FAQs for AGA Application
- What is Adventure Green Alaska?
Adventure Green Alaska (AGA) is a voluntary certification program for tourism businesses operating in Alaska that meet standards of economic, environmental and social sustainability. AGA encourages tourism businesses to evaluate their operations and determine whether they use – or could be using – best management and sustainability practices. Becoming a certified member of the AGA program earns businesses the right to use the AGA logo and to participate in AGA promotional opportunities.
- Why certify sustainable tourism businesses?
Tourism is becoming one of the world’s largest industries and plays an increasingly dominant role in the economic growth and development of Alaska. As tourism continues to become an even more important part of the state economy, so too will the need to protect the very things that visitors come to see and appreciate: mountains, glaciers, forests, oceans, wildlife
,and authentic communities. The challenge, then, will be to manage tourism development and growth so that the industry continues to provide benefits to both urban and remote communities, while conserving Alaska’s great resources.
In other tourism destinations, particularly outside the United States, concerned industry businesses and travelers have addressed this challenge by promoting the concept of sustainable tourism, or “ecotourism.” Sustainable tourism may be defined as travel to natural areas that is beneficial to local economies, respectful of the environment
,and sensitive to indigenous cultures.
Sustainable tourism has enjoyed a healthy increase in public awareness and popularity. However, in practice it has sometimes become lost among other forms of tourism, and has been unable to carve out more than a small share of the global tourism market. Without a marketing edge, or significant marketing resources, sustainable businesses, – often smaller-sized businesses, do not always get public recognition for their actions. AGA encourages travelers to patronize sustainable businesses and provides an economic incentive for other businesses to improve their operations. With the relaunch of the AGA program under the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA) in March 2015, the marketing reach of the Adventure Green Alaska program will be expanded to more out of state consumers.
- What are the benefits of AGA certification?
The business benefits of AGA certification include use of the AGA logo, inclusion in AGA promotional materials and events, media exposure, and enhanced marketing opportunities, and connections to existing national and international groups and certification models. Additionally, AGA members will now be actively marketed to consumers interested in traveling to Alaska.
In addition, AGA-certified businesses have the satisfaction of operating responsibly and helping preserve Alaska’s quality of life, natural environment, and culture for future generations while promoting a tourism industry that supports local businesses and communities, a strong conservation ethic, and preservation of Alaska’s history and culture.
- What is the program fee?
The certification fee pays for the administration and marketing costs of certification. It is based on the business’
snumber of full time equivalent (FTE) employees. (A permanent employee working full time is 1 FTE. Employees working half time or for only half the year should be counted as .5 FTEs.)
- 0 to 2 FTE employees: $100
- 3 to 5 FTE employees: $150
- 6 to 20 FTE employees: $250
- 21 to 50 FTE employees: $350
- 51+FTE employees: $500+
This is a non-refundable fee regardless of approval status. However, businesses not approved will have up to 2 years to reapply at each application deadline without having to pay another application fee.
- How does a business renew certification?
AGA certifications are valid for two years. To renew an expiring certification, a business must submit a new application and application fee to ATIA.
- Who administers the program?
AGA was relaunched in March 2015 and is now administered by the Alaska Travel Industry Association (ATIA), the state’s leading nonprofit trade organization for the Alaska tourism industry.
- What does the application process involve?
AGA Application process:
- Ensure that your business meets the minimum legal standards for quality, safety and sustainability.
- Complete online application and pay fee prior to bi-annual deadline.
- Provide two references outside of your company along with your application.
- Ensure that your name and contact information are up to date.
Applications are accepted twice a year. Please check back on this site for the upcoming deadline.
- Who evaluates applications?
ATIA administers the AGA program and assists businesses with the application process. The AGA Advisory Committee, made up of ATIA board members and ATIA business members, accepts applications twice a year for review and makes appropriate recommendations to ATIA staff. ATIA makes the final evaluation and approval for all certifications.
