What to look out for in eco-friendly hotels

  • Global
  • Wednesday, 11 Dec 2019

Going on a holiday is fun, but planning one that focuses on sustainability is not easy. — Philipp Laage/dpa

If your hotel in the middle of the desert has a pool or replaces your used towels every day, it’s probably not a sustainable accommodation. Here are some things to keep an eye out for in an eco-friendly hotel.

Planning a holiday that’s sustainable is surprisingly difficult. Hotel chains, bed and breakfasts and eco-resorts might claim various sustainability seals, certificates and labels, but it’s often like comparing apples to oranges.

These certifications and their criteria vary widely, and might be awarded by a regional, international or specialised body. Some focus only on ecological standards, while others also include social and economic sustainability.

“The label should be certified by a neutral third party, ” says Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. “If it’s not transparent, it’s not serious.” His organisation examines who and what is behind these kinds of claims.

“Basically, any hotel that is committed to ecological and social standards is preferable, and clearly expresses this in its philosophy, ” says Petra Thomas, managing director of Forum Anders Reisen, a German association of sustainable travel companies.

Often the sustainability of the accommodation isn’t apparent on site, but all of the little things add up. Are there individually packaged soaps? Is the air conditioning already on when entering the room?

If you’ve made these kinds of observations, it’s worth inquiring as a guest and pointing it out, especially if the accommodation has an environmental certificate. If guests show that sustainability is important to them, hotel operators will make changes.

There are often contradictions. “Some ecolodges are located in remote areas where you can get to by helicopter, for example. That’s not sustainable, ” says Antje Monshausen of Tourism Watch.

You can’t necessarily take an accommodation that calls itself an “ecolodge” at face value. Cultural and economic aspects also need to be considered – how does the accommodation affect or include the local population?

Hotels and lodgings that take a 360-view of sustainability are ideal, Thomas says. “We recommend owner-managed accommodation in the hands of local operators instead of international hotel chains, ” she says.

That means the money is more likely to support the local economy.

Do holidaymakers have to completely redefine their idea of holidays to make them sustainable? Not necessarily: “A well thought-out, sustainable management plan can achieve a lot without the guest having to sacrifice standards, ” Monshausen says.

But the concept of sustainability also demands tourists’ cooperation. Sustainable travel means being more attentive, questioning things and making conscious decisions: Do you really need air conditioning and a pool to have a good holiday? – dpa

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