Links to resources about ecotourism accreditation and certification programs, codes of practice and
operational guidelines for accomodation, nature based and outdoor tourism operators, guides and travellers.

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Codes of Coduct, Practice & Operational Guidelines

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Accreditation & Certification Programs || Codes of Coduct, Practice & Operational Guidelines || Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines

A selection of ecotourism accreditation and certification programs, codes of conduct, codes of practice and operational guidelines also including sustainable tourism, geotourism and responsible tourism for stakeholders, policy makers, tour operators, outdoor guides and visitors to destinations.

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Accreditation and Certification Programs

Accreditation & Certification Programs generally concentrate on the built environment, with the focus on environmentally friendly infrastructure design and advanced environmental monitoring systems.  Interpretive material about local history, flora and fauna, and guide programs designed to foster environmental and cultural awareness amongst guests and visitors, need to be included.  These interpretive criteria in particular are popular with resort developments seeking ecotourism commendation.

While this recognition is encouraging developers to impliment projects that are more culturally inclusive and less environmentally damaging than in the past, the question for many people remains ... is this "ecotourism"?

  • Green Tourism Business Scheme  "The GTBS is the national sustainable tourism certification scheme for the UK. Originally developed [by] VisitScotland, it is now the only national scheme to be independently validated by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism (ICRT) on behalf of VisitEngland, VisitWales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and endorsed by VisitScotland and Failte Ireland.  ...Businesses opting to join Green Tourism are assessed by a qualified grading advisor against a rigorous set of criteria, covering a range of areas, like energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and more."  The scheme was originally established by VisitScotland supported by Scottish Enterprise & Highland and Islands Enterprise, and after funding stopped in 2001, it became a self-financing scheme mainly supported by membership fees. 
  • The Rainforest Alliance works with hotels, restaurants and other tourism businesses to help them improve their environmental, social and economic practices.
  • The The Rainforest Alliance Family of Marks "The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior" by bringing together the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas certification programs, including the Sustainable Agriculture Network, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Rainforest Alliance Verified™ marks.
  • A Strategic Overview of Ecotourism Accreditation and Certification: The Road Forward By Fergus Tyler Maclaren, for the International Year of Ecotourism 2002. "The placing of the term eco- in front of words such as “sensitive”, “friendly” or other expressions has often meant some confusion as to what is actually being defined and to what standard something is being held up to, to accord it higher regard and acceptance. In the case of ecotourism, this has often resulted in debate over what its intent actually is, and in what circumstances it can actually be applied."  While it's getting a bit long in the tooth now, this remains a valuable background doument.
  • Ecotourism Australia - Eco Certification Program Previously known as NEAP (National Ecotourism Accreditation Program)"The ECO Certification logo is a globally recognized brand which assists travellers to choose and experience a genuine and authentic tour, attraction, cruise or accommodation that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable."   EcoLodges of Australia is a marketing consortium of Australia's leading ECO certified accommodation.  Definitions, prices and Criteria summary PDF available for download. Updated link
  • The Certification in Sustainable Tourism Program “ (CST) is a product of the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT). The CST was designed to differentiate businesses of the tourism sector, based on the degree to which they comply with a sustainable model of natural, cultural and social resource management.”  In English, Espanol, Francias and Deutsch.

See also Sustainable Design & Management, Academic, Education & Scientific Organisations, Ecotourism Papers and Articles and Industry Associations and Societies

Codes of Conduct, Practice and Operational Guidelines

While there are many localised Codes for various kinds of tour operations and for travellers, most aren't specifically formulated in the context of "ecotourism".  However, we can ensure that all parties are well prepared for the type of activity they are embarking on, and help minimise adverse impact on the natural and cultural environments, by adopting and using an appropriate code of practice.  See also Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines.

