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3 out of 8 travel predictions for 2019 by booking.com support sustainability for people and planet. The survey of 163 million verified guest reviews and 21,500 global travellers in 29 countries found that 2019 will see a more socially and environmentally conscious traveller become evident; that while single-use plastics will continue to be a hot topic, environmental concerns will turn into greater environmental action; and that travellers will want to add more purpose to their trips by learning life skills or giving back to locals through volunteering.
In an encouraging move for destinations trying harder than most to become genuinely sustainable, more than half of global travellers will choose not to go somewhere in 2019 if they feel it will negatively impact the people who live there. The 2019 traveller will also be asking heaps more questions about social, political and environmental issues in potential travel destinations before making a decision on where to visit. Millennials and Gen Z travellers in particular will be looking for sustainable experiences to offset their trip, and places to stay that reduce their plastic usage and increase their sustainability credentials.
To balance out their busy lives, more than half of the surveyed travellers will value experiences more than material possessions in 2019, would like to visit destinations that make them feel like a kid again, and would like to have more technologies that trouble shoot real time travel issues such as lost luggage. It will be increasingly important for travellers to think hard before they fly and offset carbon when they do, for other trends found many holidaymakers will want to experience shorter overnight or weekend trips in 2019 and to see space travel as a reality in the future – all of which points to an increased need for carbon-loaded transport, including short haul flights.
The survey also found travellers will want to stay in increasingly unique and remarkable types of accommodation in 2019, and that many have a desire to stay under the sea in the future. All the more reason for the travel industry to step up and build oodles of carbon neutral, zero waste, self sustaining places to stay.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2018 was a tipping point for the global environment and it was a pivotal year for climate action. The September 2018 IPCC Report warned us that our world has little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and halve them to limit climate change catastrophe, and that allowing warming to reach 1.5C (34.7F) above pre-industrial levels would have grave consequences for people and nature, including the die-off of coral reefs and devastation of many species. The effects of the climate we are changing have long felt distant until now and they are a terrifying wake up call for us who are prepared to listen.
At the start of 2019, NOW Founding Associate – Victoria Fuller – observed that climate change and sustainability are still too far down the political agendas and people everywhere are still distracted with other issues. Sadly, we both know that things may need to get more serious before people will start to wake up to the potential calamity that will face our later years and our children’s generation.
Globally there are many bright minds with resilience solutions and technologies to tackle Climate Change, but many decision makers who can make a difference choose to be distracted by lesser matters. Divisions prevail within borders and fear closes them. Trusted global media do not always connect the dots between natural disasters and climate change and further connect this to human lifestyles in need of correction and consciousness. Most TV news coverage on climate change is limited and monotone at a time when we need reality checks, urgent action, accountability and sirens loud enough to penetrate the stupor.
The rising toll and enormous dangers of climate change cannot be disputed, but maybe the dangers need to get personal and people need to feel fear for their lives to refocus their priorities and ignite more urgent actions. Maybe we need 2019 to be a more precarious year for us to realise that we are running out of time and our window of opportunity is closing.
Our activities and lifestyles produce carbon and green-house gas that is invisible, but their negative impacts are visible in our changing climate and dwindling nature. Nature is our secret weapon and we are in trouble if nature become so degraded that we are unable to draw on it for resilience, protection and stability. Climate change is real. It’s serious. And it’s up to us to solve it.
We protect the children in our lives and care about their health and education, yet we have also created terrifying challenges for them and their children. Many will not have carefree childhoods and teen lives. Many will be let down by elected leaders who don’t lead and disappointed by adults who find excuses and do nothing about the most urgent issue of our time while there is still time. Many will be worried about their future knowing they have the most to loose.
