Fifty shades of green
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.