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Sustainable tourism: new scheme to help hotels take first steps

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The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched an industry-backed scheme to help tourist accommodation providers in becoming more sustainable.

  • The Hotel Sustainability Basics criteria are intended to encourage all accommodation providers to begin their sustainability journeys.
  • The initiative was led by the WTTC and includes major hotel providers and tourist boards among its partners.
  • Sustainability progress is already underway across the sector, but there is still a way to go for good practices to become commonplace.

The WTTC has launched the Hotel Sustainability Basics, a set of criteria that all hotels should implement as a minimum to drive responsible and sustainable travel and tourism. It is expected to encourage all accommodation providers to begin their sustainability journeys and meet the fundamental standards required of the sector.

What is Hotel Sustainability Basics?

The scheme comprises 12 key criteria and serves as a stepping-stone to more complex sustainability schemes, as well as to achieve greater sustainability across the industry. It has been recognised by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance as the starting point for a net positive industry.

The WTTC said that, while there are already several sustainability initiatives in the sector, Basics focuses on “an achievable starting point”.

In order to ensure the validity of the programme, WTTC partnered with certification bodies Green Key and SGS to develop an online verification system to allow hotels to provide evidence and ensure they are following the Basics. The verification scheme enables hotels and other tourist accommodations to be officially verified for meeting eight of the 12 criteria in the first year and demonstrate their commitment to working toward all 12 of the criteria by year three.

Which organisations are involved?

The WTTC said the initiative “emerged as a result of a clear demand from a group of influential global hotel brands”. The inaugural partners were multinationals Accor (EPA:AC), Jin Jiang (SHA:600754), Louvre Hotels, Meliá Hotels (BME:MEL), Meininger and Radisson Hotel Group.  

The WTTC also collaborated with representatives from Greenview, its hotel members, Expedia, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and Group. 

A number of tourism destinations have also demonstrated their commitment to ensure their hotels implement the Basics. Azerbaijan was the first destination partner, followed by Belize, Colombia, and Mauritius.

Inge Huijbrechts, global senior vice president of sustainability, security & corporate communications at Radisson, said: “Hotel Sustainability Basics is filling a new and unanswered demand in the hotel industry: to provide a solid, trusted, and clear label for essential hotel sustainability. It’s important we define responsible travel to preserve the planet and protect communities. With Hotel Sustainability Basics we offer the traveler a clear sustainable stay option for all types of hotels around the world.”

“Radisson Hotel Group commits to implement Hotel Sustainability Basics in all its 1,100 hotels by 2025. We do this together with our shareholder Jin Jiang International, their affiliate Louvre Hotel Group and other major hotel groups and destinations around the world.”

How are hotels doing currently?

Through the Green Lodgings Trends Report published in 2022, the WTTC carried out an international benchmarking exercise learning from 27,000 accommodation providers on how they are currently fairing against the 12 criteria. It said this will allow for tracking the progress of Basics over time. 

Progress is already underway, but there is still a way to go for these to become common across the sector. For example, almost 100% of accommodation providers implement at least one initiative to reduce inequality and 96% have adopted linen reuse programmes.

Moreover, two-thirds of those surveyed had started to eliminate the use of certain single-use plastics such as straws and implementing other waste reduction initiatives. Almost half of respondents had replaced small plastic toiletry bottles with bulk dispensers and a third now provide vegetarian options for every course in their food and beverage provision.

Randy Durband, chief executive of the GSTC, concluded: “Hotels throughout the world need to march towards sustainability quickly but the first step can be the hardest.”

“The WTTC Hotel Sustainability Basics provide an excellent way to understand and take the first steps. With twelve clear actions that map to the eight of the GTSC Industry Criteria, the Basics are indeed an essential part of the journey.”

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