Maybe we need to listen more to children whose simple solution is to just change our materialistic and carbonised lifestyles and do more to protect the nature we love. Nature give us joy and keep us alive and it is the closest thing to magic that we have in our lives. People need nature to survive, but it does not need us.
itmustbeNOW.com and the NOW team refuse to be distracted. At the start of 2019, we bring you a new look, bolder weekly feature articles to promote smarter travel for people and planet, and Climate Action Countdown to 2020 campaign. We bring you technology solutions with the launch of a Carbon Calculator and Carbon Offset programmes, more inspiring choices in NOW Track & Book and innovations with positive impacts later in the year.
Air travel is sometimes the quickest and more affordable way to reach our destination, but it emits more carbon than any other human activity and creates a warming effect that contributes to climate change. Buying carbon offsets and staying in a property that has seriously committed to sustainability are the best way to reduce or neutralize our carbon footprint when we travel.
NOW Track & Book celebrates inspiring and responsible hotels, resorts, lodges, retreats and boats that commit to sustainability and are being accountable, showing progress, stopping the greenwash and being the best they can be right now for our world. They are at different levels in their sustainability journey, ranging from those that have just started out to those that have been committed for decades. All are doing their bit to help sustain our planet, give back to communities and support the sustainable development goals.
Action gives us hope and so does changing public opinion. Be empowered to act NOW and use your spending power to change and save our world, and only support companies that are accountable and doing the right thing. We are all travellers within our borders or abroad and our vote and wallet make us the most influential person to the travel industry. Our actions speak volumes about our values and we are calling on you to boldly act NOW, demand and drive change, and make a difference.
Jochen Zeitz is the inspirational chair of the BTeam and the founder of The Zeitz Foundation which supports The Long Run, a community of like-minded, innovative people committed to leveraging the power of their business for the health of the planet and the well-being of people. Jochen also owns a sustainable safari lodge called Segera in Kenya. Find out more about Jochen here.
One word that describes you?
In your own words, what do you do?
I’m trying to change the role of business in the world. Away from purely financially driven motives to corporate, social and environmental meaning.
Which is your favourite part of your job?
I thrive when I work creatively with a great team.
Which is the part that you enjoy the least?
That it sometimes takes too long to make a great idea work. Anything you want to change is usually met with resistance, no matter how good the idea.
Who are your greatest influences?
My parents when they were still alive, and my wife. My parents taught me how to live and behave in this world and it defines what I am doing now. My wife is a film producer and we bounce ideas off each other.
Best advice you’ve been given?
No matter how successful you are, always stay with both feet on the ground.
Your personal indulgence?
A good glass of wine.
How do you like to travel?
In a small plane where I can see what is happening on the ground. I prefer to fly in a small plane flying low level over the Savanna.
Favourite sustainable hotel or other place to stay?
I stay at the properties which are members of The Long Run. They truly are trying to contribute to the 4C’s – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. I’d rather be in a comfortable setting that feels more like home. Hotels should have something unique and specialised to offer. I am totally biased and I am always happiest when I get back to Segera in Kenya.
What must happen now to help make our planet more sustainable?
The sustainability train has left the station. We have a climate agreement, with or without America, and the biggest polluters around the world have realized that they need to act NOW rather than just make more political noise. We’ve reached a tipping point, and it’s a question of time more than anything.
We have to transform businesses, and they have to provide solutions to some of the environmental issues that they have created, and to help societies and communities according to the Sustainable Development Goals to bring people out of extreme poverty. Businesses need to solve environmental problems, and this can only happen if they become part of the solution rather than continue to be the problem.
If you could have one hour with a world leader, who would it be and what would you say?
It would be Barack Obama, to ask him questions and listen. I’d like to know what he’s learned about how to get things done as a President, and the barriers to success as a President.
Any regrets so far?
No, I don’t look back.
The Long Run is a community of like-minded, innovative people committed to leveraging the power of their business for the health of the planet and the well-being of people. All members of The Long Run are tourism businesses that directly manage or significantly influence the management of a natural area of conservation value. Each member initially joins as a Fellow Member and strives to become recognised as a Global Ecosphere Retreat® (GER®).
