Developing a Sustainability Standard for Tourism Enterprises in Panama
As ecotourism grows within Panama’s protected areas and their buffer zones, it is crucial to ensure minimum quality, sustainability and safety standards in the tourism operations. To accomplish this, Sustainable Travel International worked with the government and local stakeholders to create a sustainability standard for Panama’s tourism enterprises.
This standard will act as a regulatory framework for hotels, tour guides, land and marine transportation providers, restaurants, tour operators and community-based tourism enterprises. It will allow these tourism providers to assess their operations and practices in relation to a set of indicators on issues that affect the local environment, communities, and cultural heritage, amongst others. The standard will also serve as the basis for certification and will help travelers identify environmentally-friendly and socially responsible businesses.
To ensure that the standard is relevant and feasible within the local context, our field team hosted a series of participatory onsite workshops. During the workshops, over 90 business and government representatives provided input on what practices to evaluate in relation to water and energy conservation, business operations, supply chain management, and environmental protection. Once the final standard was established, we held trainings for the local authorities and auditors responsible for implementing it and confirming business compliance.
The sustainability standard has since been included in the national protected area services concessions law – making compliance mandatory for any businesses operating within protected areas. It has also been endorsed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry as the “Panama Tourism Sustainability Standard.”