Sustainability tops many travelers’ lists right now, and a recent study conducted by World Travel & Tourism Council in partnership with Trip.com and Deloitte revealed that 69% of travelers are actively seeking eco-friendly travel options. Three-quarters of respondents say they’re willing to pay extra to ensure their trips are sustainable.
With this in mind, travel advisors may want to offer beach-based vacations to destinations certified with Blue Flag status. Since many travelers may not know exactly what Blue Flag means or how it’s earned, here’s what you can pass along to help educate your sustainability-minded clients when they’re booking their trips.
What is the Blue Flag?
Originating in France in 1987, the voluntary eco-award program first recognized French coastal communities with the Blue Flag for complying with best practices in maintaining bathing water quality and proper sewage treatment.
The program got its name following a special project for French schoolchildren, who were asked to write a message and put it in a plastic bottle with their name and that of the closest beach. The bottles, which were collected by the military, flown out to sea and dropped into the ocean, then drifted back to shore. This initiative demonstrated the impact that litter in the world’s seas had on global communities.
Since then, Blue Flag initiatives have evolved worldwide to raise environmental awareness and boost good environmental practices within local communities, beach and marina operators and among tourists, and improve the sustainability of ecologically sensitive sites.
The international program, produced by the Foundation for Environmental Education and headquartered in Copenhagen, promotes environmental education, social responsibility and responsible tourism at more than 5,000 beaches, marinas and tourism boat operators in 50 countries. Decided by an international jury, Blue Flags are awarded to sites that meet close to 40 strict criteria. These include things like accessibility, environmental management, water quality and community involvement.
The goal is to connect visitors and the public in general with their surroundings so they will be motivated to learn more about the environment and want to protect it. Blue Flag sites often offer environmental education activities, workshops and displays related to biodiversity and unique ecosystems.
How does a site become certified?
The Blue Flag program aims to promote the sustainable development of the sea and freshwater areas. The certification covers four main categories:
• Environmental education and information. Sites must post a Blue Flag sign telling visitors about the standards that have been implemented and highlights the location of health facilities and key services. Signage also includes details about local ecosystems, water quality test results and upcoming eco-education activities.
• Water quality. As an international program, Blue Flag beaches all meet the same criteria that are enforced by member countries. Swimming area water is tested regularly for potential sources of pollution or risk to bathers.
• Environmental management. Travelers can rest easy knowing Blue Flag sites guarantee a clean, healthy environment, because each certified beach has a beach management committee that oversees the site and organizes conservation activities.
• Safety and services. With strict standards to adhere to, Blue Flag sites must provide good-quality facilities, rescue stations and first aid equipment to all visitors.
How can you find Blue Flag sites?
Blue Flag’s global site features an interactive map where travelers and advisors can see certified sites around the world. The list can be filtered for type of beach or boating activity, and by need — such as accessibility for disabled visitors.
Learning about the destination enables travelers to navigate the area and understand more about the indigenous flora and fauna. When visitors see a Blue Flag displayed at a beach, marina or on a boat, they’ll know it’s because the site has complied with important environmental criteria. Traveling to sites recognized with Blue Flag status also helps bolster the 17 sustainable development goals the program seeks to support through its partnerships with member countries around the world — something eco-minded tourists also want to support.
Where are some of the best Blue Flag beaches located?
Blue Flag beaches are some of the safest and ecologically pristine destinations in the world. Travelers coming to recognized sites will know it protects marine life, conducts safety education, and is recycling-friendly, among many other attributes.
These sites are also in some of the world's most spectacular spots. In Los Cabos, for example, visitors can explore stunning Blue Flag beaches such as Palmilla, Playa Acapulquito, Santa Maria, Chileno and Las Viudas — considered one of Cabo’s hidden gems.
What are some of the advantages of vacationing near Blue Flag sites?
Knowing that excellent bathing water quality is at the top of Blue Flag requirements, travelers can head to regions that have certified beaches with peace of mind — water samples must be taken at least every 31 days and tested for various bacteria. The water has to be free of garbage, pollution and industrial wastewater in order to retain the Blue Flag symbol, and information about the water quality is displayed for the public to see.
Safety measures such as lifeguards and public rescue equipment are also required for Blue Flag certification, so families with children can enjoy their beach day with no worries.
Because the Blue Flag symbol is an internationally-recognized eco-certification, travelers can enjoy their vacation knowing that the marinas, tourism boats and beaches they visit will offer cleanliness, security and committed sustainability efforts designed to respect and protect the environment — qualities many clients are looking for when booking their trips.
Recommending a Blue Flag site ensures clients that it’s accessible, clean, managed sustainably and offers high-quality facilities and services with safety protocols in place.
For more information on the Blue Flag program, visit: https://blueflag.us or https://www.blueflag.global.
Blue Flags Are Springing Up All Over Los Cabos
The Blue Flag means that the beach is safe for your clients and meets the highest level of environmental and safety standards. That's a key selling point for clients, many of whom are increasingly seeking destinations that honor sustainable practices.
However, while the Blue Flag guarantees clean and safe beaches, it does not guarantee that they are swimmable. In the case of Los Cabos, the beaches are all of the above: clean, safe and swimmable. In fact, there are plenty of stunning beaches that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling, notably inside the protected waters of bays and coves including Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas and Lovers Beach near El Arco. Up along the Tourist Corridor, Playa Acapulquito and Chileno Beach, calm water invites your clients to enjoy the beach. At Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, not only can your clients enjoy swimming, they can experience some of the finest snorkeling anywhere. They'll see hundreds of colorful fish swimming along the reef and rocks, close to the beach. It’s easy to find swimmable beaches in Los Cabos — just look for the Green Flags, indicating that the water is safe for swimming.
A Blue Wave
Where is a high concentration of these pristine beaches? There's a total of 25 beaches in Los Cabos that are on the Blue Flag beach list, including Medano, Acapulquito, Chileno, Corsario, Las Viudas, Palmilla and Santa Maria.
Renowned for their superior cleanliness, water quality, security, and sustainability efforts, Los Cabos’ Blue Flag beaches are an excellent choice for travelers seeking underwater encounters with marine life or simply looking for a natural seaside escape. The certified Blue Flag beaches not only meet the safety criteria but are surrounded by stunning landscapes, exotic wildlife and marine species, activities for all ages, world-class resorts and more!
One property in particular, Paradisus Los Cabos, part of Meliá Hotels International and Leading Hotels of the World, has been awarded the Blue Flag certification through the June 2023 season. During the duration of its time as a Blue Flag resort, Paradisus Los Cabos will educate guests on the resort's commitment to preserving local sand dunes and wildlife with its "Welcome to Life" program, as well as ensure pollution-free water and a zero-waste beach. It will also be featured on the Blue Flag program's interactive map of Blue Flag-designated areas, beaches and resorts.
In its continuing effort to maintain the environment, Los Cabos has recently increased the number of trash cans available for use around the tourist beach areas, especially El Médano Beach. The trash cans not only support the removal of waste, but they also encourage sustainability of the beach environment through recycling.
Another environmentally friendly practice: Los Cabos officials have banned bonfires on the beach. This was not only due to the hazards of nails and hot coals in the sand but also to keep the area clean for Blue Flag designation. There also have been education efforts around water safety, the meaning of the flag colors, and other important initiatives to keep tourists safe on the area's beaches.
For more information on Los Cabos' spectacular beaches, go to visitloscabos.travel.