GER® members of The Long Run are centers of excellence in sustainability. Each GER® member has undergone all the necessary steps of the rigorous GER® recognition process. Being a GER® demonstrates their commitment as a leader in sustainable tourism and the extensive positive impacts their business has on biodiversity and the well-being of people through pursuing the holistic balance in Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce (4Cs).
It’s astonishing the difference a half a degree in temperature will make to us as a planet — and to travellers on their travels — if governments and individuals don’t act now and worldwide policies don’t change to support climate change.
In a 2018 United Nations landmark report, the world’s leading climate scientists warned we only have 12 years – until 2030 — for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C (34.7F), beyond which even half a degree of change will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
The world is already 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. The report says urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the 1.5C (34.7F) maximum target, which lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C (34.7F) and 2C (35.6F).
So what does this all mean for travellers?
We are already experiencing the impact of changing climate — wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall continue to affect many tourist destinations around the world. The UN report notes that at 2C (35.6F), insanely hot days – such as those experienced in the northern hemisphere last summer – would become more severe and common, increasing heat-related deaths, causing more forest fires, disrupting travel plans and making things extremely uncomfortable for travellers of all kinds.
In addition, the World Bank has warned that more than 140 million people in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia could be forced to migrate by 2030 to escape the worsening impacts of climate change — unless urgent action is taken to curb global warming. Each year there is such displacement around the world because of drought, desertification and sea level rises — and with so many climate refugees on the move, who will want or be able to travel?
Travel will also become much more expensive. Not only will destinations that are disrupted more frequently by the changing climate raise their prices, but it will cost more to reach them. It’s worth noting that the global airlines agreement known as CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) aims to address the increase in total CO2 emissions from international aviation above 2020 levels will most likely increase the cost of flights. Consumers will have less money for optional travel too. Not to mention the fact that the travel industry is the number one employer of people on the world – disrupted locations will cost jobs.
Insurance costs and business risks will also rise for those travellers who have bought residences or time shares in hotels, resorts or cruise liners. In high risk areas and vulnerable coastlines, such properties will decrease in value (in Florida, prices have dropped by up to 7% along the coast compared to inland).
Illustration show President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Hotel in Florida with 10 foot sea level rise. By 2100, a 2017 report by National and Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that flooding caused by climate change will worsen in coming years damaging South Florida’s coasts with 10- to 12-foot rise in sea levels. According to a 2018 Union of Concern Scientists Report, this will also impact fresh water supplies and Florida’s massive tourism industry could lose $178 billion annually by the end of the century. It can also happen sooner if we don’t act quickly and decisively.
The UN report also notes that at 1.5C (34.7F) the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower than at 2C (35.6F). It says that food scarcity would be less of a problem and hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in poor countries, would be at risk of climate-related poverty.
Water shortages threaten health, food production and energy supply, and increase the cost of pretty much everything. This puts additional stress on governments struggling with poverty and social tensions, posing the threat of war and terror. Not such a good vibe if you’re after a relaxing holiday or a trip of a lifetime and also care about the planet and its people.
Insects vital for the pollination of crops, as well as plants, are almost twice as likely to lose half their habitat at 2C (35.6F) compared with 1.5C (34.7F), threatening agriculture and biodiversity.
Corals especially would be 99% lost at the higher of the two temperatures, but more than 10% have a chance of surviving if the lower target is reached, says the report.
Coral reefs may only cover 1 per cent of the ocean, but they account for 25 percent of all marine life – a biodiversity that rivals the Amazon rainforest. Up to 275 million people worldwide depend on this relatively small area for their livelihoods and sustenance. Travellers and divers attracted to healthy reefs who want to see healthy, thriving reefs teeming with life are going to be hugely disappointed – as will be the businesses that support them. These underwater forests attract visitors to over 100 countries and territories, generating an estimated $36 billion in global tourism annually.
