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Sustainable Hotel: a definition still too closely linked to the green aspect

In Italy, we misunderstand the definition of a sustainable Hotel. To have some examples. The website (and many others, including Qui Finanza) defines a sustainable hotel as an accommodation facility, possibly furnished and built with eco-friendly materials, equipped with solar panels to produce electricity and provide hot water, and with a separate waste collection and recycling system.

This is undoubtedly a vital part. I published an article on measuring this part of the sustainable approach.

I have always been convinced (or at least since as far back as 2011) that more should and can be done. 

Thankfully, someone in the industry in Italy also shares my broader definition, and it is Ecobnb. Fortunately, worldwide, many organisations such as the Greenpearls, the GSTC, and Beyond Green share and propose the exact meaning of a sustainable hotel. 

This Vanity Fair article from 2021 seems to confirm ‘our’ thinking.

Here is what makes the hotels promoted in the article special

✔️ Environment-friendly ‘green’ practices, such as the use of renewable energy sources for energy production or the elimination of single-use plastic, are the basis;
✔️ Facilities must commit to offering guest experiences that do not impact the environment and local communities.
✔️ The watchword is collaboration.

The goal of being a sustainable hotel must be to protect all natural and human resources, considering external factors such as supply chains, community and wildlife.

Six Senses Douro Valley – Lamego, Portugal has protected a 4-hectare forest on the property, funds the APEGA Donkey Refuge near the Spanish border, which covers the last endangered Miranda donkeys, and has adopted a 500-metre stretch of the river bank to monitor and maintain suitable conditions for the local fauna and flora.

The hotel also supports associations committed to the local community: Bagos D’Ouro helps children from disadvantaged families in the Douro Valley to provide education up to university; the Afonsinhos Association runs a football team that promotes social inclusion through sport.

To reduce the impact on the socio-economic fabric of the area, the Relais & Châteaux Suján Sher Bagh in Rajasthan has established a straightforward corporate social responsibility programme in which guests can actively participate to create value by travelling. The Relais actively conserves indigenous wildlife in its natural habitat, the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, and has an ongoing partnership with Dastkar. This local non-profit organisation promotes women’s empowerment through handicrafts.

The Hilton London Bankside has an exciting approach. A lawn has been created on the hotel’s roof, and several beehives have been installed to help revitalise the city’s severely declining bee population.
Aware of the growing demand for more plant-based living, Hilton has built its first fully vegan suite here, providing a unique opportunity for those who choose this ethical approach to life.

The Baglio Oneto dei Principi di San Lorenzo resort in Marsala, Italy, has entrusted its energy manager with its approach to sustainability, choices and investments.
The resort has also initiated collaborations with university bodies to deepen the company’s knowledge of critical energy issues with the aim of continuous improvement and trained staff on these issues.
Attention to the environment and the territory is also demonstrated by using 80% regional food products and supporting the territory with activities and investments. Tours and visits are organised in collaboration with local operators, and 99% of the staff are professionals from this region.

The Aristi Mountain Resort in Greece is part of the Beyond Green group. In addition to representing a part of Greece hidden and unknown to most, it contributes to restoring and maintaining the 15th-century Panagia Spiliotissa Monastery in Aristi.

The hotels mentioned have developed or collaborated with these activities

Shelters for protected animals and flora and fauna conservation projects.
Monitoring of portions of the territory.
Associations for social inclusion and education.
Corporate social responsibility programmes.
Organisations for work and women’s empowerment.
Green roofs and recovery projects for bees.
Collaboration with local operators and selected suppliers.
Training and involvement for staff.
Involvement in cultural programmes through organised visits and contributing to renovations and restorations.

The examples have shown that it is possible to do more and go further.

The hotels presented in the article have created or contributed to sustainable hospitality in the destination. This is another fascinating topic; we will share more next time!

Every destination has its own needs, and for each one, there are different ways of meeting these needs that make the area better for everyone: residents, tourists, entrepreneurs and workers.

It is essential to study the needs, rank them in order of importance, and find the solutions that improve the situation.

It is continuous work, super exciting and very satisfying because you can see the results achieved over time.

Sara – tourism sector consultant

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