As the eco movement sweeps across the globe, Europe’s travel and hospitality players are jumping on the ‘green’ bandwagon, doing all that they can to reduce their impact on the environment. Tatiana Tsierkezou investigates.
It’s about time. It’s about time we open our eyes and understand that our actions have consequences. It’s about time we realise that every plastic water bottle we drink out of, every straw, carrier bag and single-use cup, plate or piece of cutlery we use will eventually cause more harm than good. And it’s about time we do something to combat these alarming effects that are a result of our short-sighted actions.
According to theworldcounts.com, tourism contributes over five per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with transportation accounting for 90 per cent of this. That figure is somewhat petrifying, but thankfully, mindfulness of our precious environment is growing day-by-day and Europe’s tourism stakeholders are now more conscious than ever, adopting new initiatives that will reduce their impact on the Earth and its inhabitants.
CHANGE IN PROGRESS
There are many actions that can significantly reduce tourism’s negative impacts on the environment. The city of Geneva can vouch for that. According to PR and media relations manager – overseas countries, Geneva Tourism & Conventions Foundation, Julia Cuénod, Geneva has been actively involved in taking measures to ensure the protection, or even enhancement, of natural habitats to safeguard biodiversity.
“We are happy that the ‘green’ movement is growing to become a trend nowadays. Geneva signed the Aalborg Charter of European Cities and Towns Towards Sustainability back in 1995 as a step forward to protect the environment. The city is always taking measures to make more environmentally friendly decisions and is working towards eliminating single-use plastics as a step to make the city plastic free by 2020. At its level, Geneva Tourism has adapted an internal strategy to further foster the green movement.”
Elsewhere in Switzerland, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, which can be found in a picturesque location at the foot of the alps, has also adopted some alternative initiatives to preserve the planet.
The hotel’s marketing and digital content manager, Lucie Piron explained that Fairmont Le Montreux Palace has installed an herbarium on the terrace, whose herbs are used in the hotel’s dishes, while four bee houses have been installed in its gardens to support the health of bees locally and assist with pollination.
“We encourage green transports throughout our staff to limit the CO2 impact and we have removed plastic items from daily operations in F&B venues. We also ask our customers to reuse their towels if possible, and the savings made on water and energy are used to fund tree planting. One tree is planted every minute,” Piron told TTG.
Other initiatives at the hotel include a BioMaster station, which converts leftovers (such as frying oil, coffee grounds, fats and more) into Biogas to produce ecological renewable energy. The property has additionally replaced all standard bulbs with LED bulbs and uses the cold temperature from the nearby lake to cool the air dispatched by its air conditioning system to avoid excessive use of energy.
Simple changes such as these truly do make a difference to the environment, and other popular destinations in Europe, such as Germany, understand how valuable even the smallest shift is.
Marketing manager trade and media relations – Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe, Munich Tourist Board, Robert Leckel told TTG: “Munich, Bavaria’s capital, is in many programmes that support the green movement, especially programmes made by the European Union. We participate in programmes for waste separation and waste avoidance. Also, we have many parks and green areas within the city of Munich that we maintain and develop.”
Also commenting on Bavaria’s dedication to the environment was head of overseas marketing, Bayern Tourismus Marketing, Claudia Mitchell: “Sustainability is not a trend but a necessity in our time and age. Healthy nature is the basis of Bavaria’s touristic success, however, sustainability does not only mean ecological challenges. It also includes the preservation of regional specialties, such as unique cultural events, regional cuisine or traditional events. By collaborating with the Bavarian ambassadors, we promote local events, products and experiences, and strengthen Bavaria in its entirety, and hence, establish a basis for sustainable growth in the cities and in the countryside.”
LESSENING THE BLOW
Without a doubt, some of the damage we as human beings have caused is irreversible, but there are some things we can do to make things better.
Zooming into Cyprus – the island of love; this country’s tourism industry has been thriving in recent years. Due to an increase in footfall to the country, hotels have had to rethink their approach to hospitality to reduce wastage.
Situated in Pissouri, Columbia Beach Resort’s aptly named ‘Green Team’ regularly runs beach clean ups, invests in local conservation, sponsors local community events and utilises the services of local, licenced associates.
The hotel has also significantly reduced its carbon footprint over the last 18 months, and several sustainable green initiatives have resulted in a huge reduction in water wastage and energy consumption across the resort. It now operates virtually CO2 free. Adding to this, the resort has completely removed single use plastics from the premises and has started using eco-friendly chemical and cleaning products. Columbia Beach Resort also operates ‘off grid’ in terms of water consumption, following the installation of a third-degree treatment facility that sees every drop of wastewater recycled for use on its 33,000m2 of landscaped gardens. Excess treated water is supplied to local farmers and in times of natural water scarcity, the resort will turn to its desalination plant to ensure guests’ needs are met.
Meanwhile in Limassol, the upscale St. Raphael Resort and Marina pin-points sustainability as a core focus of its operations.
The property’s managing director, Farah Shammas exclusively shared: “This is a movement that is very close to our hearts and our business ethos. We have been working tirelessly to reduce our footprint as a company, give back to our local and international community and be as green as possible, even when it’s an additional cost to us as a business. We are one of the first to be so progressive and as a result have been on national television for our efforts. We not only recycle and have recycling collection bins around the hotel, but we have banned plastic straws in our hotel, use eco-friendly toilet paper and of course encourage guests to save water.”
A country that has strong ties with Cyprus, Russia’s tourism industry is also on the ‘green’ bandwagon, with hotels making sustainability a vital part of their ethos.
General manager, Hotel National, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Moscow, Jesper Francl elucidated: “Hotels around the globe are taking actions to improve their green credentials and our property is no exception. At the time of climate change, we understand that staying in a hotel does not mean only to create comfortable conditions but also to care about environmental sustainability. We use energy-efficient appliances and automatic room temperature control systems, while water conservation has been a part of our standard Green Programme for several years. We also use water purification systems to extend the life of washing equipment.”
Francl explained that Marriott International, which owns the hotel, aims to remove disposable plastic straws and plastic stirrers from more than 6,500 properties across 30 brands around the world.
“In one year it is possible to eliminate the utility of more than one-billion plastic straws per year. One plastic straw, which is used for about five minutes, will never fully decompose. As soon as a decision was taken on this initiative, we stopped purchasing plastic products and plan to switch to fully organic materials as soon as we use up the leftovers,” he told TTG.
As Hotel National, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Moscow is situated two steps away from Moscow’s main attractions, the property also encourages its guests to explore the city on foot, offering them detailed walking maps, while several bike sharing spots are within arm’s reach.
Europe’s movers and shakers are spearheading change that will hopefully lead to cleaner tourism and a happier and healthier planet.