|Rainforest Alliance Verified Tour Operators Join Forces to Promote Sustainability|
Imagine a world where direct competitors from the private sector come together to help conserve threatened landscapes and provide sustainable livelihoods for the local communities where they work – all while improving their own bottom line.
This is precisely the kind of world that the associates of TOPS – Tour Operators Promoting Sustainability – envision. These forward–thinking entrepreneurs are working together to support a greater good, and are reaping the benefits of their collaboration. By working alongside the Rainforest Alliance, a leading international conservation organization committed to promoting sustainable tourism, these tour operators are influencing industry standards and helping to mitigate tourism’s impact on natural and cultural treasures. At the same time, they are ensuring the financial sustainability of their own operations.
What is TOPS?
In 2011, the Rainforest Alliance launched TOPS, a community for tour operators, with seed funding from the Inter–American Development Bank. Each participating region is represented by a locally based and elected tour operator, who works to coordinate activities and provide input to TOPS.
By joining TOPS, tour operators commit to improving not only the sustainability of their own practices, but also the sustainability of their suppliers in various tourism destinations. The result: sustainability ripples down the supply chain. Hotels are inspired to operate responsibly, TOPS participants are motivated to promote sustainable tourism businesses, and consumers are encouraged to visit eco–friendly destinations.
Participating Pays Off
Tour operators affiliated with TOPS contribute directly to local economic development and the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems in Latin America by transforming their business practices and incentivizing change among their suppliers. Other benefits for participating tour operators include:
Steps to Sustainability
The first step to TOPS membership is signing a cooperative agreement with the Rainforest Alliance. The agreement symbolizes a tour operator’s commitment to conserving biodiversity and reducing tourism’s negative impacts by becoming Rainforest Alliance Verified™ or earning certification by a third-party organization recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
In addition, tour operators commit to:
Allies for Change
The establishment of the TOPS platform also facilitates the ability of its affiliates to seek formal relationships with other civil society organizations or the public sector, helping them to gain access to funding or tools to help advance sustainable tourism.
"We are thrilled by the positive response to TOPS from tour operators around the world, and applaud their efforts to work with us to transform the business practices of their suppliers and motivate travelers to support those efforts," says Ronald Sanabria, vice president of sustainable tourism at the Rainforest Alliance. "Our long term vision is for the industry to be socially and environmentally responsible – as well as profitable – and TOPS is making that happen."
To see an updated list of participating businesses, please visit www.rainforest-alliance.org/TOPS
SIDEBAR: An analysis of 114 tour operators working with the Rainforest Alliance over the past four years shows how their commercial relationships were enhanced and sustainability was improved in the supply chain as a result of their participation in the TOPS platform: