For travellers, this can mean making holiday choices with these concerns in mind, from the destinations they visit and the way they travel, to the services they choose once they arrive.
For the tourism industry, it is about meeting the expectations of travellers, and protecting what is unique and special about a destination like New Zealand. It can also be about the bottom line, with many operators recognising that responsible tourism practices boost profits by cutting consumption and offering a marketing edge over the competition.
What operators can do
Visitors look for an environmental accreditation - and Qualmark is one of the most comprehensive and integrated quality assurance schemes in the world. Responsible tourism practices are measured within the Qualmark quality assurance assessment and those businesses wanting to be specifically recognised for their sustainable tourism practices are assessed under the Enviro Award criteria.
Tourism New Zealand's Visitor Experience Monitor suggests that international visitors are satisfied with the way New Zealand is delivering on their environmental expectations. However, visitors also have high expectations of tourism operators. Many visitors said they expect tourism operators to be taking actions to reduce their impact on the environment.
Taking actions to reduce environmental impacts can also save money, increase employee engagement and improve operators' reputations. Sustainability is also a good marketing 'hook' among consumers that are looking to reduce their own environmental impacts through what they buy.
- The Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) is involved with projects aimed at improving the sustainability of tourism businesses.
- Visitors look for an environmental accreditation - and Qualmark is one of the most comprehensive and integrated quality assurance schemes in the world. The sustainability component of Qualmark, known as Qualmark Green, will help you assess your current environmental performance and put in place initiatives to improve.
- Local sustainable tourism advisors can also help. These advisors are funded by the regional tourism organisations and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Tourism Strategy Group (see www.tourism.govt.nz) to help tourism businesses improve their environmental performance.
- Carbon offsetting is an option for businesses that are unable to reduce all of their emissions themselves. It involves paying someone else to offset emissions by helping fund emission-reducing projects. Programmes like carboNZero help you to measure emissions created by your business and decide how to reduce and/or offset them.
- Paying for carbon-neutral certification is also an option. The advantage is being able to market your business as carbon neutral and gain a competitive edge with environmentally-conscious clients.
- Both energy and money can be saved by reducing consumption and improving efficiency. Something as simple as making sure vehicle tyres are correctly inflated can make a difference to the amount of fuel used. Training drivers how to operate vehicles for maximum fuel efficiency is also worthwhile. For more information on fuel-saving tips, see www.energywise.govt.nz.
- Whatever you decide to do, don't forget to involve your staff. They will often have great ideas of what you can do within your business to improve your performance, and you will need their support to make your initiatives work. You'll probably find your staff are proud to work for a business that takes sustainability seriously.