Read travel magazines and visit travel Web sites to learn about developments in the ecotourism field. Check out Green Lodging News (http://www.greenlodgingnews.com) for updates on eco-resorts and ecotourism. Other useful resources can be found at the International Ecotourism Society's Web site (http://www.ecotourism.org). The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education offer hospitality management training programs.
High school juniors and seniors who are interested in working in the hospitality industry can take advantage of the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute's Hospitality and Tourism Management Program. The program combines classroom learning with work experience in the hospitality industry. Graduating seniors who pass examinations and accrue a specified number of hours of work experience in the lodging industry earn the certified hospitality and tourism management professional credential. Other certification credentials are also available.
Ecomanagers are responsible for the smooth operations of resorts that are environmentally friendly. Eco-resorts are located anywhere in the world, from jungles and forests, to coastal areas and mountainsides. Managers may work for resorts located in privately owned forest preserves, such as Elk Lake Lodge in the Adirondacks, or in coastal and tropical areas, such as Concordia Eco-Resort in the Virgin Islands. Regardless of the location, ecomanagers' core responsibilities remain the same: their job is to manage all departments and oversee all aspects of the resort. In smaller organizations, they may be involved in hiring, training, and supervising staff. They may also be more directly, and actively, involved in other areas, such as working with ground maintenance crews to maintain hiking trails and clear roads of debris.
Ecomanagers direct and oversee the refurbishment of existing structures and construction of new structures. This may involve interviewing and contracting building engineers, construction workers, or even landscape architects. They make sure that the materials and structures being planned are eco-friendly (e.g., wood reused from previous structures), and that work being done at the site meets governmental safety regulations. Many eco-resorts are built to be in harmony with nature and to make the best use of it without causing damage. For instance, Concordia Eco-Resort features elevated walkways so as not to cause soil erosion and hand-construction methods that left the natural environment completely undisturbed.
Managing the resort's budget and finances is also part of an ecomanager's job. They create budgets; approve expenditures; and contract professional services, such as accounting and tax preparations. Sustainability projects and programs are factored into budgets as well. Other aspects of the job include expanding marketing and promotion efforts by strategizing new features that can be added to the resort to either attract more guests or tap into a new target market. Examples may be offering wireless Internet service to guests, using only locally produced food, or providing complementary chemical-free and biodegradable bathing products in the rooms. Ecomanagers also hold staff meetings to discuss sustainability and conservation efforts at the resort, and to guide staff in how to communicate these developments and features to guests. Ecomanagers invite staff to contribute thoughts and ideas about how the resort can become more eco-friendly and efficient.
Eco-resort managers may also be couples who work in teams to manage the resort, each handling the parts of the job in which they are strongest. A past job advertisement for an eco-resort manager was seeking an individual or couple with five years' prior experience to manage a 38-unit resort in the Caribbean that included a general store, café, pool, and event pavilion. The job required direct involvement with staffing, training, and motivating and supporting various departments such as registration, bookkeeping, budgeting, maintenance, housekeeping, security, the retail store, activities, and food service. The resort preferred individuals with experience in ecotourism, hospitality management, and knowledge of the local area. Enthusiastic, versatile, resilient, and hands-on people with strong work ethics were encouraged to reply. The resort's hilly terrain and numerous steps required physically fit applicants who could handle the tropical climate while running around. Housing or a housing allowance was also a possible offer, and the salary started at $35,000 and included benefits.
Customer service is all-important in this type of work. Ecomanagers ensure that all guest, staff, and facility needs are met and that customers' complaints are handled diplomatically and constructively. They oversee the services that will be offered to guests, including housekeeping, dining options, and dining and meeting facilities. Many eco-resorts offer educational programs and outdoor activities. Economangers ensure that guides or teachers who are brought in from outside the organization to lead activities for guests are qualified to do the job and have a good reputation in the field.