CALLICOON, NY —The 2014 first annual Green Tourism Conference, held earlier this spring at Villa Roma Resort, showcased green technologies, materials, products and practices that are breathing new life into an old industry. Sponsored by the Green Tourism Working Group and co-chaired by Sue Currier, executive director of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, and Evadne Giannini, founder of HospitalityGreen LLC, the conference was designed to publicize green tourism in the Catskill-Pocono mountains area, drawing most of its 250 participants from New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, although some came from as far away as Massachusetts, Delaware and New Mexico.
How does green tourism differ from run-of-the-mill tourism? In a nutshell, green tourism is the practice of providing certified sustainable travel, lodging, dining and recreational products, services, facilities, equipment and activities. This might sound like public relations-speak for business as usual, painted green for appearances sake, but it isn’t. The practice of advertising businesses as green without first demonstrating compliance with established green initiatives is known in the industry as “greenwashing.” To counteract it, legitimate green tourism practitioners have developed an eco-business certification program that confers on participating businesses and organizations a level of certification commensurate with degree of compliance. This certification is administered by a third party certification agency, such as HospitalityGreen LLC.
Green tourism advocates have long claimed that the movement has the potential to improve economic prospects for provider businesses and their employees, as well as for the communities in which those businesses operate. Evidence supporting their claim highlighted one of the more fascinating conference workshops: Adaptive Re-Use of Buildings to Help Jump Start Economic Development. Four long-unused vintage buildings were profiled, following their transformations from abandoned properties, draining the local property tax base, to landmark properties housing tourist attractions that boost the local property tax base, provide jobs and, most importantly, contribute to a revitalization of Main Street.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard (TBNY), once renowned as a mainstay of American military shipbuilding, fell into disuse and disrepair in the years after World War II, and soon became notorious as one of the worst toxic industrial sites in America. Enter biotech entrepreneur Anselm Doering, president and CEO of EcoLogic Solutions, with his idea of producing a nontoxic commercial sanitizer by the electrical charging of seawater. When ionized, seawater is converted into a cleaning agent and sanitizer that destroys pathogenic bacteria, fungi and molds, but is nontoxic to people and animals. Doering’s first production plant was located in a basement at TBNY. Its subterranean location and the original water pipes running through it maintain a comfortable year-round room temperature, eliminating the need for central heating and cooling systems. As his business prospered and grew, Doering began greening additional space at TBNY, including the creation of organic rooftop gardens. Today, TBNY is a shining example of green technology housed in green buildings producing green crops at a green tourism destination.
Closer to home, The Catskill Art Society, the Pocono Environmental Education Center, and Amy’s Take-Away Restaurant all boast of converting abandoned buildings into green tourist attractions. What was once a cinema on Main Street in Livingston Manor is now an art gallery and exhibition/lecture space. Honeymoon Haven Hotel in Dingmans Ferry has become the Pocono Environmental Education Center, hosting interactive biology education exhibits for schoolchildren and tourists of all ages. And the former H.G. Lane General Store in Lanesville has been resurrected as Amy’s Take-Away Restaurant, a New Age restaurant catering to locals and tourists alike.
Erin Burch, outreach coordinator of Catskill Mountainkeeper, introduced the outdoor activities workshop, where speakers from Trailkeeper.org and Delaware & Ulster Railroad demonstrated how digital media has made green recreational activities safer, more accessible and more user-friendly. The same speakers explained how light-impact activities can make a big impact on the local economy through the use of downloadable interactive maps that depict proximity of tourist attractions and facilities to public lands, trailheads and one another.
Echoing the workshops’ theme of economic renewal through sustainability, keynote speaker Laury Poland, newly-elected president of the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association (FLWCTMA), began her lunchtime remarks by quoting naturalist Charles Darwin. Poland noted that Darwin’s theory of evolution often eclipses his cardinal claim that it is not the strongest species that survive but the one best adapted to change. She then described early green tourism experiences of the FLWCTMA and how it achieved spectacular economic development results by applying Darwin’s observations to its own operations and marketing practices.
The second annual Green Tourism Conference has been scheduled for April 14-15, 2015 at Woodloch Resort. For more information about the 2014 and 2015 conferences, visit www.hospitalitygreen.com/ .