Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Innovative online travel resource,Greenloons,raises the bar for true ecotourism travel experiences

What is the name of your social enterprise?
Innovative online travel resource, Greenloons, raises the bar for true ecotourism travel experiencesGreenloons is a pioneering online resource aimed at answering the question, “who in the world of ecotourism should I travel with and why?”
What is your background?
I serve as the company’s Founder & President and have over 12 years’ experience in the corporate world providing business process improvement recommendations, leading software implementations and solving customer service challenges for Fortune 500 companies, including eBay, as well as domestic and international government agencies.
I hold an MBA in International Finance and am completing my Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management from George Washington University. In addition to being a dual citizen of the United States and the Republic of Cyprus, I have lived in 5 countries and visited 27 more in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe.

What services does Greenloons offer?
Greenloons, which is based in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, provides nature enthusiasts and wildlife conservationists with trusted and reliable information about responsible, sustainable, and certified ecotourism travel vacations and volunteer conservation efforts occurring in the U.S. and around the world.
Specializing in family travel, the website provides eco-conscious consumers with educational content to become their own advocate for responsible and ethical eco-travel, powerful search capabilities, easy reservation channels, and a community forum. This combination makes it an attractive one-stop shop for true green family travel.
The company simultaneously provides sustainable travel suppliers with an effective platform for accessing eco-conscious travelers as well as consulting services to help tourism companies become eco-certified.
When did you start this company?
The company started on May 10, 2010 and the website launched on December 3, 2010.
Why was this social venture created?
I started Greenloons after I realized that there was a lot of misinformation about ecotourism and very little transparency about the industry. I wanted to build a company that would present the facts about ecotourism and eco-certifications, let consumers decide for themselves, and supply a forum to share their experiences. But, I wanted to go one step further and only offer vacation packages provided by certified or accredited tour operators.
The objective was to enable travelers, particularly those with children, to begin connecting at a deeper level with the places and people they were visiting and feel good knowing that each ofthe ecotours listed on supports local communities, emphasizesenvironmental education, supports conservation efforts, minimizes tourist waste, and respects local cultural traditions.
How has Greenloons helped communities and people around the world?
In the last decade, with the advent of words such as green, environmentally friendly, sustainable and eco as powerful marketing slogans, many organizations within the tourism industry have adopted these terms to attract consumer dollars. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the term ecotourism has resulted in a confused consumer left on their own to distinguish between authentic ecotour activities from those engaging in greenwashing practices.
However, the great informant to consumers is ecotourism certification. Certification provides much-needed knowledge and transparency because award criteria as well as independent assessment and reauthorization processes not only help educate the consumer about the various social, economic, cultural and environmental issues of a specific country, but also provide the consumer with a basis of comparison against other travel suppliers.
Greenloons helps communities all over the world help themselves by educating consumers about greenwashing and by listing only those ecotour operators that have dedicated nature and wildlife tours, established energy and wildlife conservation policies, commitment to host destination economic prosperity, and adherence to environmental standards as set forth by recognized third party certifications.
Typically, certified ecotour operators are small, family-owned and operated companies with a deep knowledge and love for their natural environment, but little understanding of how to market to eco-conscious consumers via social media, Google search, and journalistic platforms. Greenloons helps these small ecotourism operators by educating consumers about eco-certifications, decreasing the supplier’s marketing and website maintenance costs, and providing an easy reservation method so the supplier does not need to build that capability into their website.
How can people help advance ecotourism?
People can help by spreading the word about the value of eco-certifications. Knowledge is power. I believe that if travelers are armed with the knowledge and practical tips necessary for engaging in ethically responsible, socially engaging, and economically sustainable vacations, they will make more informed eco-vacation purchasing decisions.
What free online or offline tools do you use?
Greenloons uses a variety of free social media tools to educate consumers including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr, LinkedIn and YouTube.
How many people are currently working for your company?
Greenloons presently has 8 people including working for the company.
Do you use social media to get the word out?
Yes, you can find Greenloons on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn.
Greenloons Facebook Fan Page

Greenloons Twitter Page

Greenloons YouTube Channel

Some of the more recent YouTube videos I’ve produced are:
Ecotourism | True Green Travel -

The Beauty of Sustainable Costa Rica -

Ecotourism of Alonissos Greece:

What is the best advice you ever got?
The best advice I received wasto put together a business plan or at least an executive summary of a business plan and seek out at least two business-minded people you trust to read it and give their honest opinions about the idea and its financial viability before you invest your own money (or ask someone else to invest their money into your company).
What is the one thing that you did right?

Innovative online travel resource, Greenloons, raises the bar for true ecotourism travel experiences

Irene Lane

We have been fortunate enough to establish some very strong alliances within the sustainable travel industry.
Greenloons has a greatrelationship with the Rainforest Alliance as well as board-approved membership in the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Market Access group, which helps to communicate to both travel suppliers as well as to travelers themselves the importance of eco-certification standards.
This along with presenting at the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) and writing numerous articles for various online media outlets have increased the company’s and my credibility within the eco-travel industry.

Are you doing any type of Search Engine Optimization?
In an effort to encourage visitor growth, the website has been configured to support organic search for numerous combinations of keywords. For example, Greenloons is on the first Google results page for the following keywords: ecotravel certifications, ecotourism family destinations, ecotourism family travel, family eco travel, and green family travel.
We have never paid for a Google Ad. In addition to employing SEO practices for excellent natural search results, Greenloons encourages users to sign up for the biweekly e-Newsletter, offers contest giveaways, writes original content for other travel sites, delivers presentations at conferences as well as environmental organizations, contributes to online forums, incorporates iContact marketing technology into the customer communication lifecycle, and makes use of the various social media platforms all of which contribute to SEO.
What can you tell other potential social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Start by answering the following question, “Without being in any way practical or logical, what would you love to do for a career?”Once you have an initial idea, see if it ties back to a social, economic or environmental problem in the community and how you can make a difference given your professional background.
What book(s) have you read that others should read?
Before putting together my business plan, I read Mom 3.0 by Maria Bailey, Starting a Web-Based Business by Steve Slaunwhite and Content Rules by Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman.

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