- Is there a right of appeal?
Businesses may submit a written request for reconsideration to ATIA within 10 days of a final decision.
The AGA certification program is intended to encourage and reward economic, environmental and social sustainability. At the very basic level, AGA-certified businesses should adhere to all existing regulatory practices, licenses and laws. Businesses that fail to meet these threshold criteria will not be considered for AGA certification.
- Shouldn't certification be limited to small and medium sized tourism businesses?
One of the goals of AGA is to encourage more sustainable practices throughout the Alaska tourism industry. The application is designed so that size alone does not determine eligibility. Any tourism-related business or company in Alaska that meets AGA standards of sustainability is eligible to receive the certification and program benefits.
- How does AGA monitor compliance with program standards?
AGA is a voluntary program. It is the responsibility of each business to ensure that all program requirements are met. ATIA will monitor program compliance through random spot checks and customer comments. A condition of the certification program is the company’s agreement to allow site visits from ATIA. Additionally, ATIA will solicit customer comments throughout the certification period. If deficiencies are reported, ATIA will offer follow-up assistance to correct them. Consistent failure to make any changes will result in the removal of the business from the program. All AGA promotional materials must be returned and the business will refrain from linking any information to the AGA website.
- What is a sustainability policy?
A sustainability policy is your business’ written commitment to environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability. The policy describes your goals and practices with respect to sustainability and is intended to guide management decisions and daily operations. The sustainability policy is also a means of educating staff and customers, and encouraging others to adopt sustainable tourism practices. The policy should be displayed prominently on your website and other promotional materials, and incorporated into any company general management or business plans.
For an example of a sustainability policy, check out out AGA Resources provided to the right side of this page.
- How do I obtain guidelines on responsibly viewing wildlife?
The best sources for information are wildlife management agencies such as , and .
For an example of a policy to ensure responsible wildlife viewing, check out the AGA Resources provided to the right side of this page.
- Where can I find guidelines on proper behavior in bear and/or moose country?
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has resources for both bear and moose safety. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources also has helpful information for taking the proper precautions when traveling in bear country.
- What are the Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) guidelines to invasive species and why are they important?
Invasive (non-native) species can harm agricultural production, ecosystem processes, and native fish and wildlife. Until recently, Alaska’s climate and relative isolation limited the introduction and establishment of invasive plants. However, with increased trade, tourism
,and development, the number of invasive plant infestations in Alaska is growing. Responding now, while these infestations are small, will protect Alaska’s natural resources and allow for their continued use and enjoyment.
The goal of EDRR is to find and control invasive plants when populations first become established. To help resource managers control these weeds before they become widespread, please take the following simple steps:
- Visit the Division of Agriculture Invasive Species webpage to request a free guide of invasive plants or contact Heather Stewart, Invasive Weeds and Agricultural Pest Coordinator, AlaskaDepartment of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, at 907-745-8721 or [email protected].
- Become familiar with the short list of invasive plants identified in the guide.
- Carry the guide as a reference tool as you and your customers travel in Alaska.
- If you find any of the listed invaders, report them on the form included in the back of the guide.
- Avoid traveling through areas infested by invasive plants. It is extremely easy to carry seeds on shoes, clothing, animals, gear
,and equipment. Please inspect and clean boots, clothing, equipment, and other potential vectors as soon as possible after leaving an area infested by invasive plants.
- What are the Leave No Trace principles and why is it important to implement them?
Leave No Trace (LNT) emerged in 1993 as an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of wild lands through education that reduces human recreational impact. Today LNT is practically a household term. The organization works closely with state and federal agencies, as well as resource managers around the world, to protect the lands so many of us rely upon for personal and professional enjoyment. Of all the initiatives sponsored by LNT during the last 25 years, providing the public with concrete ways of reducing its impact while recreating outdoors remains the most important. Simply put, education is the best long-term solution to preserving the beauty, health and access to the wild places we love and want to share with our guests.
