Thursday, March 15, 2012

PM Masters: Green Traveler Guides

As many of you know I love traveling and I'm a great advocate of sustainable practices and when both of those passions combine I like to check out the Green Traveler Guides to check not only the best in green travel info but on other travel tips like rewards point and membership clubs.

Gary is not only the chief traveler for the website but also its editor, a writer and a publisher who lives in Marin County, California. Here is my interview with him...

How did you get started?   
My first job in journalism was as a summer intern for a newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio, that I delivered door-to-door growing up. I got to to jump up when a reporter on deadline bawled out, “Boy!” Then I raced to the editor with the hot-off-the-typewriter (yes, typewriter!) article. It was great.

When you travel what are the essential items you take with you? 
 A good book (preferably about the locale I’m in), iPhone (for maps, directions, compass app, etc.), camera and notebook (both small and easy to stow in a pocket). Outside of the U.S.—especially in developing countries—a wad of local currency in small bills for local vendors and tipping because often credit cards are not accepted. 

Where is your favorite vacation spot? Which is the vacation hotspot for 2012?  
I love beaches, especially when they’re backed by lush green mountains—so get me anywhere that fits that bill, but especially the North Shore of Kauai, Palolem beach in Goa, Moorea in French Polynesia. For 2012, I’d head to Slovenia, a largely undiscovered gem in Eastern Europe that is proudly becoming more and more eco-conscious.

What are the benefits of traveling to green destinations and hotels? Is it more expensive?  
Traveling green has a quadruple benefit: it’s healthier for you, for tourism staff, for their communities and for the environment. Who wants to stay in a hotel room that’s just been cleaned with toxic chemicals and has noxiously off-gassing paints and carpet? Who wants to work there? No one, if you have a choice…and, increasingly, you do. And, no, it need not be more expensive. Green resorts, hotels, inns, B&Bs, guesthouses and so on are priced at all levels.

Which green destinations/hotels would you recommend?  
Look for those that have been certified green by third-party certifiers, so you can be sure they’re green for real. We have a list of the best green certifiers.

What are the worst effects that you’ve seen of global warming in tourist destinations?  
The unpredictability of weather patterns. Normal weather is much less a reliable factor when planning a trip. The other man-made disaster that we’ve seen first-hand is not about climate change—it’s the ubiquitous plastic trash in our oceans. Pristine beaches in Hawaii, for example, can get littered with junk that floats over from Asia. It’s awful.

Where do you see the travel industry going?
More and more, travelers are looking for authentic experiences and genuine connection with local communities. That’s why we consider giving back to local communities an important aspect of green travel – the best tour packagers and destinations do this, by building schools, teaching new skills and so on. Voluntourism is a growing segment of the travel market – that’s where your stay at a resort (or someplace more humble) includes pitching in to protect endangered turtles or help local villagers improve their lives. 

Which is the best airline and hotel rewards program?  
We’ve run a number of articles about maximizing the value of your frequent flyer miles. Not surprisingly, we favor those airlines and hotel brands that do the most to reduce their carbon footprints. In our view, chief among U.S.-based airlines is Virgin America, and leading the way among U.S.-based hotel chains is Marriott. Both have quite good rewards programs, too.

What is the best travel advice you can give someone? Packing tips?  
We’ve learned this the hard way. We call it our 1st Rule of Travel: When you happen upon something you love for sale, buy it then and there. Don’t assume you’ll find the same thing down the road because chances are you just won’t. Other than that, be open to serendipity, to chance discoveries and tips you glean while traveling. Being overly programmed in your travel leaves a lot of good stones unturned. Packing tips? Take along a refillable water bottle so that you don’t have to keep buying plastic bottles that end up in landfills or worse.

What does the future hold for your business? Any plans?  
Green travel will only keep growing as a travel segment. A new survey done by Expedia, for example, found that 8 in 10 U.S. consumers are aware of – and applaud—hotels’ efforts to go green. Hotels that promote higher indoor air quality earn higher favorable ratings among almost two-thirds of consumers surveyed. 

So we plan to surf this wave as long and as far as we can. Join us!

Thanks Gary and safe travels to everyone out there!!!