A force for good

In response to travellers’ growing determination to travel responsibly, tourism players are making sustainable, guilt-free options more identifiable and accessible, discovers Karen Yue

Making responsible travel choices is getting easier, now that many leading tourism suppliers are providing prominent labels that identify sustainable options.

Back in November 2021, Booking.com debuted what it said was a first-of-its-kind Travel Sustainable badge to help travellers identify properties that have implemented a combination of sustainable practices that meet the requisite impact threshold for their destination.

Amilla Maldives Resort, located in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, has 31 ongoing sustainability projects

A study by the OTA found that 81 per cent of global travellers wanted to stay in a sustainable accommodation when they resumed their travel in 2022, while 73 per cent would more likely choose a specific accommodation if they knew it was implementing sustainable practices. The Travel Sustainable badge serves to support that desire, and a filter on Booking.com’s search function helps travellers to more easily identify responsible options.

Sharing that foresight is Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), whose Considerate Collection of responsible and sustainable hotels has just celebrated its first anniversary. When it launched in October 2021, the Considerate Collection had 26 hotels in 16 countries. At press time in November, the network has expanded to 43 qualified properties.

Mark Wong, senior vice president, Asia Pacific of SLH, said the creation of the Considerate Collection has allowed the company to identify many attractive and responsible hotels that “were not on our radar”.

He noted that there are many responsible hotels around the world – particularly in Thailand, Indonesia and the Maldives here in Asia – and SLH can use its global reach to bring such properties to the attention of many conscious travellers and travel trade buyers worldwide.

The Considerate Collection is set for continued growth, evident in the number of hotels approaching SLH at an early stage of development for suggestions on incorporating sustainable features and experiences into their property, to ensure they qualify for induction into the programme once they launch.

Getting the green star
A stringent and scientific approach has been employed by these travel companies to determine who gets the coveted sustainable label.

For Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable badge, qualifying attributes are determined and validated by the Travalyst Independent Advisory Group, and the OTA takes a step further by working with other industry experts to identify a set of the most impactful practices for a property to consider in five key areas: waste, energy and greenhouse gases, water, supporting local communities, and protecting nature.

Keemala has a strict anti-animal exploitation policy while its guests activities foster a strong sense of community spirit among guests

This foundational framework is further broken down into 32 specific sustainability measures or practices that properties can implement, including everything from eliminating single-use plastic toiletries or switching to LED light fixtures to running on 100 per cent renewable energy sources or investing a certain percentage of profits into local community and conservation projects.

For SLH’s Considerate Collection, properties looking to be inducted must do more than just end their reliance on single-use plastics. SLH partners reputable organisations like Greenview and Global Sustainable Tourism Council as well as subject experts and travel agents specialising in this field to provide it with guidance and ensure SLH is not “just greenwashing our approach”, Wong told TTG Asia.

All Considerate Collection hotels undergo strict assessment across three levels – Environmentally Conscious, Cultural Custodians, and Community Minded.

“Our members have to take these pillars into their operational consideration to qualify and ensure that these are achieved both behind the scenes and in guest-facing experiences,” shared Wong.

For instance, Amilla Maldives Resort, one of the newly-inducted Considerate Collection properties, boasts 31 ongoing sustainability projects since its debut three years ago in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of its projects utilises 2,500 coconut trees on the island to produce coconut oil, vinegar, milk and cream, as well as turn the resulting waste into nutritious coco peat for its gardens and crafting needs.

The property continually comes up with creative ways to celebrate island culture, from founding the country’s first and only Maldives Cultural Week in 2021 which promotes local musical, artistic and fashion talents, to holding weekly Maldivian dinners and cooking classes for guests to get an authentic taste of Baa Atoll and beyond.

It also takes pride in operating with a team made up mostly of Maldivians, many of whom hold management positions, as well as sourcing from local producers and engaging local vendors.

Low impact experiences
Contiki Tours, which runs 350 trips across six continents, is contributing to the movement too, by putting up programmes that enable conscious travellers to explore guilt-free and with minimal carbon footprint.

It has made 100 per of its trips carbon-neutral this year. It is a momentous decision, but also just one of the many milestones in the company’s “long journey to sustainability”, said global CEO Adam Armstrong.

All Contiki tours are carbon neutral now

“Our journey to carbon neutrality requires a lot of work. First, we have to measure, and that’s a task in itself. For every trip we have to work out how much carbon we are emitting through transport, accommodation, dining and experiences. Then, there is a load of initiatives around reducing emissions and getting third parties to work with us. After that, we offset what we cannot reduce and invest in carbon capture initiatives,” detailed Armstrong.

All initiatives are included in the ticket and there is no opt-in required. Contiki has chosen to keep its carbon neutrality offering simple and accessible, as the young generation views such features as a basic consumer right, reflected Armstrong.

SLH’s Wong said spotlighting responsible travel options is now basic business and no longer just a post-lockdown travel trend.

“It won’t go away any time soon and will become a requirement among conscious travellers. In fact, our corporate RFPs now come with a request for our hotels to submit details on their sustainability policy and programmes,” he said.
Contiki’s Armstrong agrees, saying that data points to the growing importance of sustainable travel.

“Most Gen Zs prioritise sustainability and choose brands based on their sustainability credentials. They avoid brands with poor sustainability credentials. Going carbon neutral is therefore good for the environment and for the business,” he said.

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