Many luxury hotels and tour companies are facing a big problem: How can they continue to offer the services their customers desire (helicopter rides and fishing in twin-engine boats), while simultaneously erasing the carbon footprint luxury travel often leaves? Asking guests to make sacrifices in order to “save the planet” can mean losing such guests, as they turn elsewhere for their sumptuous needs. And vice versa: some eco-consious guests are shirking from certain companies, whose practices are potentially earth-damaging. Green travel can be a dilemma for both provider and customer; luckily, some companies are stepping in to help both sides.
Sustainable Travel International recently launched its “Travel Green” program, which allows participating hotels to sell emission offsets to guests. According to the WSJ, “each offset represents money paid to bankroll a project somewhere else that reduces 34 pounds of CO2 emissions – the amount estimated to be produced by the average one-night hotel stay.” The hotel pays STI $1 for each offset “mini green tag” and then sells the tag to hotel guests for the same price. STI then reinvests 52.4 cents of each dollar to buy renewable-energy certificates or to fund projects in developing countries. The remaining 47.6 cents pays for educational and marketing material for the participating hotels.
The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino became the first major hotel chain to sell these mini green tags. Their hotel guests can chose between two options to offset carbon emissions: they can make their plane trip carbon-neutral (a flight from New York to Puerto Rico translates to $18.38), or they can purchase an offset for $1 per night. Other hotels, like the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center in Portland, Ore., and resort Soneva Fushi & Six Senses Spa in the Maldives are finding their own ways to offset the carbon emissions of their businesses. Orbitz recently added its own eco-site with options to help consumers find the most eco-friendly ways to travel.
Other tips for greening your trip: Do some research before you plan a vacation, so you’ll know exactly what your hotel or tour company is doing (or not doing) in terms of sustainable tourism.
- Check out eco-lodges and other eco-friendly hotels that make "being green" their priority.
- Calculate your carbon footprint to find out exactly what effect your trip has on the environment.
- Find out how to get involved with STI and learn what you can do to offset your carbon emissions.
- Watch for the October 2007 issue of Traveler for our second annual Tours of a Lifetime issue (or check out last year’s top 50 picks), and find out which tour companies (like Oceanic Society Ex and REI Adventures) are already investing in carbon offsets.
IT’s take: "Being green" doesn’t just happen overnight. It will take time before businesses can figure out how they can reduce their carbon footprints and still offer the luxuries and services they want to keep their businesses strong. As more hotels realize how they can make a difference, and as more companies like STI help them get there (and, as more consumers request such eco-friendly services), hotels and tour companies will find a solution that suits their budget, the environment, and the eco-conscious consumer.
- Nat Geo Expeditions