Guidance for a Quality Nature Tourism Industry
Nature-based tourism businesses should try to work closely with local community leaders and resource managers to plan for nature travel experiences compatible with community and resource management goals. Tourism should CONTRIBUTE POSITIVELY to local communities and resources.
Knowing and interpreting your resources in
clear, interesting and relevant ways add to
the satisfaction of the experience you offer.
Businesses should commit to excellence in nature-based tourism quality. By adopting or reaffirming an environmental stewardship ethic for the business, owners will meet the expectations of their customers. Studies of nature tourists in Texas confirm that these travelers care about the environment and support a number of conservation organizations. Businesses should focus on the importance of conserving both natural and cultural resources and enabling a greater harmony between human activities and nature. Some examples:
- Practice "green" purchasing. For example, favor vendors who offer recycled or recyclable products and minimal packaging.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... and strive to "leave no trace."
- Train your staff to lead by example. Be good environmental stewards and guide your customers toward low impact behaviors which contribute to resource conservation.
- Employ qualified and capable leaders for guided, interpretive programs. Knowing how to tell your story well is important. Nature tourists are well educated and they want to learn by being immersed in a natural or cultural experience.
- Contribute to the local economy by hiring people from the local area and "doing-business" with local businesses.
- Provide your staff with opportunities for training to upgrade their interpersonal, communications, interpretative and other professional skills.
- Be actively involved in and contribute time, energy and resources to local, regional and statewide conservation efforts.
- Provide and patronize environmentally sensitive accommodations which, for example:
- Employ energy and water saving devices;
- Provide interpretative information on local plants, animals, historic and other natural and cultural features; and
- Maintain grounds using environmentally-friendly plant and pest management practices.
- Work cooperatively with other nature-based tourism businesses in the area to ensure the sustainability of natural and cultural resources.
- Prepare visitors for nature experiences by providing them with information and educational materials about the environment, natural history and cultural characteristics of their destination and its people, so that when they leave nature tourists will have a greater understanding and awareness of the places, people and environments they visit.
- Make sure your customers understand and obey all rules and regulations established by landowners and local resource managers. Manage tour groups in a manner consistent with environmental conditions. For example, a single guide is probably adequate for a group of 40 on a tour bus, but would be inadequate for the same group on a canoe trip in a sensitive area or under dangerous conditions.
- Travel in small groups to avoid adverse impact on the environment. Nature tour operators should carefully match activities with appropriate resources. Sensitive areas, for example, should be used by small groups or individuals for low intensity, low impact activities. Spread tour activity over a wide area to avoid adverse environmental impact, maintain the quality of the experience for the visitor and distribute the economic benefits of tourism throughout the region.
- Enable a process of monitoring environmental impacts of nature tourists and communicate problems to appropriate resource managers.
- Instill in visitors a sense of personal responsibility for the environment by creating visitor experiences that preserve the hospitality of Texas and encourage respect of traditions, customs and local regulations.
*Adapted from guidelines developed by Clemson University in a cooperative project with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Knowing and interpreting your resources in clear, interesting and relevant ways will add to the satisfaction of the experience you offer.