Environment ‘crucial for tourism’

MORE foreigners will visit Ireland and tourism costs could be cut if we protect the environment, a tourism agency said yesterday.

CERT chairman Eamonn McKeon yesterday urged operators to recognise the importance of a clean environment.

Mr McKeon was speaking at the launch of The Green Agenda The Challenge for Irish Tourism and Hospitality, a study which examined the importance of the environment to tourism.

"The green agenda is here to stay. More and more tourism enterprises will have to focus on maintaining a high-quality environment as a core value," he said.

A clean environment will see a decrease in costs, the reduction of waste and the opening up of new visitor markets, said Mr McKeon.

"There is evidence of an increase in environmentally conscious tourists, particularly in important markets such as France and Germany, where a clean and green environment rates high amongst consumers," he said.

"These are discerning tourists who perceive Ireland as a green tourism destination offering both a natural environment and a landscape which is green.

"It is important that their expectations are met," he said.

The study also recommends the establishment of a number of "green clubs" for the tourism industry. This move will see tourism managers meeting regularly to promote best practice on environmental issues. Mr McKeon said the green clubs will boost the local environment and the economy nationwide.

The pressure on tourism providers to comply with national and European legislation is also driving the green agenda, CERT research director Deirdre O'Keeffe said.

"The study identifies lack of focus, support structures and awareness as the three major barriers to the greening of Irish tourism," she said.

An environmental awareness programme and the development of an accreditation scheme for tourism providers will also be established to promote green tourism, Dr O'Keeffe said.

The Green Agenda has a number of practical tips for business wanting to help the environment. It is available from CERT on 01-8847700.

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