Eco Resort

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For most of us who can afford them, holidays are the most important thing in our lives. As more and more places open up to tourists, people are looking beyond the traditional sun, sea and sand experience. Ecotourism, a form of tourism that takes you to unusual and rather fragile areas, is the tourism industry's fastest growing sector. But as Ecotourism expands beyond the jungle and moves into the mainstream so do Eco-resorts and hotels. Now more and more properties are selling themselves as “green” and “eco”. This "Eco-transformation" of leisure resorts is due to a number of reasons; the maturing of the "sun and fun" holidaying segment, the general public's increasing environmental awareness, and the doubling concern with physical fitness and health.


What is an Eco-resort?

Delta Nature Resort in Danube Delta, Romania

An eco-resort protects the environment, benefits local communities, and helps guests learn about the local surroundings while they explore them. Eco-resorts are not just for leisure but offer the tourist a complete eco-experience. A true Eco-resort not only offers eco-friendly sightseeing , but the accommodation, transport and cooking methods are also eco-friendly. Using solar heating, bio-toilets, and using transport systems more efficiently are all eco-friendly examples put to use to reduce the effect of people on the environment.

Delta Nature resort located in Danube delta is one such example. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is located largely in Romania and partly in Ukraine. Visitors to the Eco Resort, which boasts of exceptionally varied and critical habitat for migratory and nesting birds, can see 312 recorded bird species, of which 184 are protected by the Bern Convention. The area has 75 recorded species of fish, including 45 freshwater fish species and several species of sturgeon.

What is the standard criteria for the Certification of an Eco-Resort?

  • Design and Construction
  • Water conservation
  • Liquid waste management
  • Solid waste management
  • Energy production and conservation
  • Natural areas and conservation
  • Lawn and gardens
  • Protection of flora and fauna
  • Contamination of air, water and soil
  • Environmental education
  • Quality standards

What is sustainable Design in Eco-resort management?

Log hut, Dalhousie

Designing for sustainable eco-resorts should by nature, follow the basic principles of sustainable development. It should be responsive to the constraints of the natural and cultural environment. Since some environments are more unique and fragile than others, there is no one single formula to manage the impacts of eco-resort construction. The design should provide an opportunity to bring visitors physically closer to the natural and cultural values of a site.

The framework for the design should lay emphasises on gathering information and knowledge that can be used to better understand the impacts of a development. The first essential steps in this process are climate analysis, locality analysis and site analysis. Refer to South Australian Tourism Commission

Climate has a major influence on:

  • Building materials, construction and orientation
  • Energy consumption
  • The nature of the land eg topography, soils, hydrology, vegetation and fauna
  • The feel, character and qualities of a place
  • Comfort and convenience of users.

The basic information that needs to be gathered to design for specific climate types includes:

  • The path (vertical and horizontal angle) of the sun during the year
  • The temperature range
  • The annual rainfall amount and annual distribution
  • The wind intensity, direction and occurence
  • The most likely direction of storms, cold or strong winds
  • The most common directions of good breezes.

Locality Analysis:
A locality can be seen as the catchment of a site. It might also be considered as an extension of the site. Potential impacts of the development should be considered at this broader scale. Locality analysis should be carried out to consider issues such as:

  • Identifying an appropriate site and the scale or type of development that might suit
  • Access to local resources and services e.g. food, building materials, fuel, labour, water sources and infrastructure
  • Access to quality environmental values eg natural ecosystems, local culture and history
  • Climatic factors eg prevailing winds, rainfall
  • The tourism appeal of the area.

Site Analysis:

There are some general principles to be followed when deciding upon the specific site for a structure:

  • Build on the least sensitive areas, or areas that have already been subject to human disturbance
  • Site the development in an area with natural values that can be used to interpret the environment in a wider context
  • Consider the type of tenure and rights of access and use
  • Optimise the best available views without building on prominent points or ridgelines.

