- Published: Saturday, 27 September 2008 01:36
|In recent years the concept of ‘sustainable tourism’ (‘eco-tourism,’ ‘green tourism’) has become a popular byword. What does it actually refer to? Where does Israel, and more specifically Eilat, stand on this issue? And will people actually pay just to ‘be green’? [read more]|
|Does demand versus cost justify hotels ‘going green'?
Should the hotels bother taking all the trouble to ‘green up' their act when, conscience and conservation aside, it involves at least an initial expense to institute? The answer is a resounding ‘yes'! Surveys all over the world have shown that sustainable tourism is important to people, so much so that they are willing to pay extra in order to stay in environmentally friendly hotels. 70% of British, American, and Australian tourists would pay up to $150 extra for a two-week stay in one. 87% of British tourists would not be willing to have their holiday harm the environment. 65% of German tourists (39 million) expect environmentally friendly products and 42% of them want environmentally friendly hotels. 58.5 million Americans say they would pay more to use a travel company that strives to protect and preserve the environment, 61% of whom would pay as much as 5-10% more.
This is in regard to tourism. A survey of business travellers in the USA was commissioned by a well-known company there, Deloitte Hospitality. Its findings showed that the top five ‘green' expectations travellers had of their hotels were recycling (77%), using energy-efficient lighting (74%), using energy-efficient windows (59%), letting guests request sheets/towels not be changed (52%), and using environmentally safe cleaning products (49%). 71% feel the lodging industry is only ‘somewhat' green, while 23% say it is not green at all. 20% said they had stayed at a hotel that did not allow them to be as green as they wished, while around 30% say they had requested to not change towels/sheets but the hotel did so anyway.
Of seven green actions that travellers could take, the survey found that Generation Y considered itself the most green while in actuality doing the fewest of the green actions listed. The Baby Boom generation tended to be most green. Women tended to be ‘greener' than men by as much as 10 percentage points on some issues, such as turning off lights, adjusting heat/cooling when leaving the hotel room, and using public transportation. Besides these, the green actions listed included requesting that towels not be changed, bedding not be changed, conserving water, and conservative use of the toiletries provided. Deloitte, like so many others, see sustainability as a market imperative, not a luxury or a fad, and carry out such surveys in order to for hotels to adjust their approaches accordingly.
All this, of course, is in addition to what should be glaringly obvious: that by saving on resources, hotels are saving on expenses. There are the direct savings such as less electricity or water consumption, for example, as well as indirect savings such as towels and bedding lasting longer if washed less frequently, prolonging the life of appliances, and suchlike.
A tourist looking to be ‘green' on holiday and not just at home will be looking for environmentally friendly hotels or similar terms such as ‘ecolodges', ‘green hotels', ‘sustainable tourism', etc. Any location catering to tourism, and in particular a city whose main source of income is tourism, would do well to encourage and to publicise such accommodation. It creates an all-win situation: the tourist is happy, the hotel benefits, the city benefits, and most importantly for the long term, the environment benefits. And we're the ones still living in this environment long after the tourist has returned home.
Sustainable tourism, of course, goes beyond only the hotels in which people stay while on holiday. It has to do with factors such as the impact of tourism on the environment in other activities, its impact on the local society, issues such as public transport and bike/pedestrian paths, and more. However, hotels are individual entities that can each act on their own to become more environmentally sustainable, making their job easier than projects involving more complicated infrastructures or organisational coordination. I saw on one of the news sites a few days ago that "Kfar Saba became the first city in Israel, and perhaps the world, last week to adopt a master plan to become a sustainable, environmentally friendly city." Eilat, as Israel's leading tourist resort, has even more reason to adopt such a plan.
After 6 October 2008 we will even have specific official criteria to refer to. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism Criteria (STC Partnership), a coalition of 27 organisations initiated by Rainforest Alliance and UN tourism and environmental organisations, works together "to foster increased understanding of sustainable tourism practices and the adoption of universal sustainable tourism principles." The STC Partnership will be launching the Sustainable Tourism Criteria at the World Conservation Congress in October 2008. "These criteria will be the minimum standard that any tourism business should aspire to reach in order to protect and sustain the world's natural and cultural resources while ensuring tourism meets its potential as a tool for poverty alleviation," in the words of its website. Stay tuned.