Ed Note: To determine whether your intended activity is "eco" rather than "nature" based, "outdoor" or "adventure" tourism, just ask yourself these questions. Is it to primarily be in and enjoy the natural world? Is it "passive" as opposed to "active"? Or is the activity the end in itself? To make the most of the activity, will you need to be quiet or still, patient, observant, respectful of boundaries and prepared for some pysical discomfort? Or will your experiences come to you in air conditioned 5 star comfort, and do you expect that you will be "whooping and hollering" with your adrenalin pumping?

Operator/Visitor Guidelines
  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism   from the UN World Tourism Organization. "A fundamental frame of reference for responsible and sustainable tourism, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) is a comprehensive set of principles designed to guide key-players in tourism development. Addressed to governments, the travel industry, communities and tourists alike, it aims to help maximise the sector's benefits while minimising its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe."  This link goes to Full Text Download with PDF format (brochure) in more than 40 UNWTO official languages.
  • Antarctic Tour Operators Guidelines & Resources  It's stating the obvious but I can't resist ... be very, very, very careful out there. Great resource for stakeholders, academics and operators, and excellent for would be Antarctic visitors as well, with guidelines for Visitors and Wildlife Watching and additional extensive Antarctic Resources links.
  • Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching 2005  One more click to get to the PDF; which is a bit unfriendly IMO. Given the popularity world-wide of dolphin and whale watching along the various migratory paths, html would be preferable.
  • Guidelines for approaching marine mammals in Australian waters New listing Easy to read and understand diagrams, with links to each state and territory regulations.
  • Ecotourism Association of Australia (EAA) Code of Practice for Operators Originally developed in the mid '90s, it's been superseded by the Eco Certification Program, and other geographically localised programs, but for tourism operators wanting a brief bullet style introduction, it's a good place to start. You might even find you're well on the way to accreditation.
  • Ecotourism Association of Australia (EAA) Guidelines for Ecotourists Published in the mid 1990s, intending "ecotourists" can still benefit by keeping these guidelines in mind when travelling.
  • The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Certification and Standards “Handbooks ... developed collaboratively by TIES, Rainforest Alliance and the Center on Ecotourism and Sustainable Development, based on a 4-year research project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank's Multilateral Investment Fund. While particularly relevant to the Americas, the handbooks incorporate examples from around the world, as well as lessons learned from certification programs in other industries.”  PDF downloads available in English and Spanish, with guides for Users, Funding, Marketing and Financing.
  • PDF file link Ethical Birding Guidelines "Read the guidelines to understand potential negative impacts that recreational birdwatching and photography may have on birds."  Guidelines from Birdlife Australia, the national organisation formed by the merger of Birds Australia, BOCA and participating branches in 2011.
  • Evaluating Ecotourism Operators and Agents by Deborah McLaren from October 1996.  This is an excellent snapshot of concerns and visions for what "ecotourism" was already beginning to morph away from; that is - conservation and restoration of the environment, and respect and reward for local cultures.
  • HOW TO CHOOSE AN ECOTOUR PROGRAM AND A HOST. "Nowadays more than ever travelers must actively participate in choosing their trip facilitators. You can not judge how good programs or tour hosts are by how glamorous their magazine ads are, how famous their sponsoring agencies are, or by whether the guides are locally certified or accredited! Before a trip takes place, you should contact the tour host directly, ask probing questions, and see how your prospective host responds."  Excellent article for travellers, on questions to ask and cationary tales about choosing your tour guide/s, from the folk at
  • National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations  "Created by the Research, Conservation, and Exploration Division of National Geographic Mission Programs, Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) programs are dedicated to protecting the world's distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship."  Yet another ... rose by any other name ... .
  • Responsible Tourism - Travel Code from Andean Web.  "As a traveler, you have a responsibility to help ensure that tourism in developing countries such as Peru remains a positive experience for everyone. The following "Travel Code" offers guidelines for low-impact, culturally sensitive and environmentally friendly travel."
  • Tourism Concern “Tourism Concern campaigns for better tourism. We are an independent, non-industry based, UK charity, with members and supporters from around the world.”
  • Wildlife Tourism Australia Policies The index page for a number of policies, submissions and best practice documents including Best Practice Management Guidelines for operators, Planning and managing wildlife encounters, and an extensive list of various Australian tour operator and visitor activities codes under the title of Australian Wildlife Viewing Guidelines.