Site Evaluation
The type and detail of information to be prepared as part of the site analysis will depend upon factors such as the type, scale and intensity of the development and the nature of site conditions. Therefore, the evaluation of the carrying capacity of the site will take into account:-

  • fragility or resilience of the site
  • availability of water and power resources
  • type of development
  • maximum number of visitors, and
  • connections to different parts of the site eg trails or swimming at a nearby beach.

How to select a Eco-friendly resort, lodge or hotel?

A.Consult ecotourism websites:

  • The International Ecotourism Society
  • Sustainable Travel International
  • Planeta
  • Green Hotels Association
  • Tourism Concern
  • International Ecotourism Club

After you have been through websites like the above, consider booking hotels that have made a public commitment to clean environmental practices, like the Hilton and Marriot. But if you still feel unsatisfied with your results, your best bet is to do your own research. Since there is still no clear regularised labelling for eco-resort packages, this will require a lot more spadework. In the meanwhile, here are some guidelines.

B.Use award programs and certification organizations to narrow your search.

Here are some Awards Programs --

  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Tourism for Tomorrow
  • World Legacy
  • Condé Nast Traveler Green List

Also, it is important to check if the resort, lodge or hotel has been certified by a Green Lodging organization. Since there isn’t a universal standard for eco-resort, lodging or hotel certification, there are several smaller organizations that certify hotels on a regional or national basis. Here are some Certification Programs

  • Ecotourism Australia
  • Green Globe 21
  • Sustainable Tourism, Costa Rica
  • The VISIT Initiative, Europe
  • Choice (Audubon Green Leaf™ Eco-Rating Program in U.S.A. and Canada)
  • Green Seal (U.S. only)
  • Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance] (Caribbean and Latin America)

  • Ecotel Certification
  • Energy Star is an EPA program that rates energy efficiency. Participation doesn’t necessarily indicate much; look for a score of 75 or higher out of 100.
  • Eco-Label (Canada-based label)
  • Hotels Environmental Initiative (IHEI)
  • Information and listing of organisations worldwide
  • For a Current range of incentives offered to businesses by “green” certification programs and quality-ratings systems download the document from the following website.

C. Make some clear and pointed queries directly to the resorts
Since only about 1% of the eco-resorts are actually certified, it is sometimes better to check with the resorts directly.

Here is a list of some of the broader questions to ask and keep in mind --

  • What does the resort do to protect and conserve the local flora and fauna?
  • How does it involve local communities?
  • What interpretive facilities (cultural or ecological) are available to guests?

Other than these, there are micro-level questions that an observant and discerning traveller must ask --

  • What are the ways in which the resort contributes to the local community? Are there employment opportunities, education programmes for the people employed and the guests? Does the eco-resort contribute to the area's economy by buying local products?
  • What does the property do to minimize waste? How do you manage garbage, waste and recyclables?
  • Are the towels and bed linen changed every day for a guest automatically or is it done only if there is a guest request?
  • How are the toiletries packaged? And is the packaging recycled?
  • How is grey water and sewage treated ?
  • Are any alternative energy resources like solar or wind used?
  • Is there air-conditioning or air cooling?
  • Do you have any other water conservation measures? And if so, what are they?
  • Did you use environmentally friendly building materials and indigenous plants in the construction and landscaping of the resort?
  • Was the indigenous flora protected during the planning and construction of the eco-resort or lodge? Were recycled materials used during the construction of the eco-resort?
  • How does the property promote sustainable travel? Is transportation within the premises and tours in eco-friendly vehicles?
  • What ecotourism activities are on offer?


  • The International Ecotourism Society
  • Rainforest Alliance
  • Conservation International
  • Sustainable Travel International
  • Green Travel
  • Selecting an Environmentally Friendly Hotel
  • Men's Journal
  • Eco Tours
  • Independant
  • Eco Traveller News
  • MSN article
  • Eco Tour Directory
  • Eco Resorts

See Also