Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Leading on from my posting last week, I gave some more thought to another very basic error made by many providers of eco accommodation and this time it is more about an simple error, rather than economising on facts.  Ecotourism being a growing market that it is, not surprising many accommodation providers struggling in the hard economic times it is understandable. Last time I checked, and I forgot where I read it, but the study stated that ecotourism had grown by 67% in the previous year, which is an incredible level of growth, but compared to the world travel industry as a whole, it is less than a tiny speck.  So what can ecotourism focused hotels and lodges do to make their tiny share of the world travel market just that little bit bigger. 
Over the past few years while learning more about the field of ecotourism and the wider green/eco cause I have come across the term “greenwashing” time and time again.  From bloggers trying to highlight the eagerness of some eco hotels and eco lodges to finesse or massage their eco/green offering by basically taking a half-truth and exaggerating it beyond recognition.  An example of this might be from a hotel stating on their website they have a “strict and comprehensive recycling policy” when in reality all they do is put their paper in the recycling bin.  That would be a solid example of people “greenwashing”.  The most hardcore form of "greenwashing" would obviously to just make up or copy someone else’s eco policy and put it on the hotels or lodges website. 

But I’ve been becoming more aware of late of a sort of, for the want of a better word, “greenfuzzing”.  Which can be a complicated form of “greenwashing”, but after reading the countless examples of eco policies I think it is an example of fuzzy copywriting.  When you read about an eco lodge, they’ll tell you how their committed to making the world a better place.  And it might be just me, after a little introduction to the ethos or philosophy I just want to get down to the hard facts of what they do in relation to the environment and the local community.  But that’s not always how it reads. 

Many eco lodges get too hung up on over the top description, or adding copy finesse, to make it more of a selling point than perhaps it is.  I think people in the main, and this is my personal experience, people value plain speaking.  So it you have a sewage treatment process that involves worms chewing away happily on peoples effluent just say that, concisely and clearly.  Yes detail is good, but speaking to most people, they just want to be able to scan through quickly see examples of the policy in action where possible, but really just get a good overview and then consider the other elements of the accommodation at more length.  This over complication of simple facts is what I would define as “greenfuzzing” where effectively the information is there, but you have to dig and sift through it to actually find out what you want.  I think as ecotourism grows out of its niche area, eco hotels and eco lodges will need to think about selling their offering by using terminology that is eco transparent.  

Monday, 19 September 2011

A simple misunderstanding?

A couple of weeks ago, a company that shall remain nameless, contacted me on twitter, saying they’d be interested in being listed on ecothreesixty.com.  I did the usual thing of checking over their website to see who they were, what they do and what their “eco” credentials were.  Other than offering what look liked very attractive excursions on the great barrier reef, they actually had nothing in their offering to guests, that was actually geared towards either minimising their impact on their immediate environment, improving their immediate environment, or improving the wider environment.  It wasn’t the first time I had encountered an “eco” lodge without any “eco” credentials. 

While researching eco accommodations to list on ecothreesixty.com, we found plenty of so called “Eco Lodges” which were small operations whose "eco" dimension was that they were small, but that was the most environmentally positive thing that could be said for them.  As time has moved on, we’ve found the overwhelming majority of places positioning themselves as “eco-friendly” or “green” accommodations, have made a reasonable attempt to live up to those terms.  

It can always be argued that some people will always stick on a label that is current, or that they think will help sell their hotel or lodge.  You need to only look at the word luxury and see how often it is applied to hotels, and see how; in many cases it isn’t really accurate.  But I honestly think there are people out there amongst the hospitality trade who do not really know what ecotourism actually is.  And that is surprising, as it is growing area of travel and number of guests or travellers who do know what the word means are part of that growth.  So if you do use the word as a tag to attract business without any clear eco credentials I think you will actually start to see your business suffer, especially as guests who feel short changed post comments on TripAdvisor.  

But to go back to my initial reason for posting, when I sent a tweet back to the company operating on the great barrier reef, saying we’d be happy to list them once I could see on their website their eco credentials, I got no response and when I checked my followers list, they had unfollowed us.  Were they guilty of a little bit of conscious “greenwashing” or were they just under the misapprehension that “eco” can mean anything where nature is involved, I guess I’ll never know.  But thankfully, I think one by one making a case for a “misunderstanding” is just getting that little bit harder.  
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