Where are we with sustainable travel?

Where are we with sustainable travel?
views

471

Total
Views
comments no comments

2017 is the year of sustainable tourism for development. So how far have we come as the year draws to a close and we look ahead to 2018? Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations to meet their own needs. Far from needing to sound ‘sexy’, at this most urgent of times, it requires us to go beyond eco, green and eco-friendly travel initiatives to operating in a socially and environmentally responsible way with rigorous proof of sustainable performance and progress. To this end, NOW asked some top travel editors and writers for their thoughts.

Looking Ahead - Think Piece

Francisca Kellett Travel Editor of Tatler magazine and freelance travel journalist

Which places to stay walk the talk on sustainability in your experience?

‘Grootbos in the Western Cape in South Africa is my absolute favourite sustainable hotel – it is both terrifically eco and gloriously stylish, charging a small nightly fee on top of the room rate to fund all sorts of brilliant local projects. Run by Michael Lutzeyer and his family, they are big on conservation (the lodge is in an area of endangered fynbos, a distinctive type of vegetation that is unique to the Western Cape), but also on social enterprise and community involvement, funding everything from a huge local sports club for township kids, to a horticultural college that trains up disadvantaged youths. They also bottle all their own water (so no plastic), have their own organic farm that provides the restaurants, and there are bee hives that produce delicious honey. It has transformed this corner of the country, and is utterly inspirational.’

Bathroom towels aside, what is the most irritating greenwashing that you’ve come across on your travels?

‘I was recently at a lodge that claimed to be sustainable (and indeed was 100% solar-powered and used only sustainably-sourced materials in its construction) but then had tiny disposable plastic bottles of products in the bathrooms, which was irritating. What’s wrong with a lovely refillable ceramic bottle? (Which, by the way, can be disinfected between guests – so those hoteliers that claim they are unhygienic need to take a long, hard look at themselves)’.

What do you personally hope to do in 2018 to create more awareness around sustainability for travellers?

‘There is definite change in the air, and I think as a member of the media, I have a responsibility to do my bit and champion those places that are benefiting host communities and environments. I have long written about those hotels and lodges that are making a difference to their host communities and environments, and am now collaborating with other journalists to do more to encourage our readers, on whatever platform, to choose where they go and how they travel more wisely.’

Looking Ahead - Think Piece
Credit: Michael Turek

Sophy Roberts Freelance travel journalist for the Financial Times and the US edition of Condé Nast Traveler

If there was a Nobel prize for sustainable tourism, who would you nominate?

Lewa in Kenya is a shining example of a successful, sustainable African wildlife conservancy. I particularly like Sirikoi Lodge – elegant interiors, owners with real integrity, stunning views onto the plains. Lewa is the brainchild of Ian Craig. Sirikoi is the creation of Willie Roberts. Both men, and many others who have contributed to the success of this region, have fundamentally understood that locals need to benefit in real terms from the intrusion of visitors – that they need life-enhancing professional careers in conservation and tourism to replace the loss of income they suffer from not keeping cattle as pastoralists on the same land’.

Bathroom towels aside, what is the most irritating greenwashing that you’ve come across on your travels?

‘A lack of transparency on real numbers. What portion of your room night is given back to the community for conservation? If a hotel or tour operator talks about it as a means to market themselves, then they should also have the balls to give it a figure we can see and believe in.’

Any tips for readers eager to travel sustainably?

‘There is so much greenwashing out there. If you want to give back, then do it with hard cash. Hand over a donation to the community in front of a group of people – ideally to a community leader – so no single person can pocket it. A few footballs and Bic biros don’t cut it in the world anymore.’

What do you personally hope to do in 2018 to create more awareness around sustainability for travellers?

‘Find the strength to dig deeper into some of the claims espoused by tourism marketing machines. I think the reader wants more journalism, and less of the complicity borne of a PR industry that sits very close to the journalist on free/discounted trips (which I also take – for at least 50 per cent of my assignments – though I wish it weren’t the model)’.

Looking Ahead - Think Piece

Jane Dunford Travel Editor of The Guardian

Which places to stay walk the talk on sustainability in your experience?

