Hotels flex muscles to be ‘10 Million Better’
22 APRIL 2015 6:35 AM
Sustainable Travel International’s “10 Million Better” campaign is an industry-wide travel campaign to monitor, demonstrate and scale up social, economic and environmental sustainability benefits.
MADRID—An ambitious 10-year, travel industry-wide campaign to monitor, demonstrate and scale-up social, economic and environmental sustainability benefits within global travel and tourism has been unveiled under the banner “10 Million Better.”
“It’s a unique bridge between the public and private sectors to advance sustainability as a means to protect the well spring” of what stakeholders in the industry depend on, said Brian Mullis, founder and chairman of the board of Sustainable Travel International, the non-government organization spearheading the effort.
“Sustainability is becoming more and more important in the hotel industry as far as daily operations, marketing and other operational areas,” he told HNN on the sidelines of the recent World Travel & Tourism Council summit in Madrid where the campaign was announced.
“10 Million Better” is the target number of people whose lives hopefully will be improved by bringing together government, private and non-profit sectors to assess a destination’s vulnerabilities, draw up a detailed plan for growth and design specific projects aimed at conserving the local environment, protect the local culture and enhance the experience for visitors.
“Destination stewardship is, after all, a shared responsibility,” said Sustainable Travel International CEO Louise Twining-Ward.
Destination assessments are carried out with toolkits designed by the NGO to look at environmental, social, economic and cultural sustainability, as well as governance, to see whether the destination is vulnerable on any of these points.
“They also examine resource use involving waste, water and energy through a sustainability management system,” Twining-Ward explained.
“Once the results are in, the stakeholders—which include the public, private and community players involved—can consider the vulnerabilities, identify what they want the destination’s future to be and address the risks through a participatory approach to planning and implementation.”
Founded in 2002, STI has carried out more than 100 projects assisting destinations to safeguard their natural and cultural assets, while upgrading the sustainability of their tourism offers.
“One example was a project of ours in St. Kitts where we were invited by the Ministry of Tourism to conduct an assessment that evaluated the destination’s strengths and vulnerabilities with support from the cruise ship operator Royal Caribbean,” the CEO recalled.
A number of endeavors were implemented such as a tourism awareness campaign and a tree-planting project where visitors could sponsor a tree.
“This body or work,” she said, “helped change the brand image of St. Kitts for the better and when that happens, travelers stay longer and spend more.”
The NGO has worked closely with major hotel groups such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and Loews Hotels, while The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has signed on to the “10 Million Better” campaign as a corporate ambassador.
Inge Huijbrechts, Carlson Rezidor VP, responsible business, said she considers herself STI’s envoy to the hotel industry and other tourism and travel players.
She explained the campaign was a good fit for the hotel group as Rezidor had a long tradition of responsible business practices.
The hotel group is particularly concerned about water usage at its properties in the Middle East and Africa, where the resource is precious.
Carlson Rezidor hotels in Tunisia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, for example, use so-called “gray water,” saving approximately 20,000 cubic meters of water per year at each resort.
“The hotel industry is a big user of water, but we don’t want to just reduce our hotel usage, but work with different partners in destinations so water resources are shared fairly and equitably,” Huijbrechts explained.
Another Carlson Rezidor pillar concerns the health and safety of the group’s guests and employees. Extensive training programs for the latter complement the “10 Million Better” campaign’s strong support for young people.
“Many hotel employees start in menial jobs and advance as the industry offer many ladders of opportunity,” she said, highlighting the group’s Youth Career Initiative, or YCI, for poor or orphaned young people between 18 and 22 years of age.
“With YCI, we provide an initial six-month program in job and personal skills with things like English classes, CV writing, personal financial management and health.”
Of the YCI graduates, 85% either get a job with Carlson Rezidor, with another chain or continue their education.
“STI’s role is to rally support for sustainable travel and if we really enough support,” Huijbrechts said, “we can demonstrate that tourism is a force for good and then other destinations will come on board.”