Green Rankings for State Tourism Websites

Painted Hills, Oregon.

Last couple of weeks, we spent an UnGodly amount of time poking around all the 51 state tourism websites (including the Washington DC website), looking for whatever eco-friendly travel information and tips they had for visitors. The results of that exploration you can see in these 5 parts starting with Part 1 – Alabama to Georgia; Part 2 – Hawaii to Maryland; Part 3 – Massachusetts to New Jersey; Part 4 – New Mexico to South Carolina; and Part 5 – South Dakota to Wyoming, plus Washington DC.  >>Full Story

Thoughts// TripHow, a travel blog site recently ranked 51 (including DC) state tourism sites for its “Greenness” which was based on the authors’ assessment criteria of:

  1. Did the site have a dedicated green page;
  2. Was the information provided on the “Green Page” relevant or not (i.e. did it list green hotels, organic restaurants, and trip planning tools with suggestions for eco-friendly places to visit etc.;
  3. Did the site show any scope for improvement based on the existing information;

Based on the author’s assessment, the top five sites were:

  1. Virginia
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Maine
  5. Florida

As Troy and I have stated here before, as travel marketers, and more importantly as residents of the planet, it’s our responsibility to take a leadership role in ensuring that travel and tourism does not come at the expense of the planet. To that end, sustainability and stewardship should not be addressed as a “trend” or a “niche product” but a core value that’s ingrained into every fabric of your organization, and weaved as a guiding thread throughout the entire portfolio of your tourism content.

While we agree and applaud Virginia’s efforts to highlight facilities and experiences that are “green”,  we’re also mindful that the concept of “sustainable travel” is much broader than counting LEED certified meeting centers or a listing of ‘carless’ day-trips on a “green page”. Sustainable travel, as defined by National Geographic, is “…tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

Which is why we simply cannot accept the premise of TripHow’s “green” rankings for state tourism sites, which equates a “dedicated green page” to that destination’s commitment to sustainable travel.

While we could all do a better job of telling the story of why our state/city/county is a “sustainable tourism destination”,  it is also absolutely way to easy to throw up a cheap, “look how green we are page” as a marketing ploy.  Arizona, Montana, Minnesota and Oregon—to name just a few states—all have active efforts that involve a long term approaches to solving the challenges with saving and preserving our natural, historical and cultural sites.     More specifically:

  • Arizona Origins – Is dedicated to celebrating and preserving over 80 authentic places throughout the state
  • Crown of the Continent – Another partnership with National Geographic that highlights places along the “crown of the continent” (southwestern Alberta, southeastern British Columbia, and northwestern Montana) that are important culturally to the region
  • Oregon Bounty – A microsite dedicated to celebrating what makes Oregon taste good; great food (made with fresh, local ingredients), wine (made sustainably), beer and spirits. In fact many events allow consumers to actually meet the farmers, vintners and brewmasters who actually make the products!

Do these efforts tell stories about the sustainable aspects of these destinations? Absolutely.   Are they necessarily on a page titled “green”?  Nope.

As consumers look to take their low impact lifestyle on vacation—”car free” vacations, carbon offsetting, staying at eco-friendly accommodations and eating local foods and imbibing organic beer and wine—it is important for us to remember that “green” is a long term effort to keep our destinations unspoiled for future generations and a commitment to preserving the heritage of the destination.  It’s most definitely not a short term marketing ploy.  Consumers are way to smart to be “green washed” anyway!

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.