How to communicate sustainability to guests? The 2017 NatGeo World Legacy Awards winners share their tips

how to communicate to guests about responsible tourism World-Legacy-Awards-Awamaki-Practice-Hand-Spinning

As part of our recent interview series with the National Geographic World Legacy Awards 2017 winners and finalists, we asked them:

How do you communicate with guests about responsible practices?

This post gathers the key lessons learned from the winners: Cayuga Collection from Costa Rica, Slovenia Tourist Board, The North Island Seychelles, The City of Santa Fe and The Lodge at Chaa Creek.

Cayuga Collection Hans PfisterHans Pfister, Cayuga Collection: The most successful way is to invite them to our “back of the house” tour. We hide nothing. We show them everything. They go on a 2 hour tour of hotel and see the kitchen, laundry, staff areas, storage facilities, treatment plants, etc. We teach them what it means to be a sustainable hotel or lodge. They are usually blown away by this as they never have a chance to see the back of the house of a hotel, nor do they imagine the efforts that go into being sustainable. If they don’t have time for that, we also do evening presentations or they can read about our efforts in our guest book or online.

Chaa Creek Mick and Lucy FlemmingLucy Flemming, Chaa Creek: More than just communicate to guests, we have always endeavoured to actively involve visitors in our approach to responsible tourism. For example, during tours of onsite attractions like our Belize Natural History Centre, Butterfly Farm, Maya Organic Farm, Medicinal Plant Trail, and guided nature walks, cultural tours, village visits and other nature-based activities, we both explain our efforts, and encourage feedback.

We have found that by involving guests, they are eager to provide their own ideas and experiences, and over the years they have contributed to our efforts in this area. Also, though initiatives such as “Pack-a-Pound”, where guests are encouraged to add a pound or more of school supplies for disadvantaged students to their luggage, or post when they return home, they create an interaction that enhances their travel experience and builds bridges between overseas visitors and local schools and communities.

In short, we strongly believe that, to be effective, sustainable tourism involves a partnership between guests, local communities, and ourselves.

Santa Fe Randy RandallRandy Randall, Tourism Santa Fe: To amplify the vast range of cultural discovery and sustainability in the area, the city actively maintains and updates the visitor portal, recently produced a series of professionally-filmed videos available online at, and has recently ramped up its daily social media and public relations campaigns.

In 2015 the city built and staffed a third Visitor Center. All of the centers are staffed by experts and outfitted with significant libraries of cultural material and resources for visitors and locals of all interest levels.

The city also works closely with the local guide community, historical experts, docents, and the City of Santa Fe Historic Preservation Department who routinely participate in media visits, press tours, and group meeting excursions in addition to their regular duties.

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Slovenia Tourism Board Maja PakMaja Pak, Slovenian Tourist Board: At the national level we created the marketing positioning of Slovenia as a green, active and healthy destination, oriented towards sustainable development. This positioning supports our brand I FEEL SLOVENIA. Before visitors come to Slovenia or while staying, they get to know Slovenia through this positioning and green and sustainable stories.

Our green scheme of Slovenian tourism is also a certification scheme. We inform guests about our green labels – SGD and SGA. The criteria of the scheme itself require that there is communication with guests. After all, the purpose of the scheme is also to teach guests about a greener lifestyle. We are happy that today, more than 50 companies have entered our green scheme for Slovenian tourism.

North Island Bruce SimpsonBruce Simpson, North Island: The conservation initiatives of North Island are shared through various engagement frameworks set up through the environmental team on the island. Formal processes like excursions with our field staff and scientists, presentations about our conservation and biodiversity initiatives, documentation on the various conservation projects in our villas (books and iPads) and decor and direct communication of the various operational projects and logistical processes through talking to our guests form a large part of how we engage our guests daily.


To see how other winning organisations communicate sustainability to guests, check our interviews with NatGeo World Legacy Awards winners and finalists.

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