With assistance from inbound and outbound tour-operating agencies in Latin America, the United States and Europe, the Rainforest Alliance has launched Tour Operators Promoting Sustainability (TOPS), a specialised global network of tour operators dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable tourism in their respective markets. The international conservation organisation made the announcement today in Antigua, Guatemala.
“TOPS was designed to work in conjunction with network members to help transform the business practices of tourism companies and motivating tourists to support these efforts,” says Ronald Sanabria, the Rainforest Alliance’s vice president of sustainable tourism. “The long-term aim is to help the industry become socially and environmentally responsible as well as profitable, encouraging tourism practices that protect ecosystems and improve the lives of individuals and communities.”
Network tour operators will have access to updated and verified information on sustainable suppliers, discounts on the Rainforest Alliance’s verification services (this applies only to inbound operators) and training and business-generating opportunities as well as the chance to establish business relationships and engage in promotional activities in European and North American markets by participating in fairs, press meetings and familiarisation (FAM) trips.
“We have established agreements that allow TOPS members to receive special rates for their participation in promotional events and tourism fairs,” states Cristina Suhr, the Rainforest Alliance’s international marketing manager for sustainable tourism.
By unifying the individual efforts of its network members, TOPS will allow them to have a greater impact on social and conservation projects in the Latin American destinations where they work.
To become a TOPS member, interested inbound tour operators must apply for Rainforest Alliance verification of their businesses, comply with at least 50 percent of the programme’s established requirements and commit to reaching a minimum of 70 percent compliance by the following year. Outbound operators must sign a memorandum of understanding with the Rainforest Alliance; at least 30 percent of their suppliers must be sustainable and that figure must increase to a minimum of 50 percent by the following year.
The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour. For more information, visit www.rainforest-alliance.org