“If big hotels can make small changes, the ripple can be huge,” said Paula Vlamings, chief executive of Tourism Cares, an NPO that works with travel operators to mitigate tourism’s environmental impact.
While Marriott International and other large chains have promised to eliminate items that never fully decompose, such as plastic straws, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“There are thousands of these one-at-a-time initiatives, but these are not evenly spread across the lodging industry,” said Bjorn Hanson, a clinical professor at New York University’s Tisch Centre for Hospitality and Tourism.
Here are four ways that hotels and resorts are addressing climate concerns:
Saving coral reefs
The 114-room Conrad Bora Bora Nui resort in French Polynesia has developed 17 different underwater coral structures around its resort with the mindset to regenerate them. This is done using a “biorock” technique (passing a low-voltage current through electrodes in the water) developed by marine biologist Denis Schneider. The process is considered among the best ways to fight coral mortality.
Sebastien Pisano, the hotel’s general manager, said he had seen a significant increase in the amount of coral around the resort, and this now spanned a half acre (roughly the size of three tennis courts).
The Mayakoba region in Riviera Maya, Mexico, is filled with lagoons and mangroves, and one luxury property there attempts to offer ecotourism experiences to guests. Fairmont Mayakoba, in alliance with an NGO called Oceanus AC, arranges a snorkel tours to underwater nurseries near the Puerto Morales national park area, where guests gather “acropora palmata” (a type of Caribbean reef-building coral) detached by the force of the marine current. With assistance of the tour leader, they help transplant the coral to the sea bottom to ensure it is able to continue its growth.
Energy and water conservation
All of the water drunk and used at Jade Mountain in St Lucia draws from a river in the Anse Mamim valley; the resort filters and conditions it in a treatment facility. The resort also designed open-air rooms to allow natural breezes to cool the areas, eliminating the need for air conditioning.
“We are still able to maintain our luxury experience,” said Carl Hunter, the resort’s property manager, adding that the potable water took care of all the hotel’s needs.
Solmar Hotels and Resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, heats water (including in its pools) using photo-thermal panels.
Hostelling International USA became the first hostel company in the world to implement “smart showers” that limit showering time to seven minutes. The company plans to roll out more than 750 showers across its 50 properties, each with colourful LED lights to gently alert guests that time is up. “If each guest showers for 30 seconds less, we save around (3.7 million litres) of water each year,” said Netanya Trimboli, Hostelling International’s marketing director.
Kudadoo, a private resort island in the Maldives, became the first fully energy-sustainable property there, using solar panels designed into the roof of its main building, The Retreat. This energy source is able to fully power the island.
The 99-room Svart, on the Helgeland coastline in Norway, will open by 2022 as the world’s first net energy positive hotel above the polar circle. The entire hotel is powered by solar panels; excess energy is saved for when the country has more darkness than light-filled days.
“We have also removed materials that consume more energy, including concrete, and focused on wood, natural stone or glass,” said project manager Ivaylo Lefterov.
Preserving food and repurposing waste
With roughly a third of the world’s food getting either lost or wasted, more hotels and resorts have begun efforts to curb squandering on their properties.
The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, recently established a food waste diversion programme where half-eaten food items such as fruit and pastries are put into a digester that turns them into reusable water. “From the program’s initial launch in August 2018, the hotel has diverted more than (5 000kg) of food waste from landfills while creating (3 500 litres) of water,” said general manager Carlo Carroccia.
The Inn at Dos Brisas in Washington, Texas, won an industry award for its efforts in environmental sustainability, for composting the waste products of the inn’s equestrian facility on a large scale and reviving the once-depleted land.
Creating eco-minded communities
Two Arlo hotels in New York offer free monthly talks about sustainability across various industries with the aim of forming a community for eco-conscious travellers. The next one in SoHo explains ethnobotany and how to lead a green lifestyle.
The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach organises three-hour-long beach clean-ups every three months.