Natural Assets & Ecotourism

These links can help provide information and resources for sustaining a destination’s natural habitats, contributing to global environmental quality, and developing ecotourism. Directories on this page:

  • Environmental Resources—General
  • Sustainable Tourism—Environmental How-To
  • Ecotourism (to natural areas)—How-To

Environmental Resources—General

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) The site for the multilateral agreement on biodiversity protection includes a program on Sustainable Use and Tourism. You can search for experts, meetings, and activities related to it. As part of CBD, the Germany-based Ecological Tourism in Europe (ETE) runs an online forum discussing tourism guidelines related to the convention. Members-only archive.

Earth Island Institute An environmental advocacy group of more than 30 activist grassroots projects worldwide.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) This global coalition of experts distributes extensive information on conservation-related matters around the world. See WCPA Economic Valuation of Protected Areas Task Force (pdf), for example.

U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) Sustainable Tourism Site Well-organized information includes definitions of sustainable tourism and ecotourism, description of tourism impacts, and steps being taken internationally toward sustainable tourism development.

Sustainable Tourism—Environmental How-To

Costa Rica: Certification for Sustainable Tourism program (CST) The Costa Rican Tourism Institute presents a certification program for the lodging industry, with inquisitive online self-evaluations for lodgings. Also provides a directory of hotels, allowing visitors to search by certification level, province, and hotel type.

Green Builder A clearinghouse of sustainable building resources provides a directory of professionals, a sourcebook to help industry professionals find employees for specialized positions, and lists of conferences, online discussions, articles, case studies, and related sites.

“Green” Hotels Association Promotes and supports the “greening” of the lodging industry. Members from the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America can obtain suggestions and ideas on how to reduce negative impacts on the environment.

Green Seal Nonprofit organization promoting the manufacturing and sale of environmentally responsible consumer products. It has partnered with the American Hotel & Motel Association for a lodging certification program and a publication called “Greening Your Property.”

Hotel Benchmarking Tool Ian Buckle’s tool to help hotels improve environmental performance and reduce costs.

Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Tourism Program This conservation group based in New York is a major leader in sustainable tourism, including certification programs; strong presence in Latin America.

Sustainable Architecture Building and Culture A clearinghouse of sustainable building resources, useful for tourism development planning. Gives information on eco-friendly building materials, recycling, renewable energy and more.

Tour Operators’ Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development joined with GSTC in 2014.

Tourism Research Links René Waksberg’s site for tourism researchers, consultants, and managers lists several links to sustainable development websites and other sources of assistance.

U.S. Green Building Council A clearinghouse of green building information, including LEED certification, featuring links to members, green building case studies, guidelines, a monthly newsletter, and more. General information, not specific to the lodging industry.

WWF International conservation group facilitating various responsible tourism programs worldwide. Example: WWF Galápagos (scroll down to see community and conservation programs).


American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Offers a user’s guide to green transportation and articles on the how’s and why’s of buying green. For $8.95, you can consult an online or printed catalog of environmentally friendly cars and trucks.

Northeast Sustainable Energy Association This U.S. organization provides information on ecofriendly cars and trucks, plus strategies for reducing the environmental impacts of transportation.

Quotable findings

Potential Impacts of Climate Change in the Caribbean.  Rising sea levels, impacts on tourism from acidification of coral reefs, ocean and biodiversity ecosystem disruption, and potential forced relocation of populations in low-lying areas. Supported with charts, graphs, and other plotted data.

How Marine Protected Areas and Best Fishing Practices Can Enhance Sustainable Coastal Tourism. Mark J. Spaulding, The Ocean Foundation. Coastal tourism statistics,  challenges, and sustainability issues in regards to fishing; how sustainable tourism and sustainable fishing practices can help mitigate negative effects.  Tangible benefits of Marine Protected Areas.

Coastal Setbacks in Latin America and the Caribbean Murray Simpson, Caribsave. Issues facing coastal tourism today such as climate change, erosion, rising sea levels, easements, and ways to manage coastal tourism in response.

Illegal Wildlife Trade Campaign Enlists Tourists  Several ways in which tourists can be involved in fighting illegal wildlife trade while traveling

Wildlife Witness  A new app that allows tourists to upload photos and geolocations of potential illegal sales of wildlife and wildlife parts.  TRAFFIC and the Taronga Zoo have partnered to create the app in order to help better track, report, and respond to incidents of illegal wildlife trade

Souvenirs to Avoid  A reminder to travelers that some souvenirs, while famous in certain locations, can be potentially cruel and/or illegal for trade

Ecotourism How-To

Asian Ecotourism Networking and business opportunities, significant information, educational materials and networking prospects to both small and large organizations within Asia.

Ecoclub A multilingual Athens-based website that posts news on ecotourism, events, and jobs; also provides a publications archive and experts that offer free consultations.

Ecotourism Australia The site for Australia’s ecotourism industry group gives general information and links to its certification program for ecotour guides and its Nature and Ecotourism Certification Program.

Global Ecotourism Network Split from The International Ecotourism Society over ethical issues. Provides resources for ecotourism operators and ecolodges, as well as information services to researchers, conservationists, and policymakers.

Hawaii Ecotourism Association Dedicated to responsible tourism in Hawaii, this site provides information and a resource network for professionals.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Oldest organization of ecotourism operators and ecolodges.

RARE Center for Tropical Conservation This nonprofit conservation agency has used ecotourism and community development programs to build local pride in native wildlife in tropical region,.

See Turtles (Sample ecotourism program:) Protects sea turtles by offering unforgettable experiences that directly benefit sea turtles and the organizations protecting them.

About Jonathan Tourtellot

CEO, Destination Stewardship Center; Editor, Destination Stewardship Report; Principal, Focus on Places LLC; founding Director, former Nat Geo Center for Sustainable Destinations