The pandemic has opened the eyes of many about the importance of sustainable tourism. However, mine have been wide open since the beginning of my travels.
Today, more than ever, the hospitality industry has a duty to the environment, which has been threatened and destroyed for decades by mass tourism. After seeing for myself how populations are affected and need to protect their heritage in order to offer future generations a livable world, I came to the conclusion that we all need to do something about it quickly—and together.
Many magazines state that travel has changed. They are indeed quite right.
More than discovering a hotel or a brand, today’s travelers are looking for something truly unique that is slower, more thoughtful, and much more personal. To me, luxury is less about “things’” and more about experiences. It is about careful craftsmanship, inspiring people, fascinating cultures, and untamed landscapes. People are more mindful, and how a resort impacts its surrounding environment and nearby communities should be a key factor in choosing a destination.
Empowering local communities is just as important as choosing a destination.
Tourists want to get under the skin of a destination and learn about its food, history, people, and culture. They want to travel with a sense of purpose and are increasingly conscious about how their tourism dollars can positively or negatively affect the place they are visiting. We have already witnessed this in our hotels. When in Vietnam last month, I met a Vietnamese couple at Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô who decided to visit us to learn more about their own country and get closer to the local community.
Here are some of my tips to become a more responsible traveler.
Connect with Local Culture
As passionate hospitality professionals, we have the privilege of discovering and connecting with local communities, providing travelers the opportunity to experience a destination in the most beautiful ways possible. For example, wandering through the small markets with a local chef will give insight into the way local people really live. To me, empowering local communities is just as important as choosing a destination. We should be able to help the village or even the country in which we develop our projects and keep that in mind while creating it.
Often, sustainability is seen as unreachable and far too complex for a company to apply at a big scale. The truth is, even the biggest companies can put sustainable solutions in place, step by step. Let’s start with aiming to leave—as much as possible—a positive footprint in the places where we operate. This includes sustainable construction, eco-conception, predominance of raw materials, waste management, use of local techniques, and empowerment of the local workforce. Sustainability must be present from start to end of a hotel creation in order to be efficient, planned ahead of construction, and integrated throughout the process.
Focus on Philanthropy
It has never been more important to help preserve the environment and wildlife. The Amazon rainforest has been burning for months, and that is just one example of our planet under threat.
Each one of us has a responsibility in this catastrophe, and I believe COVID-19 is just another consequence of our carelessness. The effects of the virus have had an enormous impact on tourism and especially secluded or hard-to-access locations, which rely on tourism to survive. Africa-based conservations for instance, much of which are driven by ecotourism, are struggling to make ends meet.
An idea would be to simply travel to destinations that make much of their living from tourism to help them recover. In the meantime, we must all continue our hard work of preservation and reintroduction to ensure the land and wildlife remain protected, even more so right now with the lack of tourists. I would encourage everyone who wishes to make a difference during these challenging times to help their local associations, for example by donating homegrown vegetables, fruits, or any ingredient that is not suitable for guests in terms of aesthetic, instead of throwing them away. Responsible travel may take place around the world, but these good habits start at home.