See also What is Ecotourism?, Accreditation & Certification Programs, Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Activities and Tourism Planning and Other Tourism Resources

Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines

Policymaker/Stakeholder Guidelines provide a framework for development of, and appropriate activity and conduct at sensitive natural and cultural sites.

  • Australian Natural Heritage Charter: 2nd Edition "for the Conservation of Places of Natural Heritage Significance Second edition 2002 Australian Heritage Council. The Purpose of this Charter is to assist everyone with an interest in the significance and conservation of natural heritage. It provides definitions of terms, a statement of principles and a rational process for making decisions." Available online for download in link PDF (266kb).
    • Ask First: A guide to respecting Indigenous heritage places and values 2002 "provides a practical guide for land developers, land users and managers, cultural heritage professionals and many others who may have an impact on Indigenous heritage. The title - Ask First - is the message of this book; that consultation and negotiation with Indigenous stakeholders is the best means of addressing Indigenous heritage issues. It is also the first, and simplest step that people need to take, and that is to put the subject on the agenda." In html and downloadable PDF, as well as for hardcopy purchase, the descrription sums it up.  This guide is an excellent resource, and "must have" for any individual or organisation dealing with Indigenous stakeholders and heritage.
    • Successful Tourism at Heritage Places: a guide for tourism operators, heritage managers and communities 2001 "The Australian Heritage Council and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources with the asssistance of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism have over the years explored issues of common concern about the responsible use of Australia's heritage places for tourism.  This guide provides information to help people more clearly understand the issues involved and includes practical pointers for those aiming at successful and responsible tourism at heritage places."
    • Steps to sustainable tourism  "This document is designed for tourism operators, heritage and environment managers, community groups and others with an interest in places, regions and associated tourism products."  In link PDF (495kb file) download.  An excellent step by step "how-to" guide for anyone interested in sustainable tourism development.
  • [Convention on Biological Diversity] >> CBD Guidelines on Biodiversity and Tourism Development “International guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development in vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats of major importance for biological diversity and protected areas, including fragile riparian and mountain ecosystems.”
    • Principles, Guidelines and Other Tools Developed under the Convention "This page lists some Principles, Guidelines and other tools developed under the Convention. All are available in the six official United Nations Languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian) through associated Conference of the Parties decisions. In the language column on the right, links are made to associated PDF Publications of the Secretariat."
  • Global Code of Ethics for Tourism from the UN World Tourism Organization. "The global Code of Ethic for Tourism sets a frame of reference for the responsible and sustainable development of world tourism. It draws inspiration from many similar declarations and industry codes that have come before and it adds new thinking that reflects our changing society at the beginning of the 21st century." 
  • Updated link Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas: Guidelines for Planning and Management: html page not available. PDF file link download the PDF here for a total approximately 1.46Mb. UNEP Publication by Paul FJ Eagles, Stephen F McCool, Christopher D Haynes. "A landmark publication jointly published by UNEP, The World Conservation Unit (IUCN) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) is a contribution to the International Year of Ecotourism 2002. The publication aims to assist protected area managers and other stakeholders in the planning and management of protected areas based on a wealth of practical case studies and experience." 
  • UNESCO World Heritage Centre  Everything you always wanted to know about World Heritage but didn't know where to find it. English, Français. "Protecting natural and cultural properties of outstanding universal value against the threat of damage in a rapidly developing world".

See also What is Ecotourism?, Accreditation & Certification Programs, Outdoor Recreation & Adventure Activities, Tourism Planning and Other Tourism Resources and Sustainable Design & Management

Footnote 1. Rose by any other name:  “What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet.” --From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2), see also