‘There are so many small properties doing great things which don’t get deserved recognition. Family-run Omunity in Bali has strong eco-principles at its core – the accommodation is in bamboo houses, it’s deeply involved in supporting the local community, and all the food is local, organic and eaten together with the family. Of course the caveat is you need to fly there, so a holiday such as this can never be truly eco.’

Bathroom towels aside, what is the most irritating greenwashing that you’ve come across on your travels?

‘Hotels which claim to be ‘green’ but leave plastic bottles of water in your room with no other drinking water options and offer Nespresso machines which get through dozens of non-recyclable coffee capsules’.

Where on earth deserves further exploration but without causing more damage?

‘Georgia is an interesting destination. The capital Tbilisi is an exciting place with a vibrant nightlife and interesting foodie scene, but it’s a vast country with extraordinary landscapes. For example, the Svaneti region, home to the Caucasus Mountains, is a really beautiful and off-the-beaten track area. If you can get there without flying so much the better!’

Any tips for readers eager to travel sustainably?

‘Travelling closer to home and limiting the number of long-haul flights you take is key if you want to travel sustainably. I don’t condemn flying as there are many benefits for local communities and for travellers (perhaps consider a carbon off-set programme – but there’s controversy around some of them so do your research). When it comes to accommodation, look for certification from bodies like EarthCheck, or choose homestays (and you can ask hotels about their recycling policies and the percentage of local staff they hire too). Buy local products. Beware of wildlife exploitation.’

What do you personally hope to do in 2018 to create more awareness around sustainability for travellers?

‘As a travel editor and writer, I’m planning to give more emphasis to sustainable travel in 2018 – whether that be covering more destinations closer to home that you don’t need to fly to visit and suggesting alternatives to places suffering from ‘over-tourism’ or writing about people and hotels that stand out for their commitment to these issues’.

Looking Ahead - Think Piece

Catherine Fairweather Travel Director of Porter Magazine

If there was a Nobel prize for sustainable tourism, who would you nominate?

Renato Machado, for Ibitipoca in Brazil – he has breathed life into a community that was formerly depleted and depressed, and empowered the locals to run and take ownership of the lodge and farm. The hotel’s design is realistic, environmental and true to its landscape and context, and they’ve replanted indigenous plants and trees, re-greened the land, resuscitated forgotten farming techniques and brought back endangered species such as the Muriqui monkey too’.

Which places to stay walk the talk on sustainability in your experience?

‘Nihi Sumba Island Resort in Indonesia, where a joyful synergy between the island, its people and the sensational resort is the essence of the experience. Over the decades since the inception of the Sumba Foundation, guests of the hotel have sponsored as many as 172 wells in surrounding villages, built a dozen schools and libraries, medical clinics and perhaps most significantly reduced malaria by 85 percent. This is no ecotourism tokenist venture – the resort is fully committed to using naturally sustainable materials and products and inventing ecological water systems, waste disposal and energy units. Philanthropic volunteering at the neighbouring schools and medical centres are one of the most popular activities offered by a resort which is ground breaking in its environmental and community minded concept of luxury’.

Bathroom towels aside, what is the most irritating greenwashing that you’ve come across on your travels?

‘Hotels that crow about their ‘green’ credentials yet design bedrooms without mosquito nets and fans so that it is impossible to sleep without air con, or offer food that is not seasonal and that has flown miles to get there. Woody pineapples in Athens in midwinter? Do we need them? No!’

Looking Ahead - Think Piece

Pamela Goodman Travel Editor of House & Garden Magazine

If there was a Nobel prize for sustainable tourism, who would you nominate?

’Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, who don’t just talk the talk but live and breathe sustainability. Their flagship property Soneva Fushi in the Maldives has been flying the flag for sustainability ever since it opened, and despite having rigorous eco credentials (which some people find off-putting) this hotel has managed to stay sexy, current and very much at the top of its game. Eco initiatives include: developing resorts using sustainable materials; recycling waste (74% of their solid waste is recycled); conserving water; introduction of a 2% levy on room rates which goes to the Soneva Foundation for funding social, economic and environmental projects and to mitigate carbon emissions. They have also pioneered the Slow Life Symposium to bring together business leaders, scientists, NGOs and policy makers to help accelerate progress towards environmental sustainability’.

Which places to stay walk the talk on sustainability in your experience?

