Sustainable Marinas – Where does your waterborne tour operate from?

Sustainable Marinas – Where does your waterborne tour operate from?
By Esteban L. Biondi

Many tour operators in Florida and all ecotour operators certified by Florida SEE offer services onboard watercrafts (motorized or not). The mission of Florida SEE is focused on the ecotour providers, but what happens with the boating infrastructure they operate from?
Vessels that offer marine or waterborne tours operate from specialized facilities: either individual docks along the waterfront or within marinas. Do they meet true and comprehensive sustainability goals?

As part of my independent research, and as a new Associate member of Florida SEE, we are seeking feedback from our members (and any tour operator for that matter) regarding the facilities they operate from. We would like your answers to questions such as:

•    Are those marinas or boating facilities planned, designed, built and operated with the same principles Florida SEE promotes and supports?
•    Do they really support the operation of eco-tours or other environmentally sensitive, community based businesses?
•    Do they enhance the guest experience that the tour operator works so hard to design and deliver?
•    What would environmentally sensitive, experience oriented, and ecotour operators like to see in the facilities they operate from?

The research is focused on sustainable marina planning, encompassing both environmental and social sustainability. A brief article outlining some elements of this approach (and using international examples) was published earlier this year by Marina World (see page 31)

There are standards and voluntary certification programs for marinas that address environmental and emergency response criteria. Florida has a very well established and successful “clean marina” program and a sophisticated regulatory framework for environmental permitting for marinas and boating infrastructure. DEP has a number of Sustainable Initiatives that are voluntary, non-regulatory programs within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that assist Florida industry and citizens in protecting Florida’s environment. However, nowhere in the world there are guidelines for marina planning (or certification programs for facilities) that address social sustainability or guest experience criteria.

Preliminary findings of this research strongly support the criterion that if a marina has adequate spaces for ecotour operators, it achieves a very important milestone towards sustainability.

Of course, most tour operators do not control or even influence what is done by the marina owner. But identifying and documenting the marina program needs that support ecotour operators is one of the cornerstones of the approach to achieve social sustainability of marinas.

We are preparing a specific survey to be distributed through the Florida SEE to gather insights from its members regarding this issue.

I will be very glad to receive individual comments, suggestions or other insight directly to:

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The Florida SEE Grapevine - September, 2013

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