During her HopTour of Latin America Florie has the chance to meet with Irene Lane, Founder of Greenloons, as both of them were taking part to the Ecotourism ESTC Conference in Quito, Ecuador. 
Irene Lane - Greenloons - ESTC15 Quito

How Greenloons contribute to Responsible Tourism?

Irene: “My vision for ecotourism is for travelers to establish deeper, longer-lasting connections with the regions they are visiting, thereby not only learning more about themselves, but about how they can make a more positive impact on the world.  This can only happen if there is enough demand AND supply.  Therefore, I feel Greenloons is contributing to the responsible tourism industry in two specific ways.

  • First, from the demand perspective, Greenloons.com is an online marketplace that makes it easier to book eco-certified travel experiences.  Also, though partnerships, we’ve created an effective ecosystem of customers, suppliers, regulators and non-governmental organizations all working toward what travel is supposed to be – social, economically and environmental beneficial to local communities.
  • Second, from the supply perspective, I’ve developed a financial / return on investment (ROI) model that takes into account applicable costs and benefits so tourism businesses can more reliably budget, plan, market and anticipate the operations, community, employee and customer changes that come from implementing sustainable processes, which eco-conscious travelers are coming to expect.  In effect, by using this ROI model, tourism businesses around the world can anticipate the specific bottom line financial benefits from implementing eco-certification standards, thereby increasing green investment and, effectively, the supply of ecotourism businesses.”

How and why did you have the idea to start Greenloons?

Irene: “The trigger was when my husband and I began actively seeking out nature experiences and cultural immersion activities as part of our travels around the country and around the world, with our then, very young son.  He was so fascinated by the wonders of nature and listened so attentively during teachable moments that I began to research online for family nature travel experiences, which eventually led to green travel.  However, to my astonishment, there was a lot of confusion around the terms eco, green, nature, responsible, ethical, sustainable and I thought that the industry was doing itself a disservice by not being very clear.  What started out as an information portal for travelers gradually evolved to what Greenloons is today.  The added bonus is that I’ve been able to utilize my academic credentials and professional experiences to contribute to the industry in a number of ways.  Combining it all with my passion for travel has been a dream come true!”

What is your wish list for the future of Greenloons and Responsible Tourism?

Irene: “For my wish list, I’d like the industry to think out of the box more about the power of sustainability.  Responsible tourism, when done right, positively affects communities, travelers, and a business’ financial bottom line.  However, as a society, we are only short-term and money focused.  I’d like for companies to dedicate part of their product line toward longer-range projects (that take a year or two) to work with communities, listen and educate travelers, resist homogenization of the travel experience, and properly measure every cost and interaction.  It would take longer, but the effects can be profoundly impactful both for communities and for companies.  In other words, let’s change the dialogue from “green travel is just about renewable energy use and recycling” to “green travel is about cultural authenticity, community empowerment, and environmentally meaningful experiences” by highlighting the fun aspects of this tourism niche thereby making it cool, exciting and joyful rather than a daunting challenge that individual travelers feel as though they have no power to change.”

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