Sustainable Tourism Current Trends in Hotel Sustainability
As clients become more sophisticated, hotels are staying ahead with sustainability policies that make business sense and make a difference.
Last December, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2017 the Year for Sustainable Tourism for Development, marking the beginning of an ambitious long-term agenda to build a more responsible and socially conscious tourism sector. The potential is enormous. With one in eleven of the world´s jobs, and 10% of the world´s GDP, the tourism industry looks to be a leader on the world stage, particularly regarding the environment. In the context of hotel sustainability, environmental issues have grown in importance, moving beyond a fringe social cause and into the realm of sound business practices. And energy use is at the forefront of these environmental concerns, especially in the hotel industry, where smart energy practices are being incorporated into companies´ Corporate Social Responsibility.
Iberostar Hotels & Resorts CSR Officer Laura Molano says that “In the year declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, initiatives such as environmental awareness campaign ‘Earth Hour’ have a particularly crucial role to play in raising society’s awareness of the vital importance of simple, everyday actions such as saving energy. The COP21 Sustainable Innovation Forum set a clear objective for the end of the century, and it is up to each of us to ensure our habits contribute to protecting the planet we live in, turning our environment into a place of prosperity and wellbeing.”
The COP21 Forum is just one of the many benchmarks businesses are using to become responsible consumers and intelligent citizens of the planet. Habits of environmentally sound business practices are moving from local, passing gestures to company-wide marks of excellence. In addition, Iberostar adheres to the Global Compact for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), conforming to their 17 targets defined in pursuit of the eradication of poverty, protection of the planet and the secure future and prosperity for all.
But gestures can have a real impact. Along with thousands of companies and individuals in 187 countries, Iberostar has been turning out its lights every year in celebration of Earth Hour, organized in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund, a widespread awareness and PR campaign that asks consumers to switch off their bulbs for 60 minutes to bring glaring attention to the consequences of coal, gas and oil being used to power the world´s industries. From its beginnings as a burgeoning cause in 2007, the movement has grown in line with the world´s increasing attention to environmentalism and climate change. From Palma de Mallorca to New York City, from South Africa to Rio de Janeiro, famous monuments, homes, hotels, conference rooms and restaurants went dark to highlight the impact that humans have on the planet, and to raise awareness of climate change. In participating, thousands of businesses and proactive citizens made a collective gesture so large that could be seen from space.
When individuals turn off their lights for an hour, it´s a show of solidarity, albeit limited, but when a chain of hotels does it, the impact is as weighty as it is quantifiable. A gesture that makes a difference. The philosophy of “I Will If You Will” (IWIYW) takes on a special meaning on the worldwide stage, and even more so when there are long-term policy changes that benefit the planet. Taking advantage of recent advances in technology, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts has been increasing its use of LED lights and LED television sets, already resulting in an 85% decrease in energy consumption, which extends to an 80% drop in CO2 emissions.
At Iberostar Selection Playa Mita's facilities in our hotel in Riviera Nayarit, special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift have reduced their energy consumption by 50% over conventional elevators. Also, an advanced air conditioning system at the hotel uses a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. As part of their overall environmental policy, Iberostar has invested over 33 million euros in improving the energy consumption habits in its more than 100 hotels around the globe.
In our hotel in Jamaica , a similar virtual system is being utilized to detect opened doors and unoccupied spaces, and controls the operation of chillers, pumps, boilers and electrical systems, resulting in an over 5% reduction in energy consumption. Influential hotels and resorts brands like Iberostar are showing that going green is not only a boost for a brand´s overall image, it is also a great business model. But practical energy consumption is only one aspect of hotel sustainability.
In the past, disposable items have sometimes been a sign of affluence, therefore synonymous with luxury, but times are changing. There is increasing antagonism toward the attitude that large, successful companies need not concern themselves with the seemingly minor expenditure of one-time-use amenities, and companies no longer see needless waste as a cost of doing business. Instead of a sort of badge of honor, it is a symptom of negligence and irresponsibility. Many hotels are moving beyond the superficial gestures of asking clients to keep their towels an extra day or simply cutting back on room amenities.
In order to take sustainability seriously, policy changes must be incorporated into the culture of the company. And this sea change in corporate culture is showing real results for the health of the planet. Iberostar´s simple idea of replacing 420,000 disposable cups with reusable ones effectively erases 8,000kg of CO2 emissions each year. Its hotel amenities are packaged in biodegradable materials, saving 90 tons of CO2 emissions annually. The cultural implications are clear. With such proactive steps in company policy reform, not only do the employees adopt more sensible environmental approaches in day-to-day business, awareness is raised in the eyes of its clients (about a million and a half of them for Iberostar in 2016).
Both Iberostar and the majority of its hotels have been recognized with various international certificates. Among the most outstanding are: the ISO 14001, a standard that certifies that companies have demonstrated the reduction of costs by means of an appropriate treatment of waste and efficient use of local natural resources; Green Globe , which recognizes companies that use innovation and technology to improve environmental management; and Green Key , a standard of excellence that focuses on companies and tourist establishments.
Iberostar has also been proactive in its recycling program for cardboard, PET and aluminum, particularly at its three properties in Jamaica, where it earned the prestigious Green Globe certification. In Jamaica, their Rose Hall Estate epitomizes this new phase of corporate sustainability, as the hotel lies in a delicate coastal area that calls for a particular attention to low-impact integration into the local surroundings. Policies have been put in place, specifically in the storage and disposal of biodegradable materials and recyclable products, which not only shows initiative, but also instills a new integral company policy that is long-term and meaningful.
Photography by Cordon Press and Getty Images