Three ways to get sustainable faster

To celebrate the 12th World Responsible Tourism Day on November 8, I was part of an interesting conversation with female leaders in tourism and travel, moderated by the BBC’s Tanya Beckett. We discussed how much progress we have made towards achieving sustainability.

Being an optimist, I believe that a lot has happened in the hotel industry on sustainability in the past few years. At Radisson Hotel Group, for example, we have reduced our average group carbon intensity by over 20% and water consumption by 30%.

However, the work is not done: The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has made the absolute urgency of immediate global action very clear. And then there are the emerging and essential issues of modern slavery, plastic pollution, food waste and clean air.

The good news is that travel and tourism account for 10% of global GDP and deliver 1/10th of all jobs worldwide. However, with inbound arrivals at 1.4 billion today and expected to grow to over 2 billion in the next decade, we need to continue to grow sustainably, look for innovation and engage travelers. Let me give an example of each.

Growing sustainably: Sustainable hotel industry growth can be achieved if hotels in emerging markets are designed and built according to the EDGE Green Building Certification. Defined by the World Bank’s IFC, EDGE is specifically applicable to emerging markets where the bulk of tourism growth occurs.

Look for innovation: For innovation, we need to look at the renewable energy field. For example, the Park Inn by Radisson Foreshore in Cape Town has installed a new type of solar panels generating both electricity and heat, resulting in a 30% higher efficiency. 

Engage travelers: The consumer and traveler engagement campaign ‘par excellence’ in 2018 has no doubt been #refusethestraw. Many companies, including Radisson, have taken commitments for a partial or global phase-out of plastic straws. This shift in consumer behavior (why do we need plastic straws in the first place?), is the segue into a bigger discussion on banning single-use plastics altogether.
These decisions will protect marine life and ultimately our food chain as well.

Another essential dimension in global sustainability is expressed in the United Nations Development Program’s Sustainable Development Goal 17, which focuses on partnerships and knowledge-sharing to achieve greater sustainability.

In the hotel industry, the International Tourism Partnership drives this cooperation. Just over a year ago, the ITP launched four essential 2030 hotel industry goals aimed at carbon, water, human rights and youth employment.

The work is never done, but I am hopeful that we will continue to challenge and be challenged on a mission to be as nature itself: durable and sustainable.