If the half-degree extra warming brought a forecast 10cm additional pressure on coastlines, sea-level rise would affect 10 million more people by 2100, a number that would increase substantially in the following centuries due to locked-in ice melt. Sea ice-free summers in the Arctic, which is warming two to three times faster than the world average, would come once every 100 years at 1.5C (34.7F), but every 10 years with half a degree more of global warming. For travellers all this means sinking islands, disappearing destinations, and the loss of many beautiful places to visit and experience – not to mention live in – all over the world.
There will also be far fewer fish to eat – if you want to eat fish, that is, after they’ve been eating all the plastic we’ve chucked into the sea. Oceans are already suffering from elevated acidity and lower levels of oxygen as a result of climate change. In the UN report, one model shows marine fisheries would lose 3m tonnes at 2C (35.6F), twice the decline at 1.5C (34.7F).
At a very basic level, extreme storms, flooding and heat waves along with rising sea levels will damage infrastructure such as roadways, leading to dangerous collapses and billions in damage by the century’s end. People will quite simply get hurt and die if nothing is done.
For the travel industry, there really is nowhere left to hide. Greenwashing and poor environmental and social performance are no longer acceptable; instead we need accountability and transparency. Travellers of all kinds are increasingly aware of the challenges that face the planet and what a company should be doing to manage its operational footprint. It’s up to all of us to use our votes and spending power and be the change we want to see.
Many of us flock to hotel spas to relax, regroup and recharge in the name of wellbeing – but just how ‘well’ are these spas themselves, and are their practices at odds with a sustainable future for both people and planet? If we want to move beyond eco friendly hotels and green travel to embrace sustainable travel practices that are altogether more benign, it’s a subject we just cannot ignore.
The word SPA stands for Sanus Per Aquum, or health through water, and traditionally referred to a simple healing place that had a natural source of mineral water. Though its definition has been joyfully stretched over the years to refer to any kinds of wellness offering, a place should only really use the word if it has a bona fide ‘wet area’ with facilities such as a steam room, a hammam, various types of sauna, a jacuzzi, whirlpools or hot tubs, a swimming pool, rain showers and so on.
Clearly, such spas use supreme amounts of water and energy to function on a daily basis, yet they are often the last department in a hotel to become sustainable. The planet needs spas that use solar, water or wind-powered alternatives to electricity, that have effective waste management programmes, that embrace water conservation initiatives such as recycling of grey water from laundry and showers. It needs spas to use energy efficient light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, sustainable materials such as bamboo and toxic free paints – even to create green roofs or on-site sustainable gardens. Yet too many hotels are not embracing these exciting opportunities for their spas, despite the fact that by reducing importing, waste and energy costs they will help to save a spa money in the long term – and offer their guests a more enriching, health-giving experience.
Unsustainable spas affect our own wellbeing as well as the planet’s, and whilst we might go into a steam room to sweat out our toxins, many spa wet areas are actually swimming in them. By their very nature facilities such as steam rooms or swimming pools can grow moulds quickly and breed all sorts of germs, yet they are often not cleaned as thoroughly on a daily basis as they should be – to save money, or simply because of staff or management incompetence. Jocelyn Pedersen, a Spa and Wellness Advisor with over 25 years of experience in the world of spa and wellness in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, says because of this situation it’s important to ask a spa questions before you book a session. ‘How can you know if a spa is not so healthy? The most important places to look at are the wet areas,’ says Pedersen. ‘Hygiene, sanitation and ventilation are crucial, since heat and poor water quality can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, which also can be inhaled via contaminated mist. Sometimes the mould is actually visible, and you can smell a pungent odour. Check if there is a spa attendant present who is responsible for disinfecting and cleaning everything, and who checks the facilities at least every hour’.
