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Integrated Eco branding helps to foster sustainable rural tourism

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Environmental sustainability is acknowledged as essential for the EU tourist industry and LIFE funds have been used by rural tourism beneficiaries to introduce an integrated set of tools that encourage wider use of eco branding and sustainable tourism information. Sustainable approaches to rural tourism are widely promoted by a variety of EU and national programmes. One such initiative received support from LIFE for its work with tourism support bodies from Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Organised by the European Centre for Eco Agro Tourism, this Tourlink project received 935,000 euros of LIFE co-finance for a three year programme of activities based around encouraging greater use of eco branding by European tour operators. LIFE’s Tourlink project aimed to help provide tour operators with a new set of tools to boost the amount of information available about eco-tourism branding and eco-tourism products. Internet tools were considered to present the most effective means for delivering Tourlink and three different web portals were created during the LIFE project. Each portal targets a separate segment of the supply chain between tour operators and consumers of tourism products.

Rural and coastal tourism issues are covered by the web tools, which also adopt generic approaches of relevance to most other types of visitor destinations. Capacity building support in sustainable tourism techniques was produced for tour operators and is available on the www.travelife.eu site. Eco branding and labelling schemes feature prominently throughout the capacity building tools that include: a ‘Travelife Sustainability System’ designed to help tour operators encourage their suppliers to improve environmental and social performance; action planning methodologies allowing tour operator associations to monitor their members’ commitments; handbooks and training courses raising awareness on tourism impacts, with an aim to ensure that tourism companies know how to benefit their host countries; and a database of sustainable tourism suppliers.

A dedicated web tool to disseminate information about sustainable tourism products was also produced by the LIFE Project. This www.greentravelmarket.info portal is designed for tourism professionals and provides a virtual marketing service for sustainable tourism. All products advertised on the site are screened using a set of quality and sustainability criteria that draw on recognised certification and eco branding schemes. Eco labelling information for consumers formed the basis of the third Tourlink web tool that was introduced to help tourists make responsible travel choices. The www.its4travel.com site applies a new ‘Travellife’ classification system linked to bronze, silver or gold awards for tourism suppliers demonstrating sustainability approaches. LIFE co-financed the launch of the Travellife eco branding scheme and several large tour operators, such as Virgin and TUI, have used Travellife labelling in their brochures. Cooperation continues between the LIFE project partners on these three web portals and associated sustainable tourism activity. More information about how tourism companies can integrate environmental sustainability concepts is available in the Tourlink Layman report.

European Commission Environment – LIFE Programme

 


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