If you’re just starting your journey into sustainable tours and activities, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed or unsure of how your business can make an impact. Whether you are a small, family-owned business or if you run a larger operation, taking small steps over time adds up to make a big difference.
This checklist offers ideas on what you can do as a tour operator to reduce your environmental impact on your community and contribute to the local culture and economy. Congrats on going green!
In Your Day-To-Day Operations
Switch to paperless ticketing and eliminate paper waste! Check customer tickets on their smartphones or simply check them in on your computer using their booking contact information.
If you must use paper handouts or materials, try to print them on recycled paper using biodegradable ink and reduce the overall text on the page to keep the number of total printed pages to a minimum.
Pro tip: Ask families, couples, and friend groups to share a single hand-out rather than printing one for each individual guest.
Offer advice and provide information on how guests and employees can take advantage of environmentally friendly modes of transportation, like carpooling, biking, and public transport. Providing up-to-date bus schedules and convenient bike routes will encourage people to choose these options over other forms of transportation.
If you are able, consider supplementing the cost of transportation to your location or a offer discount for guests or employees if they use sustainable or more environmentally-friendly options.
To further incentivize guests and employees, partner with a local coffee shop to provide a voucher for a free coffee or beverage for those who use public transportation or walk or bike to their tour.
Make it easy to reduce waste by having recycling bins readily available and easily accessible to employees and customers.
Conserve water by using dual-flush toilets in your office and guest restrooms.
Offer training and information to your employees on how to be more environmentally responsible.
On Your Tours & Activities
Eliminate single-use plastic waste by asking customers to bring reusable water bottles and offering places to refill them at your location or throughout the tour.
If you offer transportation, opt for fuel-efficient vehicles. If your area lends itself to environmental modes of transportation like bicycles or kayaks, even better!
Keep your tour sizes small and staggered as this has a lower impact on local flora and fauna than hundreds of people visiting an area at once.
An added benefit - amid ongoing COVID-19 concerns guests favor smaller group sizes for health and safety reasons as well!
Bring trash bags on your tours and encourage everyone to carry out their waste.
Share information on the local culture and history of your area with your customers. Respect the culture of your destination, acknowledge the impact of tourism in the area, and give your customers the opportunity to connect with locals.
Consider offering service tourism or voluntourism opportunities , such as a coral reef repair tour or a river clean-up event.
For The Local Economy
Contribute to the local economy and support other local businesses by sourcing supplies, catering, photography, and other services from local vendors.
Invest in your area. If you are able, consider donating a portion of your profits to organizations that help preserve and protect the area where you operate your tours or support the local community.
You can evaluate your contribution on a quarterly or seasonal basis to make sure your donation levels work for you and your business.
Hire local staff and provide training that contributes to the development of the local workforce. Not only does this boost the local economy, but local guides will also be able to provide unique insights to guests that non-locals don't have.
With Your Marketing Materials
Go paperless with your marketing by focusing on digital platforms like social media , email marketing , and PPC advertising .
Go digital with your photo offerings using a service like our partner Fotaflo to provide customers with digital photos of their experience.
Use your digital marketing channels to educate customers about preservation in your area and promote your efforts to reduce your footprint and protect local flora and fauna.
Similarly, use your online channels to educate customers about the local culture and history, any issues they should be sensitive about, and local businesses they should support.
Certifications & Offsets
Research the different types of sustainability certifications available to determine if there is one that fits well with your business and values. Some examples include the GSTC certification , Green Globe , and Certified B Corporation .
Display your green certification to show your company's commitment to preservation, sustainability, and the desire to have a positive impact on your local community. This is also great PR!
If you've made every effort to reduce waste and you still feel like your business could do more to reduce your impact, or the impact of travel in general, consider introducing carbon offsets. Explore organizations like Carbonfund , TerraPass , and CoolEffect to find what works for your business.
Once you’ve taken your first steps toward a more sustainable business, you’ll see how easy it is to put small measures in place. You’ll also feel great knowing that you’re taking steps to preserve, protect, and contribute to your beautiful area!
Want to learn more about this topic? Watch our Spark session on how sustainable tourism is changing .