Defining Ecotourism Lodging

I have been working on my directory for almost 4 years now.  My habit has been to look at each eco lodge on an individual basis to see whether I consider them as promoting sustainable tourism.  If I do, they get added to the directory.  I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t as discerning when I first started this directory and now need a way to go back and weed some of these lodges out.  I’m finally at a point where I think it would be beneficial to have some type of questionnaire for each lodge, more of a definition of what an eco lodge is. So, I need a quantifiable way to define ecotourism lodging.  I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, so I am looking at different websites and questionnaires.  I’d like something that can be quantified by a yes or no answer.  For example, do you have an organic garden?  Do you employ local staff?  Do you have local staff in management?  In this way I could have some kind of numbering system (actually I’m looking at a butterfly system, but that’s for another blog) where you get 1 point if you’re trying to be eco but haven’t quite suceeded and you’d get the top number of points if you’ve attained true eco lodging.

Green Globe 21 has an extensive evaluation process and I laud that, but for my purposes I need something simpler (and less expensive).  If you have any ideas of good questions that can be answered by a yes or no, please feel free to post them here or email them to me through my website  Sorry, I didn’t want to put my email here as I’ve already got enough of a problem with spam!

Some of the yes/no questions might need further comments.  Like: Do you use alternative energy sources?  And then ask what kind they use.  Of course, one of my goals is to visit all the eco lodges on the directory to get a first hand view.  I’m a trusting soul and tend to believe lodges when they tell me that they practice sustainable travel, but once or twice another lodge in the same country has emailed me that they really didn’t.  That is very disappointing to me but enforces my desire to see first hand. 

My goal is to start with Mexico this winter.  I live in Northern California and Mexico will be the least expensive place for me to start.  There is a cluster of 3-5 eco lodges relatively close to each other.  I find this prospect really exciting as I learn more and more.  Of course, I will blog about each lodge as I visit them! 

Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation

I’ve just added Tmatboey Ecotourism Project in Cambodia to the directory.  This is really a special place because it is being helped by the Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation.  Their mission from their site (SVC):

The SVC opened in January 2003, and since 2004 has been developing activities to promote wildlife conservation, including:

  • hosting public events and lectures aimed at both Cambodians and foreigners
  • developing interpretive material and a resource library on topics relating to Cambodia’s environment
  • training Cambodians in bird identification and how to lead small-scale bird excursions

    Ensure support for Community Funds: Visitors who come to see the birds leave a conservation contribution which goes into a local development fund directed towards various projects such as community development, agricultural assistance and fish ponds. 
    As an off-shoot of our programs, SVC has been taking interested groups and individuals to see birds, either around Siem Reap area for half a day, or to more remote locations to see several endangered and threatened species, on trips lasting from one day to over one week. This new eco tourism endeavor is in partnership with Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia Program (WCS), an international NGO devoted to protecting wildlife around the world, and the rural communities living in the less-accessible birding sites.
  • I thought the Sam Veasna Center for Wildlife Conservation deserved separate mention in this blog because they are what ecotourism is really about…preserving our wildlife and eco-systems.