The number of tourism companies credited with New Zealand’s elite Qualmark Green Enviro-Gold rating has just topped 100. Southland’s Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill gained the 100th Enviro-Gold award for its sustainable practice, conservation and community initiatives. Qualmark chief executive, Geoff Penrose says the 100th Enviro-Gold award is an important milestone and highlights the success of the Qualmark Green programme. Despite being launched at a time when many tourism businesses were struggling, there was clear evidence of the commitment to the programme: more than 470 businesses throughout New Zealand have now been recognised with Enviro gold, silver or bronze awards.
Since August 2008, the environmental performance of all tourism businesses with a Qualmark rating has been considered as part of on-site quality assessments. Businesses performing well in reducing environmental impact in five key areas – energy efficiency, waste management, water conservation, community activities and conservation initiatives – are eligible to apply for an award. The Enviro logo serves as a useful guide for smart travellers wishing to limit the environmental impact of their tourism experiences, and an AA Qualmark Guide released in February 2010 also assists eco-conscious tourists by displaying Enviro award logos next to businesses assessed as top performers. One of the businesses displaying their Qualmark enviro logos with pride is YHA New Zealand, who incorporates sustainability into all its hostels – including recycling, using carbon neutral suppliers, energy efficient light bulbs and solar hot water systems. And recently they have taken things one step further.
One of the latest “green” trends to help travellers minimise their carbon footprint is for self-supported cycling or hiking tours. In New Zealand, popular budget hostel chain YHA is enthusiastically supporting this trend with a new Low Carbon Traveller deal. Low-carbon travel is a great way to experience New Zealand’s many outdoor and natural attractions, as well as to offset the carbon footprint incurred by a long-haul flight. Those travelling by bicycle and without support vehicles, buses or shuttle transfers in-between hostels get a discount of up to 25% every time they check into a YHA hostel. Self-supported trampers must apply in writing for approval before their trip in order to receive the discount, including details of the route, kit list and planned overnight accommodation. New Zealand has many beautiful cycling routes and work is underway on a national cycleway, which will see the creation of a series of “Great Rides” linking many major cities together. Seven new projects – Hokianga to Russell, Hauraki Plains, Waikato River, Central North Island, Mt Ruapehu to Wanganui, the St James trail and Southland’s Around the Mountain trail – have received the green light to link with existing cycle trails. The new YHA scheme was inspired by the Ride for Rakiura, a 556km sponsored bike ride through the North Island from Wellington to Rotorua. Fifteen YHA staff and board members made the long ride to raise funds to build an eco hostel and learning centre on Stewart Island, off the southern coast of New Zealand’s South Island.