Similarly, salt caves that need medical grade salt, and flotation pools that need vast quantities of sea or mined salt, often recycle the salts several times or never renew it at all to reduce costs. ‘Flotation pools and salt caves also cost a lot to operate,’ says Pedersen. ‘Does the spa recycle the salt in the flotation pool, and how do they clean the salt room? Ask before you book your treatment.’
When cleanliness is taken seriously, the choice is more often than not a chemically-loaded solution rather than a more natural, planet-and-skin-friendly alternative. Chlorine continues to be used as a default cleaner for most spa swimming pools, even though there are so many other affordable and far more sustainable and healthy alternative choices for people and planet, such as reed-filtered pools.
Other areas of the spa experience can also be highly unsustainable, from the expensive glossy treatment menus that could have been printed on recycled paper or offered as a digital version, to the spa slippers, towels and robes made of unsustainably-sourced cheap cottons that guests are offered in the changing rooms. Biodegradable and ethical versions of these amenities are available, but not taken up by spas as they should be because they are deemed too expensive.
One of the most prevalent, non-sustainable practices in spas I find the most shocking is the provision of water in plastic bottles for guests to drink – where it could be so easy to provide large glass urns filled with filtered water and sustainably made cups or drinking bottles to drink it from instead. Too often too, spa products, amenity items in the changing rooms and ‘healthy’ spa snacks come packaged in non-biodegradable plastic.
It’s obvious that what we breathe in, see and use on our skin in a spa should be conducive to our wellbeing, yet this is too often not the case. Most of us are now aware why we need to use naturally-derived products on our skin, yet not enough hotel spas make the effort to seek out companies who are committed to producing products without sulphates, phosphates and other pollutants, or to using local, sustainably sourced, organic and seasonal ingredients wherever possible – in both spa products and spa cuisine.
Part of the pleasure of entering a wet area can be the fragrances you smell – sometimes, these can be organically sourced essential oils that have been used to infuse the air, when they smell divine – but any regular spa goer with a sensitive nose will know that, too often, synthetic, artificial scents are used instead, making us wrinkle up with suspicion. They contain a lot of preservatives, emulsifiers and alcohol – and though pure organic essential oils are a better healthier option, they can be expensive if a busy spa is running its steam room from 6 am in the morning until 10 pm at night.
It’s also a very curious thing that, rather than being shining examples of wellness architecture built from breathable materials, with plenty of views of the natural world, lots of natural light and clean air, many spas in hotels are built of unsustainable materials, use artificial light to create an atmosphere and are located in the basement, where guests and staff don’t see any natural light for hours at a time. It’s a little like state hospitals that offer unhealthy meals, strip lighting and clinical atmospheres when they should be offering the opposite to help ill people heal. Surely spas of all places should be beacons of wellness?
‘The most exciting trend in spas is wellness architecture, which is finally going mainstream’, says Pedersen. ‘This will raise the benchmark for future spas and hotels. Architects will have to take responsibility for providing the healthiest designs possible using proper sustainable materials and methods.’ Pedersen adds that, from an operational point of view, sometimes the spa design, though very beautiful, is not practical or conducive to running efficient and profitable operations. ‘Building materials might not have been chosen to reduce noise in the spa area, there might be inadequate storage facilities, lack of logical planning for operational procedures and workplace wellbeing. All aspects of the guest journey and back of house have to taken into consideration when designing the spa – to create a great experience, but also to save money and make money’.
Using local staff and paying them appropriately is also key to a healthy spa, and sometimes you have to question how well the people are who are touching you and giving you their energy. ‘Touching another human being is a sacred act, so it’s important companies invest in appropriate training and care for their staff,’ says Denise Leicester, founder of UK-based skincare company ila, which works with hotel spas around the world. ‘Too often a spa will opt for only a few days training, where we advise much longer to ensure therapists truly understand what they are doing and deliver it well’.
