September Standard recognised by Global Sustainable Tourism Council

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1 September 2012 Standard recognised by Global Sustainable Tourism Council

2 EcoTourism Ireland Certification Programme our roadmap for development a structured approach for the creation of new ecotourism experiences & standards The unspoilt nature of many parts of the island of Ireland has encouraged many tourism businesses both North and South to establish themselves as green or ecotourism operators. EcoTourism Ireland is working to develop these resources further with the aim of establishing Ireland as a world class ecotourism destination with a strong focus on high ecotourism standards. EcoTourism Ireland is an organisation which was set up to stimulate the development of ecotourism countrywide. To achieve these ends it has facilitated the development of an ecotourism quality label that it hopes will stimulate the development of new ecotourism experiences in Ireland, and at the same time defend the ethical values of existing ecotourism operators. In addition, the label has been designed to guide visitors travel choices while helping them to choose promoters of ecotourism products and the experiences they have on offer. Core to ecotourism and EcoTourism Ireland s philosophy is the concept of environmental sustainability and the label has been very much developed with this in mind, in order to ensure that the environmental impacts of approved ecotourism products are minimised. The label also encourages proactive nature conservation and the promotion of local cultural values, while at the same time developing local economies and the long term viability of ecotourism destinations.

3 1.1 Definition of ecotourism Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people (The International EcoTourism Society). Ecotourism travel experiences A genuine ecotourism travel experience is based on a number of principles that make demands on both ecotourism operators and their guests. Visitors can expect to gain privileged insights and knowledge about the nature and culture of the region they have come to see, and they can also be assured that the people involved in providing their holiday have adopted environmentally sustainable practices. Furthermore, ecotourism operators should be actively contributing to the conservation of their local biodiversity and cultural heritage, and ensuring that steps have been taken to minimise their operations impacts on local nature and culture. Ecotourism is often carried out in small groups and tends to be focused on enjoying the best nature experiences available in an area, meeting local people, enjoying local food and gaining real insights into the area being visited. Benefits of the EcoTourism Ireland ecotourism labelling system The system is designed to be business friendly and aims to act as a road map for development by providing a structured approach for the creation of new ecotourism experiences. Operators can also be confident that they are addressing all the principles of ecotourism, particularly in relation to nature conservation, eco-friendly practices and ensuring the provision of local benefits. A wide range of benefits are available to ecotourism operators adopting the EcoTourism Ireland label ranging from environmental benefits through to actual marketing advantages. In environmental terms operators can save money by adopting eco-friendly practices, particularly in relation to energy use, and the label makes its easier for the ecotourism product promoter to address environmental and conservation issues through asking questions such as: How does my company actively conserve the environment? How does my ecotourism operation support the local community, not just myself? How does my ecotourism product support local, organic and artisan food producers? 1.3 Benefits of ecotourism Ecotourism is highly suited to tourism development in unspoilt locations as it can create jobs and income without destroying or degrading the natural or cultural assets that the visitor has come to see. Like no other industry, ecotourism gives natural unspoilt areas an economic value, but this goes hand in hand with actively creating benefits for nature conservation and focusing on reducing environmental impacts. Ecotourism experiences also tend to be at the cutting edge of creativity in the tourism industry, and can be readily marketed to the ever increasing numbers of people who wish to ensure that their holiday creates positive benefits, both for the environment and the local communities visited. What role does environmental education play in my activities? How do I reduce the carbon footprint of my ecotourism product? In marketing terms the EcoTourism Ireland Label makes it easier for visitors to find high quality experiences and guarantees a high quality of delivery of the services. It becomes both an image for promoters and a reassuring factor for visitors that their holiday is the genuine article. Finally, the label makes it easier for tour operators to promote ecotourism experiences to potential visitors while driving the development of new, innovative and genuine ecotourism travel products.

4 1.5 What does the label look like? The label is a printed logo with the current year and the individual company s registration approval number within the system. 1.6 What can be labelled? The EcoTourism Ireland Label can be applied to travel and tourism products that are nature based and have an element of interpretation involved. For example, guided wildlife tours, nature based training courses, instructed outdoor activity, food trails, archaeology tours, hill walking trips etc. Look at our website, our certified members section G o l d The label has been designed to be a graduated type award which can communicate different levels of achievement to travellers. (ie. Gold, Silver, Bronze). The label can only be applied to individual products, not to the entire product range of a particular company. However, if a company has a number of different ecotourism experiences on offer, then these can be grouped under one application and award, provided that similar policies and practices are applied across all the ecotourism products offered. All products applying for certification will be subject to an on site audit by an independent qualified ecotourism auditor before approval. S i l v e r B r o n z e 1.7 Who is behind the label? The label has been developed by EcoTourism Ireland and is managed with advice from following agencies: Fáilte Ireland, Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (DARD), National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Tourism Ireland.

