ECU leads efforts for responsible travel

Consider a new holiday tradition this year: green travel.

That’s the goal of the East Carolina University developers of the United States Travel Care Code.

The Center for Sustainability: Tourism, Natural Resources, and the Built Environment at ECU developed the travel care code, which encourage travelers to take a pledge to travel responsibly with 10 easy steps. The tips include learning about your destination, continuing good habits while on vacation – like recycling – and being a fuel-efficient traveler.

“All are somewhat common sense but they’re great reminders,” said Scott Gray, a dual ECU business administration and sustainable tourism master’s degree student who manages the Travel Care Code for the center. One example: setting the air conditioning in a rental at a reasonable temperature and not having it so cold that your sunglasses fog up when you walk inside.

“Anyone traveling should be attentive and aware of traveling green,” Gray said.

The center developed the code to help educate, inform and influence as many visitors and travelers as possible.

It’s available for free use and re-publication for destination marketing organizations, convention and visitors’ bureaus, tourism development authorities, hotels, and other hospitality-related organizations and businesses as a way to promote responsible travel, Gray said. Tourism organizations in Colorado and Florida are already using the code.

In his research, Gray found little on green travel designed for the general consumer. “We want everyone to use it,” he said.

According to Destination Marketing Association International, there is a growing movement of travelers committed to ensuring their impact on tourism destinations is positive and supportive of ongoing sustainable tourism programs.

The travel care code is one way travelers – and the tourism industry – can help.

The code was adopted from a similar one first developed in New Zealand through the work of Miles Media’s Chris Adams, who chairs the industry advisory board for the ECU center. “His company has done a lot in terms of opening doors and hosting the website,” said Dr. Pat Long, director of the center in the ECU College of Technology and Computer Science.

The code supports the adage, “think global, act local,” Adams said. “It identifies where the areas are that travelers can make a difference,” he said. “Obviously this is not designed to be a complete solution, just a partial solution.”

Adams said the center at ECU is a good home for the travel care code. “It gives academic weight and organization and promotion to the care code,” he said.

Faculty and students first started talking about developing the code about three years ago. Whitney Knollenberg, an ECU graduate now enrolled in a doctoral hospitality program at Virginia Tech, used the travel care code as her graduate assistant project. She researched and crafted the 10 items, which were taken to faculty groups and ECU’s sustainability committee as well as industry groups for feedback.

Keturah Mayberry, an ECU graduate assistant at the center who is pursuing a master’s degree in accounting, did initial work to set up and maintain the travel care code’s Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/TravelCareCode.

The center is actively seeking sponsors for the code to help promote and market efforts.

The center, part of the ECU College of Technology and Computer Science, advances research and outreach aimed at affecting change in tourism business practices, public policies and individual traveler behaviors that lessen negative impacts of travel while enhancing travel’s positive outcomes for both travelers and their host communities.

For more information, visit http://www.sustainabletourism.org.