We as travellers and spa-goers should have the confidence to ask about staff before we choose to book a treatment or a spa session. Are they being treated and paid properly, and do they walk their healthy talk? There’s a huge disparity between the benign, healthy and happy therapist with wonderfully strong hands dressed in a comfortable, cotton uniform who is clearly enjoying their work and getting enough of their own rest and rejuvenation, and the stressed employee wearing an itchy, synthetic uniform who has just done six hour-long back to back massages and has that weary, hunted look of a person who just cannot wait to get to the end of the working day.
If a spa is not sustainable, it’s highly likely that the hotel it is based at isn’t sustainable either – after all, the spa is just one area of the complex or building. As ever, when it comes to hotels and sustainablity, we as travellers and spa goers need to vote with our wallets, ask lots of questions before we book and aim to only visit spas that are making every conceivable effort to be sustainable for both people and planet. Alternatively, we could consider bathing only in nature’s pools until they do.
Message from NOW: The Alpina Gstaad is committed to achieving best practice environmental and social sustainability and has partnered with EarthCheck, the world’s leading benchmarking and certification provider. The Alpina Gstaad is EarthCheck benchmarked bronze.
NOW talks to former super model Elle Macpherson, who has carved out a diverse and purposeful career over the past 30 years and is a prominent figure in business, fashion, film and television and the co-founder of Australian-based Wellness and Beauty company. Find out more here.
On your travels which country have you found to be the most aware and engaged when it comes to environmental issues?
I can talk about Australia, as the natural beauty of our country and our beaches are such a part of our DNA. We live outside, on the beaches, in the surf, and in a way we are born environmentalists – this is particularly so for the next generation, the connection is that strong. I believe Australian produce is some of the cleanest and most highly valued in the world – we are an island, and we don’t have many of the viruses and pests that other countries may encounter. We protect this fiercely – you can’t even bring a piece of fruit with you into Western Australia!
You are known for wanting to be in nature at any opportunity. Have you had any recent experiences that highlight the challenges facing our planet?
Last month I was humbled and honoured to witness whale sharks in the Mexican Ocean. This was such a privilege – I will always cherish it. It was an experience that heightened my admiration for the natural beauty we live in – and that we need to nurture and protect.
Can you share some favourite places to stay that you feel are doing something genuinely sustainable for people and planet?
In Mexico, I stayed at two wonderful places in Tulum. Nomade Tulum is a human-centered hotel, conceived as a temporary habitat for those ready to learn and share, ready to awake the soul, and free the mind. Then there’s Casa Malca, a home for thinkers and dreamers who believe in the liberating powers of creativity and self discovery. In Costa Rica there are also some great eco hotels too. It’s hard to know who exactly is doing a good job, but if we make the best efforts we can to support what we believe are sustainable businesses, then it will make a difference.
Do you think it’s important for ‘eco’ companies to prove they are sustainable, rather than just say they are?
Absolutely, accountability is the key. Consumers have the right to choose the companies they wish to support and make personal ethical choices based on open and honest information.
How does WelleCo address environmental and social sustainability issues?
We encourage Meat Free Mondays as a way to do our part in reducing the amount of global greenhouse gases, and our products are all-plant. All the premium wholefood ingredients in our SUPER ELIXIR, for example, come from natural, organic and whole foods which we carefully source from known and trusted suppliers, and they are hand made in Australia.
How dynamic is the wellness industry in addressing sustainability?
The wellness industry just keeps improving when it comes to addressing sustainability, and this needs to continue. By reducing our environmental footprint, we can operate more efficiently, which means a stronger focus on human health and wellness. If we invest in ourselves now, our futures will be brighter and healthier.
Is there anything specific you do when you travel in the name of sustainability?
I love supporting other socially responsible and ethical brands. I often pack pieces by designers like Stella McCartney who are committed to sustainability, vegan and animal friendly products.
If you had one hour in a room with all the world’s leaders this year – what would you ask them?
I would invite all the unknown heroes around the world who are lobbying governments to end poverty to accompany me. As a collective, we could all share conversations, knowledge, ideas on how we would work together to achieve this.