To view a list of the seven fundamental LNT principles, as well as select examples of LNT principles in practice, check out the AGA Resources provided to the right side of this page.
For a more complete review of LNT principles with links to specific practices, visit Leave No Trace: Chugach & Tongass National Forest.
- What is an energy efficiency audit?
According to Energy Star, energy efficiency audits are comprehensive reviews conducted by energy professionals and/or engineers that evaluate the actual performance of a facility’s systems and equipment against their designed capacity or against best available technology. Ideally, the audit results in a report that identifies and prioritizes actual steps for reducing energy use and increasing energy savings. These recommendations might range from simple adjustments in operation to equipment replacement.
For more information on energy efficiency audits and a statewide list of energy professionals, visit the Energy Star website.
- Why are Alaska history and culture emphasized?
One of the guiding principles of the AGA certification program is that tourism in Alaska should both respect and be inspired by local history and culture. Educating visitors about local history and culture helps avoid tourism-related conflicts and encourages cultural sensitivity. Businesses that provide knowledgeable guides and highlight cultural events and traditions help preserve community identity while enhancing the experience of their clients.
- Why is climate change emphasized?
Alaska, sometimes referred to as the “canary in the coal mine,” is already experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Thawing permafrost, increased storm activity, coastal erosion and the spread of invasive species, among other impacts, threaten Alaska’s natural resources and basic transportation infrastructure. The same resources that have helped Alaska become a leading tourism destination are being impacted today by dramatic changes to our climate. Wildlife migration patterns are changing, affecting fishing and hunting seasons; transportation systems like roads and bridges are shifting under thawing permafrost; and increased flooding in communities has already created drastic impacts to our salmon-bearing rivers and streams. While these changes have a direct impact on Alaska’s visitor industry, tourism businesses can play an important role in adapting to climate change and educating the public about the impacts of climate change. One way businesses can help mitigate their own impact is by adopting sustainable businesses practices. The AGA program encourages these practices by promoting more eco-friendly vacation opportunities to travelers visiting Alaska.
- What is a climate change audit?
Climate change poses a significant threat to Alaska’s environment, wildlife and tourism industry. To remain viable, tourism businesses must be able to anticipate the impacts of climate change in the areas in which they operate and adjust their practices accordingly. Because sustainable tourism businesses have an intimate relationship with specific areas of Alaska, they are also in a unique position to educate customers and staff about the on-the-ground impacts of climate change. For purposes of AGA, the climate change audit is any process that helps tourism businesses develop a reasonable level of local expertise on climate change. The audit need not result in a formal, public document but should be summarized in writing.
- How do I obtain a climate change audit?
For any audit process, you should first identify the area or areas in which you operate. For instance, if you offer sea life viewing cruises near Seward, you might focus on Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. You would begin by contacting three to five local “authorities” on the regional effects of global warming.
Using the Seward example, you might start by contacting the area sport fisheries and wildlife biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. You could also contact the Kenai Fjords National Park’s public information officer to learn about receding glaciers and other environmental impacts as well as the Alaska SeaLife Center to learn about likely impacts to marine mammal and seabird populations. In addition, the municipality or local governing body in your region might have planning or engineering staff available with information about climate change impacts to public infrastructure and/or cultural and historical sites.
Remember to take notes as you talk with these experts and summarize your findings in a short (two to four pages will generally be sufficient) “Climate Change Audit.” These findings should be incorporated into your discussions with staff and customers and may be posted on the AGA website.
For an example of a climate change audit, check out the AGA Resources provided to the right side of this page.
- Can I get help conducting the climate change audit?
Yes. ATIA will help you plan and obtain the audit. You may also work with other tourism businesses, land managers or government agencies in your area to develop a joint climate change audit. In some cases, you may find that an equivalent type of climate change audit has already been prepared for your area. It is acceptable to adopt a pre-existing audit, although AGA encourages tourism businesses to look for opportunities to improve or expand upon these documents.