The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has introduced an extensive update of its Green Guide for Travel Agents and Green Guide for Travel Suppliers.
The guides have been expanded to align with all four areas of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria for sustainable travel. Previously, the guides concentrated primarily on the environmental impacts. The additional material outlines expectations for sustainable management, socioeconomic impacts, and cultural impacts in sustainable tourism.
“Increased travel and tourism provides positive benefits such as economic growth and sustaining local cultures; however we know there can be a cost both environmentally and socially on destinations,” said ASTA CEO Zane Kerby. “Travel agents can have a huge impact in protecting travel for the future by promoting sustainable and socially responsible travel. ASTA is providing the tools to make that impact.”
The guides detail options for sustainable travel as well as how to assess suppliers on environmental, cultural and social stewardship. Currently, there is no comprehensive way to determine how sustainable a travel supplier is, so ASTA has provided check lists for each travel segment to gauge their level of sustainability. ASTA is also working with GSTC, which is promoting their criteria as a way to standardize how suppliers are assessed with the goal of accrediting sustainable travel certifications to simplify comparisons between assessments.
The guide also demonstrates the benefits of marketing sustainable travel as a niche market. A large segment of the travelling population cares about the environment and the locals who call destinations their home. These consumers have a desire to make sustainable choices when they travel and are looking for opportunities. A 2013 consumer study found “companies are expected to be an active participant – if not a driving force – in solving the most pressing social and environmental issues,” with more than 80% of consumers considering a company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives when deciding where to purchase. Demographically, these globally minded citizens often have substantial disposable income for travel.
The guides are the core of ASTA’s Green Program. The program is an education and self-assessment program for travel agents and travel suppliers. ASTA members can become Green Members of ASTA by assessing their own operations against criteria established in the guide to ensure their compliance with the program’s standards then filling out an application that includes their future goals. Green Members have access to ASTA’s Green Member logo, which they can use to promote their knowledge of sustainable travel.