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Green Standards Cause Ecotourism Debate

New Green Standards Cause For Debate At Ecotourism NZ Conference

Qualmark's new environmental criteria are a good first step but its standards aren't far reaching or high enough for ecotourism, say the organisers of the upcoming Ecotourism NZ Conference.

"Basically, we're concerned it doesn't go far enough," Ecotourism NZ chair Brian MacKenzie says. "There's nothing to distinguish ecotourism operators from mainstream Qualmark members, like hotels and camper van companies, or reflect the extra lengths they go to."

"Business management, marketing, customer satisfaction are all there but the assessment needs to include interpretation and education, conservation values, environmental management - the things that matter to ecotourism."

Minimum environmental standards will apply to all Qualmark licence holders as part of their quality accreditation assessments from today (1 August 2008).

The 'Qualmark Green' initiative and its impact on operators will be examined in detail at the Ecotourism NZ Conference in Greymouth on 12 to 14 August. Speakers include representatives from Qualmark, Ecotourism Australia, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the Ministry of Tourism, environmental experts and leading tourism operators.

Mr MacKenzie says while the initiative is a good start, even its highest standards fall below what ecotourism operators are already doing when it comes to caring for the environment.

"One of the things we'll be discussing with Qualmark at the conference will be whether or not there'll be an addition to their top standard, Qualmark Enviro-Gold, to recognise the features that make ecotourism special and the extra effort ecotourism operators go to."

"There's definitely more work to be done. No doubt there'll be some good debate going on at the conference around this issue. Hopefully we can come up with a positive outcome for ecotourism operators."


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