What are the key focal areas for sustainable tourism operations? Whether you are a small B&B or a Hotel Group, the following framework allows business to focus on short term quick wins that are inexpensive to implement and have a significant reduction on corporate carbon footprints.
Many of these initiatives are deliverable through changed behavior, training, educative programs and effective management. A shorter term plan can be drawn as a 1-3 year strategy focusing on cost benefit implementations such as energy saving investments. For example, today’s drastically improved solar systems now offer payback periods of 3 years meaning that after 3 years you have fully paid for the initial investment and energy usage from traditional sources reduce by up to 60%. These systems now have a reasonable life expectancy of 15 years meaning 12 years of real savings.
The following areas should be reviewed when implementing sustainable measures:
1) The Corporate & Back Office – It’s Sustainability Management Plan (SMP), it’s Polices, Procedures and Strategies
2) Human Resources Management, Training, Capacity Building, Salaries, Benefits, Health and Safety Housekeeping Operations
3) Energy Conservation
4) Water Conservation & Landscaping
6) Engineering and Maintenance
7) Culture & Heritage Protection and Conservation
8) Social Responsibility, Investment and Support
9) Waste Management
10) Building, Renovations, Retro-Fitting, Equipment and Décor.
Arguably one of the most important issues in any sustainability strategy is to have a complete ‘buy-in’ from all levels of staff, management and key stake holders of an organisation followed closely by the need to identify the relevant communication methods and training channels.
Even in small organisations a written policy and benchmarking (your base operational position versus year on year improvement) is vital to ensure progressive and correct action toward sustainable operations. Smaller operations may make use of consultants to this end where larger organisations should implement green teams as part of operational and strategic decision making. Green teams would benefit from having varying expertise within the group including operational and technical staff from all the key sustainability focus points so that decision making is efficient and effective.
By re-wording the order of the optimistic version of The Triple Bottom Line: “Environment, People & Profit” to the more realistic order of “Profit, People & Environment” more organisations buy in to the notion that sustainability does not need to risk profit and in fact may substantially enhance it over time.