The 2011 edition of the Responsible Tourism Guide features an expanded collection of new recommendations, spanning all regions of France and to suit all budgets. The guide’s fourth edition continues to benefit from the expertise of its partners Voyages-sncf.com and Comité 21.
The new edition of the Routard collection’s Responsible Tourism Guide focuses on responsible tourist initiatives with the stated aim of sharing travellers’ commitment to protecting the planet. The guide’s preparation was coordinated by Pascal Languillon, director of the French Eco-Tourism Association, who criss-crossed France over a period of several years in search of exemplary, innovative candidates for the guide. His objectives were to seek out high-quality, inventive establishments, to cover all comfort ranges and to ensure that the final selection was geographically well balanced. The guide also includes a double-page spread of accommodation and services offered by the 2010 winners and nominees of the Responsible Tourism Awards, organized by Voyages-sncf.com in cooperation with Routard.com and Mondial Assistance.
The first part of the guide presents an overview of responsible tourism with special emphasis on different modes of transportation and the concept of eco-mobility, plus a “Resources” section enriched with references to websites and events dedicated to responsible tourism. The guide provides contact information for the increasing numbers of tour operators, public bodies and non-profit groups dedicated to promoting new ways of planning and enjoying a responsible travel experience. In addition to such pioneering groups as ATES (the association for equitable and socially-responsible tourism), which promotes cooperation among some 20 French non-profit groups that organize equitable, solidarity-focused tourism abroad, the 2011 edition introduces a number of new players that have joined the movement. One of these, the ATR (Agir pour le Tourisme Responsable – Act for Responsible Tourism) association, has developed a certification process based on regular, independent inspections covering environmental-management criteria and the involvement of local populations in tourist projects. The guide also explains the various labels used to verify and guarantee compliance with specific social and environmental criteria, which travellers can rely on to choose their accommodation in France.
The guide’s selection of recommended addresses convincingly demonstrates that responsible tourism is within everyone’s reach: contrary to popular opinion, a larger-than-average travel budget is not required. Most importantly, responsible travel does not have to be all principle and no pleasure: it can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Even though sustainable tourism is based on the notion of responsible consumption, there is ample room for comforts, amenities and pleasures of all kinds – including fine dining, good company and new vistas – as an integral part of the experience.
Some recommended destinations in France
- Instants d’Absolu in Auvergne’s volcano nature park is a lava-rock eco-lodge with cosy guest rooms located on the edge of a wilderness lake surrounded by forest reminiscent of Canada’s primeval forests. Totally renovated, the lodge focuses on energy efficiency using cellulose-wadding insulation, and was redecorated with solvent-free paint; water-flow restrictors were also installed. The lodge also supports regional development by sourcing from local producers. The magnificent countryside offers a wide range of nature activities, including hiking, animal watching, fishing and cross-country skiing, to mention just a few. To top it all off, the lodge has a steam room and spa for the ultimate in relaxation. Doubles begin at €110 per night.
- Spend the night at La Corroirie du Lige, a 13th-century historic monument located among the castles of the Loire Valley. There are two guest rooms with special appeal to history lovers: the rather posh seigniorial suite and the more basic monastic quarters. Naturally, you can visit the entire premises, including the church, moat and drawbridge, and even swim in the pond. This is the first historical monument open to the public to have obtained organic certification for its park and garden, which produces vegetables for the manor’s dining room. La Corroirie has also obtained the Clef Verte (Green Key) label for ecological excellence. Doubles from €70 to €125, organic breakfast included. Dinner is available by reservation.
- Discover the world of sled dogs in the heart of the Vercors Regional Nature Park, where famous Arctic explorer Nicolas Vanier has set up a wilderness camp offering several different types of traditional accommodation typical of Arctic regions. The entire camp was designed according to ecologically responsible principles with a particular emphasis on renewable energies, including solar and wind power; the camp also practices rainwater collection and waste sorting and has an organic vegetable garden. Guests are accommodated in tents, yurts or tepees. From €120 per person per night, breakfast included; activities include horse and sled-dog touring.
- Visit Europe’s first botanical park, Terra Botanica, and discover flora from all the continents as you stroll through 110,000 sq.m of gardens, water parks and greenhouses, where educational activities abound. The park was designed to be environmentally friendly, with solar panels, green roofs and living walls used to save energy. Water is sparingly managed: rainwater is reused, and plants are watered with a drip-irrigation system, while ponds are cleaned via purifying plants. The park’s restaurant features fresh seasonal cooking. Near Angers, €17.50 per person; €10 for children under 12. Closed in winter.
- The Solar Hotel in Paris’s 14th arrondissement is an activist ecological establishment equipped with a photovoltaic facade, living wall, water-recovery system and composter in the garden. Bikes and two electric vehicles are available for guest use. The hotel is Clef Verte approved. Doubles with shower and toilet at €59 including tax. A hearty, 100%-organic breakfast is included. The Solar Hotel won the 2010 Responsible Tourism award in the Responsible Accommodation category for small establishments.