Rainforest Alliance / Tourism

A Decade of Sustainable Tourism

Ten years ago, the Rainforest Alliance launched its sustainable tourism program. It was a logical next step for an organization already committed to improving lives, livelihoods and landscapes through sustainable agriculture and forestry; after all, tourism is the world’s largest service sector, an important source of revenue in developing countries, and an industry with very real impacts (both positive and negative) on people, wildlife and the environment.  Here, Rainforest Alliance vice president of sustainable tourism Ronald Sanabria — who has been with the program since its inception — reflects on the milestone…

I was born and raised in Costa Rica, a country that shared my vision of tourism as a way to help conserve nature and alleviate poverty. Throughout my travels, I discovered that tourism could be the structure to support cultural bridges. Sustainable tourism that addressed these three areas – environmental protection, poverty alleviation and social justice — became my quest and the Rainforest Alliance offered me a home where I could turn my ideas into actions.

When developing our sustainable tourism division, we reflected on what the industry needed and worked to create a program that satisfied those needs. We wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between theory and practice – making all of the lofty ideas about sustainability attainable for hotel owners, tour operators, nearby communities and ecosystems.  Our approach in a nutshell: focus on providing training and technical assistance to tourism entrepreneurs and giving them the tools to improve the management of their own businesses.

We also wanted to foster a universal understanding of sustainable tourism, increase market access for sustainable tourism companies, recognize credible sustainable tourism certification programs through accreditation and provide education on sustainable tourism. But we couldn’t do it alone — we needed to involve other organizations, experts and industry insiders.  So, with patience, persistence and guidance from many allies, we helped develop the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

Among the public perception challenges we faced was debunking the myth that sustainable tourism meant only high-end luxury eco-lodges or basic accommodations for backpackers, with nothing in between. We firmly believe that the hundreds of seminars and workshops we have given to thousands of people around the world have helped shift thinking, so that today’s travelers realize that all kinds of tourism  can be made more sustainable.

And finally, we saw the need to connect sustainable tourism suppliers with buyers; to date, we’ve helped to develop over 100 alliances with tour operators committed to sourcing from sustainable tourism businesses. By bringing more and more businesses on board, we hope to eventually aid in the development of an industry where sustainable tourism is the norm.

Ten years ago, our presence in the tourism world was limited to small informational stands spouting information about green practices at giant international tourism trade shows. Today,  our little green frog is a prominent, well-respected fixture in the tourism world.

What’s next for the Rainforest Alliance’s tourism team? We’ll expand our field work beyond Latin America, focusing on other regions within the southern hemisphere that need access to sustainable tourism information, training, funding and tools. And, since tourism is responsible for an estimated five percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll increase our emphasis on climate change mitigation through sustainable tourism practices.

Our work would be impossible without the help of our incredible network of tourism ministries, donors, NGO partners and friends. Meeting so many wonderful, committed, visionary individuals has been one of the greatest blessings of this work. We thank them all wholeheartedly for their support and look forward to continuing our work together!

23 thoughts on “A Decade of Sustainable Tourism

  1. Thank you Rain Forest Alliance for the past 10 years, as a small family run bussines dedicated in Sustainable tourism, we really appreciate your guide, help and kidness!
    Thank you and fell proud of your lovely job!
    Working today for a better tomorrow for every one!
    Felicidades de corazon!

  2. Reconociendo los esfuerzos que poco a poco van haciendo la gran diferencia. Felicitaciones por el 10 aniversario de este emprendimiento. Esperando que cada día sea una oportunidad para apender y crecer.

  3. Felicidades, Equus Erro Hosteria aplaude la iniciativa tomada de manera general en cuanto un turismo sostenible que implica la responsabilidad social y ambiental genereando alternativas sustentables a sectores rurales y alejados del Ecuador y el mundo.

  4. Thank you for making us part of your program, for patting us in the back for every little improvement and for your encouragement to continue on the path to sustainability!
    May we all enjoy another 10 along the way!

  5. Felicitaciones por la tarea cumplida y por considerara que comunidades como las nuestras tienen oportunidades de formar parte de los emprendimientos turísticos sostenibles, muy pocas organziaciones han logrado impactos positivos en tan poco tiempo y con pocos recursos.

    Gracias por creer en nosotros.

  6. It is really great to see the effects of rainforest alliance in creating a healthy and sustainable industry that we can all be part of and that benefits a great range of people. We love being part of your team and look forward to developments in other parts of Latin America and with tour operators like ourselves.

    Felicidades por sus 10 anos!!!

  7. Thank you to the entire sustainable tourism team at the Rainforest Alliance. Your assistance was instrumental in starting our tour company, and we continue to tap into your experience, websites, recommendations, and other sources of expertise. The Rainforest Alliance has truly made a difference in responsible travel.

  8. Gracias por todo el apoyo, realmente es importante generar conciencia ecológica para todo el mundo y sobre todo que los sectores productivos pequeños con las herramientas de las buenas prácticas mejoren sus procesos de sustentabilidad en sus recintos y comunidades..
    Felicitacios a nombre de Shishink paraíso de Cascadas en Puerto Rico, Cantón Puerto Quito Provincia de Pichincha / Ecuador..

    Doris Armendáriz.

  9. Congratulations Ronald and the entire Rainforest Alliance Tourism Team! It has been such a pleasure working with you over the years. You and your program were instrumental in helping me connect and find a wonderful group of sustainable tourism companies in Costa Rica and later throughout Latin America which became the foundation for setting up my travel company that was committed to sustainable tourism. Then later as I moved on from the travel company to tourism development I had the great pleasure of helping you bring the entire global tourism industry together to start mainstreaming sustainability. The tourism industry and all global travelers owe a tremendous gratitude to the hard work of Rainforest Alliance. Looking forward to the next decade!

  10. Dear Ronald,
    Congratulations on your hard work, extensive to RA as a whole. In times of change we need initiatives like the one you have championed this past decade. New challenges have to be faced with the increasing impacts of global change, especially those related with climate change. We will need your hard work to continue to include these challenges into the scope of sustainable tourism. We will need to expand networks and reach out to local and indigenous communities for the development of adaptation strategies. Sustainable tourism seems to be one of the best tools to do this. I hope both personally as well as institutionally to be able to share more time and joint work for the next decade. ¡Sigue adelante amigo!

  11. Congratulation Rain Forest Alliance, is been a fructiferous 10 years, thanks to and for your guidance we have become more efficient, and sustainable, your seminars and recommendation have made an impact on the way we do business and now we are leaders in sustainability on the Rio San Juan, Nicaragua.
    Agustin Llanes/Montecristo River Lodge.

  12. Vuestra línea filosófica y accionar, “sustentando la Sostenibilidad” ha sido ejemplificante para todos. Así lo creo.-
    gracias por ambas cosas!

  13. Ronald and all the RA team, congratulations on 10 years of doing the right thing. May you continue to find the energy to design improvements for ecotourism-sustainable tourism standards and practices, and assist the entire world’s tourism sector to become better stewards to people and place. That hopping green frog is committed to jumps even beyond the Americas.

  14. Thank you all for all these wonderful, heartwarming messages. It is your own hard work and your commitment to sustainable tourism what inspire us to move forward. We welcome the next decade and hope to continue our joint efforts conserving biodiversity and creating sustainable livelihoods through the kind of tourism that celebrates our natural and cultural heritage. Mil gracias! Ronald

  15. Pingback: How to be an Eco-Friendly Traveler | TalkNerdy2Me TM

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