Tourism greening that won't cost the earth
Globally, travellers are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and prefer tourism developments which reflect a philosophy of sustainability. A 2015 survey by booking.com found that 52% of travellers from 16 countries considered environmental impact when choosing a destination. Australians ranked highly with 50% of respondents factoring green travel into their decision-making.
Going green with your new tourism development does not necessarily mean building an eco-friendly resort in the middle of a rainforest. Urban tourist facilities can also undertake green initiatives to promote sustainability and meet the requirements of socially-conscious guests. In the early planning stages, highlight these factors for your new development in order to reduce environmental impacts.
Conservation and Preservation
Going green with your new tourism development means having an environmental impact study which includes all stakeholders in order to avoid issues once construction begins. Many companies obtain environmental approval only to face years of protests because those directly affected have not been consulted.
Local heritage sensitivities should also be taken into consideration when initiating a development. The negative publicity generated from the destruction of much-loved buildings or encroaching on native title can destroy your green image from the start. The Treasury Casino and Hotel in Brisbane is an example of a development which is well aware of the cache associated with its two high-profile heritage buildings.
Utility bills in Australia are high so there are considerable cost savings to be gained by making smart energy choices. Consumption and carbon emissions can be reduced by using energy-efficient lighting, heating/cooling systems, thermostats and appliances. Low-tech solutions such as double glazing, tinted windows, awnings and strategically-placed trees can also reduce power usage.
Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can reduce some or all of your dependence on the grid. By using solar power, The Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Alice Springs has created a 5% reduction in the load on the local grid. Around the world, increasing numbers of hotels and resorts use 100% green energy. The Intercontinental Miami Hotel in the United States is now entirely powered by wind energy.
A tourist destination can quickly lose its appeal if waste management practices affect water, soil and the general environment. A truly sustainable waste management system should incorporate the following elements where possible.
Recycling: With commitment, a large proportion of your waste can be reused and recycled. The London Olympics achieved a zero waste to landfill target.
Eco-friendly products: Source environmentally-friendly products from detergents to toiletries. Choose items which are made from biodegradable materials and which minimise packaging waste.
Conversion: Creative solutions can be found to convert waste into energy. In the US, Walt Disney World makes biogas from food scraps to produce electricity.
Donation: Tourism operators often discard items such as towels and crockery which are no longer in pristine condition; however, many charities find such items useful.
Water Saving Initiatives
In recent years, the media has focussed heavily on Australia’s looming water crisis with shortages in places such as Perth and Broken Hill making headline news. Incorporating water saving practices into your tourist development will enhance your green image and provide savings on your utilities bill. You can reduce water usage by:
installing low flow toilets, showers and taps
repairing even small leaks immediately
avoiding evaporation by covering unused swimming pools
installing a system which allows pool water to be recycled for the garden
creating water-smart landscapes with features such as moisture sensors
using grey water from sinks, baths and laundries for watering gardens and cleaning outdoor areas
purchasing appliances such as dishwashers that have the highest water-saving ratings
utilising rainwater harvesting techniques
It is important to retain local input once your tourism development has been established. This means consultation about changes, employing local residents and sourcing products and services from the immediate area where possible. Buying food from nearby farmers and supporting businesses such as green laundries are ways to verify your commitment to sustainable practices. You are also likely to obtain a higher level of product or service from local residents who have a vested interest in your development.
Promoting Your Green Credentials
There are considerable marketing advantages to be gained when promoting your green credentials. Make sure that you are honest and can verify any claims made when advertising your sustainable practices. Your website should include your environmental policies and outline the ways you implement them. Encourage guests to take part in activities or tours which highlight your conservation efforts. With genuine commitment, going green with your new tourism development will have a positive impact on visitor numbers and generate considerable financial savings