Tourism Businesses in Latin America Benefit from Sustainable Practices

September 25, 2009

In celebration of World Tourism Day, September 27, the Rainforest Alliance, an international conservation organization, is releasing the results of a study that examines whether tourism businesses in Latin America benefit from applying sustainable practices to their operations.  The study, titled "A Cost and Benefit Analysis of Best Practice Implementation in Tourism Businesses," was conducted earlier this year with 14 tourism businesses in Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Ecuador.

The data shows that businesses working with the Rainforest Alliance's sustainable tourism program gained tangible benefits from the application of best management practices for environmental and social improvement, and in doing so they created networks that helped all parties involved establish more responsible relationships with their surroundings. For example, all the businesses surveyed purchase goods and services from small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with an average of 20 SMEs supplying each tourism business; 64 percent of the survey's respondents said that this arrangement generates savings for their hotel, and 79 percent said it results in better security and more respect from the local community.

The survey also found that the tourism businesses lowered their operational costs by cutting their consumption of water and energy, placing bulk orders and improving waste management. For example, 71 percent of the business owners said they decreased their water consumption, saving an average of $2,700 per year.

Monkeys

"All of the hotel owners surveyed believe that their quality and appeal to tourists has improved thanks to biodiversity conservation. The preservation of natural areas has also made them more competitive and has improved their tourism destinations," observed Silvia Rioja, a Rainforest Alliance technical manager. She added, "In 93 percent of the cases, the environmental education we provided resulted in higher levels of responsibility among the hotel's suppliers and their guests."

The analysis also describes a series of measures that have increased employee motivation, which results in lower staff turnover. The hotels have taken steps to improve health and security, and as Rioja explained, most of the hotels reported that by contracting suppliers who implement best practices, they have improved the quality of the goods and services they purchase.

The Rainforest Alliance has spent 10 years promoting best manage practices for sustainable tourism on a global level. To date, 320 hotels, 127 tour operators and 43 tourism organizations have earned the right to display the conservation organization's logo by adopting social and environmental best practices, and the number of tourism enterprises involved in the program grows every year.