5 1.8 What criteria need to be met in order to qualify for the ecotourism label? The published criteria are divided into individual measures. Between them they cover a wide range of practices in eight key components of ecotourism as follows: 1.9 Revision and renewal of criteria EcoTourism Ireland is committed to a policy of continuous improvement. To enable this process it is therefore essential that all criteria are in continuous development and will be renewed as deemed necessary. We will continue to work with GSTC to improve all aspect of the criteria and will consult companies we have awarded the label Criteria Number of Measures Number of Points 1. Environmentally sustainable practices How long are the current criteria valid? The current criteria are valid until September Natural area focus Interpretation and education Contributing to conservation Benefiting local communities Visitor satisfaction Responsible marketing & communication Cultural respect and awareness 3 9 Sub Total How do I apply? The nature of Ecotourism Education is best delivered to networks or at destination level where a group of businesses decided they wish to develop their products based on this ethos. In many areas the local support of Leader Companies and Fáilte Ireland can be the first step to get some support and resources for delivering cost effective training. A key aspect of training is networking and mentoring for the business. While the paperwork involved in applying for certification maybe very detailed, the training provides practical training with checklists and policy templates. There is also a wide range of business training aspects of Ecotourism. Certification at all levels is dependent on a minimum 50% score in every relevant measure being achieved. Gold % Silver 65-84% Bronze 50-64% The level of award depends on the aggregate score across all measures. EcoTourism Ireland Awareness Training Award - These ecotourism approved experiences have had a 2nd-party desk assessment from EcoTourism Ireland, which verified that they have met the relevant criteria but no on site assessment has taken place as yet. They have completed an ecotourism policy How may I use the label? The label may be actively used in an ecotourism product promoter s marketing material. However, it may only be used in immediate conjunction with the specific product(s) that meet(s) the criteria. The operator should in no way imply that unlabeled products or activities are labelled. EcoTourism Ireland will actively monitor the use of the label in this regard.

6 How will the label be marketed? EcoTourism Ireland will endeavour to market the label as efficiently as possible with the goal being to gain respect, arouse curiosity, create strong interest and promote a high brand value for the label and its associated ecotourism products. What does the company receive in return for approved products? At all levels of certification enterprises that have been awarded the EcoTourism Ireland Label will receive the following: 1. A listing page on the website If an application is successful, EcoTourism Ireland will invoice the applicant for an biannual licence (membership) fee. Promoters seeking certification will be subject to an on-site inspection of the product. The product will be subject to reassessment every two years. Fees overview The fees range depending on the number of businesses being certified, training required to achieve certification, on average this may take between 6-12 months to research and design experience, design and implement policies and responsible marketing plans etc Applications will be accepted at any time of the year 2. A certificate that can be displayed at the product promoter s premises stating that the promoter is an Approved ecotourism operator and detailing the specific products that have been certified 3. The right to use the EcoTourism Ireland logo on all marketing material associated with the certified product 4. The right to be included in EcoTourism Ireland s own marketing system 5. General participation in Fáilte Ireland / Tourism Ireland publicity programmes as part of ecotourism destination 6. Promotion through Tourism Ireland websites 7. A wall plaque (designed and manufactured by the Leitrim Sculpture Centre) displayed at the product promoters premises. Only for Gold/Silver business premises. 8. Other opportunities as Fáilte Ireland s general classification schemes progress 1.15 Applicants must comply with all the criteria where they are/relevant to the ecotourism product. Dates for application Applications will be accepted at any time of the year

7 1.16 How the criteria work Applicants must comply with all the criteria where they are relevant to the ecotourism product. Each criterion carries a number of points. Correct minimal impact codes identified and adopted. A range of examples of minimal impact codes have been developed by EcoTourism Ireland. If an ecotourism product involves any of the activities listed below then the relevant codes will have to be followed. Some products may have to use a combination of these codes. For example: A product which uses canoes to view lakeshore bird species will have to meet Minimal impact canoeing and Minimal impact bird watching guidelines. Leave no Trace Code Minimal impact marine megafauna viewing Minimal impact canoeing Training courses EcoTourism Ireland holds regular training courses for businesses interested in having their products accredited by the ecotourism label, as well as more general courses for those interested in getting involved in ecotourism. Details of these can be obtained by contacting EcoTourism Ireland directly. How applications are assessed Onsite assessments are by appointment only. EcoTourism Ireland trained auditors, experienced in advising all sizes & types of ecotourism businesses, will not only assess against the scheme s awards but will also be able to discuss any queries and help identify sources of help for realising missed opportunities. Dialogue is central to the visits and the assessment procedure as a whole. Minimal impact bog, peatland and wetland visits Minimal impact hill walking Minimal impact motor vehicle use Minimal impact birdwatching It is the intention of the EcoTourism Ireland to facilitate process leading to certification in as fair and transparent a manner as possible. To achieve this EcoTourism Ireland has established an independent committee which it considers both impartial and representative of the industry. The primary role of the committee is to provide the final word on individual applications for the Approved Ecotourism Label. Minimal impact mountain biking Minimal impact caving

8 EcoTourism Ireland Course Target Audience Outline Courses - Main Module Environmental Management and Making Business More sustainable - Small Businesses including tourism and hospitality - Benefits and Cost advantages of environmentally efficient enterprise How to audit your local area for tourism products and promotion - Rural Enterprises - Developing an appropriate environmental policy for your business - Professional Institutes and Organisations (eg: small firms association, chamber of commerce, business network. - Energy Audit and efficiencies Measures - Local Tourism Groups - Defining your local area? - Tidy Towns - Defining tourism products and services within an area? - Waste Minimisation and recycling - Marketing your environmental policies and operations - Networking - Key Drivers of Environmental Legislation water, waste, air and biodiversity - Undertaking a tourism audit - Networking and cross selling - Promotion and marketing of tourism in your local area Training for Community Groups - Community - Understanding Sustainable Development - Developments Groups - Introduction to biodiversity - Local Heritage Resources - Adapting to climate change - Waste minimistion and recycling - Developing ecotourism for your area - Green PR and marketing for resources EcoTourism Ireland Label making it easier for visitors & tour operators to find genuine high quality ecotourism experiences

9 For Further Enquires: EcoTourism Ireland Main Street Manorhamilton Co Leitrim Tel: Twitter: ecoireland Skype: ecotourismireland Designed & produced by Copper Reed Studio In association with: Standard Recognised by Global Sustainable Tourism Council January Advisory Panel: National Parks & Wildlife Services

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