The Green Edge: How to raise your hotel’s eco-conscience
Planet love. This simple idea is transforming the global travel and tourism industry as we know it.
Given its size and scale – from 25 million international tourism arrivals in 1950, to more than 1 billion last year -- and with that number expected to double by 2030, for those who can help hotel and hospitality companies to meet the challenges underway, including the costs of implementing sustainable tourism principles and practices, the opportunities are great, according to industry insider, Costas Christ, director of sustainable tourism for National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World.
“Companies and destinations that understand the significance of the shift will emerge as the travel leaders of tomorrow,” says Christ.
“Tourism is an industry in the business of selling “products” that are based on nature and culture. When was the last time you saw a brochure for a resort with tourists frolicking on a beach filled with plastic garbage? The industry needs to protect what it sells.”
“To this end, sustainability consultants are in demand,” says Christ. “An increasing number of universities offer degrees and majors in sustainable tourism, like George Washington University School of Hospitality, among others. It’s an exciting time for those who seek a meaningful career, and at the same time, earn enough income to make a decent living,” says Christ.
For job seekers interested in working in this growing professional space, “It matters less whether you come from the environmental or hospitality field, and more that you understand the issues surrounding tourism today, such as getting business leaders to think long term, beyond short-term profit gains, and to better understand that the future of the tourism industry is based upon protecting the very attractions that travelers want to experience – unspoiled nature, amazing wildlife, cultural authenticity, historic sites, a clean and healthy environment, and so on,” says Christ.
Costas started out as a wildlife field biologist, but after observing the flourishing safari tourism industry in Africa, alongside extreme village poverty, his focus shifted to issues of conservation, poverty alleviation and to promoting the concept of traveling with meaning. To advance his vision, he went on to co-found, The International EcoTourism Society in 1991 and launched the Beyond Green Travel consulting firm. He routinely works with hotel clients from the ground up, on planning new sustainable tourism properties from concept through opening day, as well as existing hotels, to develop and improve their sustainable tourism practices.
Under Christ’s leadership, some of Unique Lodges of the World’s best sustainability practices are the Brando’s use of renewable energy from coconut oil and solar in Tahiti to power 90% of their resort's energy needs. In Costa Rica, Lapa Rios Eco Lodge established a 400-acre nature reserve, protecting critical high biodiversity habitat in the country’s Osa Peninsula. And in Zambia, The Bushcamp Company funds $300,000 annually into community development initiatives, including education scholarships for more than 350 students up to the university level, distributing 3000 anti-malaria bed nets each year among local villages, and providing a daily meal to 1500 school children in need.
At Rosewood Mayakoba, part of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, the Riviera Maya, Mexico-based hotel’s in-house Environmental Team of more than 30 trained staffers and residents are tasked with educating, informing, training and promoting environmental awareness and conservation, says Raquel Guzman, the property’s resident biologist.
Last year alone, the resort conducted 289 eco-tours for adults and 176 for children, says Guzman. One eco-boat tour for example, was led, “through the chemical-free lagoons and mangroves to discover and discuss native vegetation and wildlife, along with conservation efforts for local sea turtles,” she says.
The success of any hotel’s sustainability efforts are often evidenced through guest experience. After visiting, “Guests tend to depart with a renewed sense of social responsibility. While staying here, many visitors engage with local purveyors and artisans in an effort to understand and give back to the community. These experiences range from visiting a nearby elementary school, bee farm, or handmade tortilla factory,” says Guzman.
Read on to learn about 4 of Mayakoba’s Model Sustainability Programs:
Fauna and Wildlife Program
“The program promotes a peaceful co-existence between the people and wildlife through monitoring, feral wildlife control, habitat conservation, and veterinary care,” says Guzman. Since 2014, 87 wild animals were rescued and relocated, 2057 sea turtle hatchlings were born in Mayakoba’s turtle camp and released in to the sea.”
Flora and Vegetation Management Program
“Sixty-five plant species have been used for reforestation, landscaping and maintenance of conservation areas and gardens,” says Guzman.
Waste and Recycling Management Program
“We aim to ensure a minimum carbon footprint,” says Guzman. In 2015 alone, the program collected 477 wheels that are recycled within the cement industry, and 316 pounds of toners were sent to the Hewlett Packard Partners program.
“The resort visited and donated to three separate communities. And, the property’s Energetic Program invested to reduce oil that is used to heat beach pool and spa facilities," says Guzman.