Travel Green Program Gaining Steam

Travel Green Wisconsin, the voluntary program launched by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism in 2006, now claims 141 certified businesses, more than 40 of which have joined since the first of the year.

Door County is home to 17 Travel Green Certified Businesses.

“It’s growing slow but steady,” says Ashley Ellingson, Program Manager for the Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. “We’re seeing a lot of Chambers of Commerce and Visitor Bureaus joining and promoting it to their members.”

Will Christianson, Outreach Coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, said he’s been asked to make presentations across the state to groups looking to get involved.

“We’re seeing it grow in the Southwest part of the state and the Stevens Point and Wausau area as well.”

The program has sparked an unspoken competition between businesses and regions to gain ‘greener’ status.

“Since you can separate the businesses on the Web site by the number of points they earned,” Christianson explained, “we’re seeing businesses begin to compete. You’ve got Madison looking at Bayfield, Bayfield looking at Door County. People looking over their shoulder at what other places are doing.”

And there is anecdotal evidence that the green label is influencing travelers.

“We’ve had some pretty positive feedback from businesses who say guests found them on our Web site or visited them specifically because of their environmental practices,” Ellingson said.

The program is fee-based and costs between $75 and $950 to join, based on size and type of business.

The lack of a strong promotional component for businesses has been a deterrent for some, but the tourism department is working on developing a marketing program around Travel Green to give members more exposure.

In the meantime according to Christianson, “We’re trying to move the whole tourism industry in the right direction to operate in a more sustainable manner.” He continued, “Hopefully one day every tourism-related business will want to be part of the program.”

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