourism business or seek an ecotourism certification. Following such a code can provide rewarding benefits to operators. Not only can this adherence help you practice sustainable operations, it can also provide operating standards on which employees can base their practices and principles. Following an identifiable code for the ecotourism market can make a business more attractive and can help direct marketing initiatives.
The following list of options described in the code can be adapted to your ecotourism operation by integrating sustainability practices. In addition to low-impact travel (e.g., promote environmental and cultural awareness and respect), practices that address this criterion may include providing education and interpretation of the local environment, hiring local guides, or organizing pre-trip meetings (or providing information before the trip leaves) to share knowledge about the local environment and culture. For example, wildlife tour operators can show ecotourists a short video before taking them to observe wildlife as a way to encourage environmentally responsible behavior during the tour. Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
Possible strategies to meet this criteria may include philanthropic and volunteer programs for visitors and residents. For example, nature tour operators can offer ecotourists the opportunity to make financial donations or to volunteer for conservation projects within the protected areas they visit. Provide financial benefits and empowerment to local people. This can be achieved by promoting local resources.
For example, outdoor recreation operators can promote local resources by packaging travel services with locally owned businesses, such as restaurants, accommodations, transportation, and artisans. Increase sensitivity to the political, environmental and social climate of the local region. Efforts to meet this criteria could include opportunities for educational exchanges between ecotourists and residents. For example, agritourism operators can offer stay-at-home opportunities, allowing visitors to experience life on the farm as a rural Florida farmer.
Following an established code of conduct may appeal to you and meet your needs as an operator of an ecotourism company that seeks sustainability. However, you could also consider developing your own code of conduct, customized for your ecotourism business. To do this, it would need to develop a set of criteria based on the dimensions of sustainability discussed above, which would form part of its code of conduct, and then develop clear practices that support these criteria. For example, you can focus on current or future practices to minimize negative impacts and increase the positive impacts of your operation for economic, environmental, and sociocultural sustainability (see Table 1).
Using this strategy will enable you to put sustainability into practice. More specifically, the impacts identified in Table 1 could serve as a criterion for your code of conduct, and the individualized practices and indicators you create will guide you to comply with your established code. For example, a potential negative economic impact of all ecotourism companies involves the inability to pay operating costs. One such method to address this impact (criterion) would be to develop a business plan (practice).
Developing a business plan would allow you to strategically plan how to effectively manage finances for ongoing sustainability (Bustam & Stein 2.0) and assess your ability to pay operating costs (indicator). As a counterexample, a potential positive economic impact includes the generation of income and employment. To ensure the continuity of financial benefits, you can identify new and innovative sales strategies as part of your sales plan and ongoing training as part of your management plan. This practice would guarantee the relevance of the organization's staff in the development and delivery of the desired ecotourism experiences for sustained continuity.
Establishing your own code of conduct could be useful for practicing sustainability. However, you could also consider obtaining ecotourism certification as a way to formally commit to these sustainability practices. Ecotourism certification programs are constantly growing because they ensure that ecotourism operators who use sustainable practices are recognized for their efforts. Ecotourism certification confirms that operators are employing sustainability practices through a formal auditing process.
These certification programs provide a set of established criteria that encompass the dimensions of sociocultural, economic and environmental sustainability. For each of these established criteria, there are a variety of indicators (for example). Ecotourism operators must demonstrate that they meet the indicators to obtain certification. Getting certified can provide unique benefits to ecotourism operators.
For example, operators could find easier access to technical support and funding for new technologies (Bien 200) because that support is provided by the certification agency. Certified ecotourism operators also benefit from increased visibility through marketing campaigns conducted by certification agencies. In conclusion, there are several programs available that promote sustainability in Gainesville Virginia through various initiatives such as VEEP Sustainability Partners program or obtaining an Ecotourism Certification which provide numerous benefits such as increased visibility through marketing campaigns conducted by certification agencies or easier access technical support.