Kenya – a showcase for sustainable tourism

This early in the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development proclaimed by the United Nations, I’ve been lucky to go on a weeklong business trip in Kenya. Traveling in and around Nairobi, I saw so many examples that bundle various aspects of sustainable tourism.

Let me take you on a tour…

Business and city hotels can be green

Radisson Blu Hotel Nairobi Upper Hill is super green. The hotel leaves a very light energy and water footprint. It uses solar boilers, intelligent AC room controls combined with window contacts, maximum capture and reuse of rainwater, reuse of grey water for irrigation and toilet flushing. This stunning Radisson Blu was even awarded the Green Key eco-label at opening!

Through a local, innovative waste management company, it also manages to recycle 97% (!) of its waste. The partner, Taka Taka Solutions, composts organic waste, makes new wine glasses out of wine bottles and thoroughly recycles and reports on the various waste streams.

Support of community initiatives

Coincidently, many of the international charities we support have key projects in Kenya.

The successful Meetings Minus Carbon, which we started in 2013 and which offsets the footprint of all meetings and events booked through our loyalty program, has its tree-planting site on the edges of the Great Rift Valley.

Every ton of “meeting” carbon is offset via a VCS certificate of Indian wind energy plus an additional tree planted in this area, which, 10 years ago, was heavily deforested. The clear-cutting of the forest and watershed area had impacts on the climate and soil, which became drier. Farmers could no longer grow certain crops such as plums.

To date, Meetings Minus Carbon has facilitated the planting of 39,000 trees in this area – planted by ESCONET and its network of forest stewards from the local community.

A lot of the positive impact of guests choosing to reuse their towels in Radisson Blu Hotels around the world also goes to Kenya’s Makueni county. For every 250 towels that get reused, Radisson Blu donates to Just A Drop, the international water charity, to provide a child with safe drinking water for life. This has allowed the construction of two large school water tanks, one sand dam and a rock catchment, resulting in safe drinking water for over 8,300 people. What impressed me most is the stamina and strong engagement of the local community groups who participated in the building and will maintain these facilities and pumps in the future.

Social entrepreneurship is thriving

One morning, I ventured into Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. Not alone, of course, but on a tour hosted by the dynamic guide Frederik, who grew up and lives in Kibera. His tour gives insight into the buzzing but tough life in this area, housing an estimated 1 million people. On the tour, David makes sure to show various bright sparks of social entrepreneurship.

One such company, Victorious Bones, makes trendy jewellery and artifacts out of …bones. This innovative approach provides fair employment, works with what would otherwise be considered (organic) trash and, most important, provides an alternative to illegal and deadly ivory.

Another is a small organization by a group of HIV-positive widows, who started their group and modest enterprise as a way to connect and better their predicament.

Outside Kibera, Ocean Sole, cleans beaches and creates masterpieces out of …. discarded flip-flops. You will not believe your eyes when you see the fabulously colourful statues made out of this “shoe of the poor.” You will never look at flip-flops the same way again.

A community to support International Year and SDGs

A community is building to raise the bar on sustainable tourism and support both the International Year and the long-term Sustainable Development Goals.

Judy Kepher of Sustainable Tourism & Travel Agenda brings best practices and ideas to life in a great magazine. 

Various tourism training programs create employability opportunities for underprivileged youth and women and focus on creating inclusive growth through tourism. 
Youth Career Initiative, a trainee and personal development program run by the hotel industry and focusing on youth at risk, has been running successfully since 2015, in close cooperation with SOS Children’s Villages.
A new cooperation between UNWTO, the Kenyan government and Amadeus will launch a pilot of an employability program for youth and women in the coming months.

In June, Space will bring a new event on sustainable properties and renewable energy in Africa to Nairobi.

Support of award-winning Adding Color to Lives

Soon we’ll be opening our second hotel in Nairobi, the Park Inn by Radisson Westlands. Even before the official opening, the hotel’s responsible business champion has been appointed, trained and is ready to start involving her colleagues in responsible operations.

The hotel will start our award-winning program Adding Color to Lives right away – supporting youth at risk through long-term mentoring, traineeships and fun projects. The team is certainly in the running to win a new Adding Color to Lives mural with Joel Bergner.

I’m sure there’s a multitude of other examples in this beautiful and thriving tourism and MICE destination. I certainly look forward to returning to Kenya and discovering more!