‘Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland is an inspirational hotel both in terms of design and sustainability. It treads a very light footprint and is deeply rooted in its geographical context. The hotel is a 100% social business with all operating surpluses reinvested into promoting the cultural and economic resilience and revitalisation of Fogo Island and the local community. Its success benefits no individuals. Almost all of the furniture and furnishings inside the Inn were designed and created on the island by local artisans, and wood fired boilers, solar thermal panels, rainwater capture schemes and so on have all been incorporated into the design to ensure the highest levels of energy efficiency and resource conservation.

Where on earth deserves further exploration but without causing more damage?

‘Rwanda. This is a truly enlightened African country which has turned its back on the horrors of the 1994 genocide and is embracing the future with immense energy and vision. Tourism is still in the early stages of development but there are plenty of interesting projects in the pipeline to bring the country together as a one-stop destination for gorilla trekking, ‘big five’ game viewing, chimpanzee safaris, adventure and activity. The government has taken the view to embrace high-end tourism, hence the controversial doubling of the gorilla permit to US$1500 per person per day, but this will guarantee that the gorillas (in particular) are supremely well protected. This was the first country to ban plastic bags and has an enviable community programme called ‘Umuganda’ whereby, on every last Saturday of the month, the population (and it genuinely is the population) spends three hours clearing litter and assisting in community projects. It’s inspiring stuff.’

Looking Ahead - Think Piece

Caroline Sylger Jones Freelance travel journalist for The Telegraph, The Times and Psychologies magazine

If there was a Nobel prize for sustainable tourism, who would you nominate?

‘Justin Francis, who is the co-founder and managing director of Responsible Travel, an online travel company and responsible tourism pioneer that promotes over 5000 authentic holidays worldwide. Justin is an inspiration – he’s done more than most people to spread the word about sustainable travel and ethical tourism, and writes engagingly and intelligently about it, often capturing the ethical nuances of the subject that many miss. He’s also impressively realistic about the very thorny subject of flying and travelling – he gets that travel is rarely sustainable if an international flight is involved, but that as so many people (1 in 11 globally) and so much conservation is dependent on tourism, it’s important to be responsible tourists when we do travel.’

Which places to stay walk the talk on sustainability in your experience?

‘Silver Island Yoga in Greece is a delightful 60 acre private island and working organic olive farm where they pick and produce their own table olives and olive oil. It’s completely off grid, they use solar power for heating and light, collect and filter rainwater, and use grey water for the garden. Cotton slippers are made with coconut fibre cut-offs, and reusable water bottles are provided. All waste is recycled, wet waste composted, and 100% natural and biodegradable bathroom products and insect repellent are made by a local mum and daughter team. Food and drink is grown on site and sourced locally, and mealtimes are peppered with stories about the local producers, from the wine maker whose main source of income is the Island and who can now afford to stick labels on their wine bottles to the family in Oreoi who’ve been making the yogurt for three generations and deliver it in terracotta pots’.

Bathroom towels aside, what is the most irritating greenwashing that you’ve come across on your travels?

‘Spas that are supposedly about the sustainability of the human being and who often use the words ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ in their marketing but who then pay their therapists very low wages, work them too hard without offering them decent-length breaks, provide spa slippers, towels and robes made of unsustainably-sourced cheap cottons rather than the biodegradable and far more pleasurable alternatives available, give out expensive glossy treatment menus that could have been printed on recycled paper or offered digitally, and use products (no matter how ‘natural’) that have been shipped in from half way round the world rather than locally or hand made. If a spa is not sustainable, it’s highly likely that the hotel it is based at isn’t sustainable either – these places need to wake up to the fact that travellers care, and will soon be voting with their feet in droves’.

What do you personally hope to do in 2018 to create more awareness around sustainability for travellers?

‘I will be writing and commissioning features to inspire sustainable travel and sustainable tourism for It Must Be Now Magazine, and growing the Sustainability section I introduced this year to the reviews on Queen of Retreats (queenofretreats.com), which is a curated collection of retreats reviewed and recommended by trusted writers and wellbeing buffs. The section is designed to showcase those retreats that are making an effort to make a difference sustainably, and to inspire others to do the same. The whole industry still has quite a long way to go’.

Do you care about sustainability? Please leave a reply here or on NOW Forum.