Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Don't Take Top 10 Lists Too Seriously

Having been a public relations consultant for more than seven years, I have written many press releases. What I learned is that just about everyone, including the media, loves "Top 10" lists. I would suggest not taking them too seriously. Oftentimes, the lists are totally subjective and publicized without any well-explained methodology.

TripAdvisor just released a list of its top 10 eco-friendly accommodations. I came across the release on PRNewswire. It is a list, TripAdvisor says, that was generated by TripAdvisor editors and travelers. TripAdvisor did not say how many travelers participated in suggesting destinations for the list. Was it 10 travelers? Ten thousand? We may never know. Were there any criteria at all for choosing the green accommodations? Again, this is something TripAdvisor does not reveal.

I am not questioning the "eco-friendliness" of the properties that made TripAdvisor's list. There are some good ones included, including the Hotel Terra, The Ambrose and Concordia Eco-Tents. But there are also some glaring omissions, including the LEED Platinum certified Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C. and those hotels that have been certified LEED Gold.

Top 10 lists are great publicity tools. Most of the time, however, they should not be taken too seriously—especially when survey sample size and methodology are omitted. What do you think?


pinehurstpair said...

Being a lodging owner that has been included in a few Top Ten lists, I am cautious about agreeing with you. Top Ten lists generate interest and energy for properties. But they aren't necessarily based on credible criteria. But believe me - they work for the properties.

What about certifications? We are certified by Travel Green Wisconsin (on of the best in the country in my opinion) and Green America (Green Business Network). They are steps and provide more credibility for our potential guests. But still not perfect as some are simply too costly for small properties.

As the public becomes more informed about sustainable business, they will begin to create their own valid screening systems. We rely on our guests to be informed, intelligent and take the time to ask us questions. They do it and do it well.

But those of us who are smaller property owners need to continue to push for certification systems that are both affordable and credible.

Nancy Sandstrom
Pinehurst Inn, Bayfield, Wisconsin

Jampol said...

I think your comments may be based on hunches and a cynical sensibility instead of a broad knowledge of what has been happening around the world. I also think it is counterproductive to make common blanket statements about greenwashing when there is a broad and continuous concern and investigation amongst many of the lodges and small hotels not only listed here by Trip Advisor but in and around the globe to avoid such pitfalls and to be authentically progressive in their goals, methodology and ultimately results. As a consultant on sustainability programs for countries and companies alike and as a lodge owner on that list (Finca Rosa Blanca) we have been a model for sustainability in Costa Rica for many years, and have achieved 5 green leaves along with 4 other hotels in the difficult and comprehensive CST (Certification for Sustainable Tourism). As Nancy Sandstrom has mentioned in her response, the education and dissemination of good practices, change in attitude, social consciousness and financial sustainability is a very taxing but productive endeavor and as we have learned, has great added value.
My suggestion, with all due respect, is that you immerse yourself in a fact finding study of what is really happening around the world- from Bhutan to El Salvador, from Australia to Ecuador and beyond and you will see that using the catch phrase greenwashing is often overused as a means to dilute the heroic and pioneering efforts of small business owners around the planet. And although we are a small "agro" hotel (organic shade grown coffee and hotel) who has achieved a high level of sustainability, my goal is that eventually there will not be the need for the words "sustainable tourism" as tourism will automatically assume this as its inherent and most minimal requirement.
Glenn Jampol, President
Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation and Inn