New and Notable on www.eco-index.org: SustainableTrip.org

Managing NGO(s), country: Rainforest Alliance, Regional

Project director(s): Melissa Normann

Summary: In July of 2010, the Rainforest Alliance launched SustainableTrip.org, a database of sustainable tourism businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean. The site is also available in Spanish as ViajeSostenible.org and in French as VoyageResponsable.org. The goal of SustainableTrip.org is to provide travelers, tour operators, and travel agencies with a comprehensive and trustworthy database of tourism companies that are making an effort to benefit local communities and their surrounding flora and fauna. SustainableTrip.org lists accommodations, tour operators, and other businesses that have been certified by independent sustainable tourism certification programs or verified by the Rainforest Alliance; recommendations from reputable organizations are accepted only in regions or countries that do not have a sustainable tourism certification program or where the Rainforest Alliance verification program is not currently active. Each business’s certification, verification, or recommendation is confirmed by site staff before it is added to the database. SustainableTrip.org features a robust search engine and an in-depth profile for each business that includes information about amenities and rates, a description of the area and activities, a Google map of the business’s location, photos and videos, and actions that the business is taking to demonstrate sustainability. Interested parties can subscribe to a monthly email newsletter that will include links to new or updated hotel profiles as well as other features. SustainableTrip.org is a key tool to link sustainable tourism businesses with the growing and competitive global tourism market.

Annual budget and donors: $125,000 from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), Regional.

Principle Accomplishments: Redesigned the Eco-Index of Sustainable Tourism to feature an attractive, user-friendly design, a French version of the site, and a more powerful content management system; migrated more than 200 business profiles from the Eco-Index of Sustainable Tourism to the new database and added new businesses, which include accommodations in Latin America or the Caribbean, receptive tour operators based in Latin America or the Caribbean, and other businesses such as restaurants, excursion operators, and transportation services; established monthly activities including: selecting a business for our “Making A Difference” award, posting news items in “News for the Savvy Traveler,” and distributing a Monthly Update email newsletter featuring businesses added or updated during the previous month; launched a campaign to promote the site to travelers, sustainable businesses, sustainable tourism certification programs, tour operators, and travel agents; received press coverage in important markets for Latin America and Caribbean tourism; signed an MOU with Travelocity’s “Travel for Good” section; developed a “Destinations” section that features general information about the natural and cultural attractions of each country covered by the SustainableTrip.org database.

Lessons Learned: Creating a Web site is a dynamic process at every stage of development, with an array of possibilities, innovations, and constant improvements. Underestimating the amount of time and money needed to maintain and update a Web site is a common challenge. Because all of the information on SustainableTrip.org is presented in three languages, we are essentially managing three separate sites and the cost of translating content consumes a significant portion of the budget.

Contacts: Melissa Normann, Rainforest Alliance. 665 Broadway Suite 500, New York, NY 10012. Tel: +1-212/677-1900. Fax: +1-212/677-2187. info@sustainabletrip.org, http://www.rainforest-alliance.org.

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