By Rachel Peace
Upon reading a post on TriplePundit by Louise Twining-Ward, the CEO of Sustainable Travel International, I began to consider what sustainable travel truly means. Beyond a green leaders certification on Trip Advisor, or a sign in the bathroom that suggests that guests reuse towels, I wondered: What properties are consciously making significant strides to better their community through sustainable travel initiatives?
Beyond that, I considered if properties could go a step beyond sustainability and also inspire travelers on their journeys. I sought destinations that would allow business travelers, in particular, to become absorbed in another culture and landscape.
Why focus on business travelers, as opposed to leisure travelers? Well, employees in our highly-connected world are burnt out, plain and simple.
There is also an unfortunate phenomenon of increasingly unused vacation days, especially in the high-stress, fast-paced U.S. work environment, as determined in recent studies by the U.S. Travel Association's Project Time Off.
Our workforce is consistently foregoing vacations, working for 35 percent of their waking life and, as a result, growing disheartened. Another TriplePundit post cites Gallup research indicating a mere 13 percent of employees are truly engaged in their jobs. They define engaged as “involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.”
The article continued on to highlight a discouraging fact related to travel, namely: “Out of every $100 spent on vacation by a tourist from a developed country, only $5 stays in the destination’s economy.”
Employers looking to re-engage their employees would enjoy the beneficial outcome of reduced turnover rate and loyalty if they provided and encouraged paid vacations to sustainable worldwide destinations. In this way, they would also implement a new, travel-focused, corporate social responsibility initiative, by giving back to the economy, environment or quality of life for inhabitants of a focused community or region.
To narrow down a list of candidates perfect for sustainable, paid vacations sponsored by corporations and businesses, I conducted further research and landed upon an article on NomadIsBeautiful.com, in which a number of green-oriented travel writers provided lesser-known ways to travel sustainably.
Drawing from their wealth of knowledge, I’ve determined a number of properties and destinations around the world, relevant in today’s evolving and conscious society, which focus on sustainability and authentic, inspirational travel.
Disclaimer: Some of the below may not exemplify every desirable aspect of sustainable travel, as there is almost always room for growth. I’ve chosen, instead, to highlight a sustainable facet of each property, so that companies and business travelers of varying interests can determine for themselves the causes and destinations they are most interested in supporting.
It is less well known for its ongoing efforts to give back to the community, through its Community Footprints initiatives. Community Footprints is a Ritz Carlton program, which is taken up in different manners by each Ritz Carlton Hotel, to give back locally.
Hotel Arts consistently raises funds for Make A Wish Spain, with employees participating in a yearly triathlon to grant the wishes of a terminally ill community member. In addition, the hotel partners with UNICEF, (such as in its 2014 landmark event, which brought together 20 Michelin-starred chefs and donated proceeds to the globally recognized organization.) Lastly, travelers can participate in community cleanup initiatives on the Costa Brava through programs organized by the hotel.
Among countless other sustainability initiatives, such as partnership with Raptors Botswana and its research and conservation efforts for Lappet-faced vultures in the environment, Uncharted Africa Safari recently become the proud custodians of Chapman's Baobab, the largest and oldest tree in the world, as well as Green's Baobab, through the Adopt a Monument Campaign.
The effort supports the iconic landmarks, promoting sustainability and conservation of Botswana's rich culture and stunning landscape.
Of interest is its first property in the U.K., the Gainsborough Bath Spa, which respects the honor of exclusive access to the famed thermal springs of Bath, which contain a wealth of mineral-rich waters. Originally built in the 1800s, the Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two buildings with distinguished Georgian and Victorian façades in the heart of the World Heritage Site.
In addition to green practices at the hotel to preserve the local environment, the company honors and preserves traditional Andean philosophies, by offering cultural activities to guests, such as a Payment to the Earth Ritual, a typical Andean wedding, Pachamanca cooking classes, and more.
As a part of the Rainforest Alliance, Sumaq’s involvement in sustainable management also includes: hiring local staff, purchasing products from local providers, and participating in community events in Aguas Calientes.
The program maps out handpicked routes to explore London via walking, cycling or use of public transportation. Green tours at the Draycott Hotel feature guided walking organizations such as Ramblers, Blue Badge Guides and London's award-winning signature walking tour company, London Walks. Hotel staff members are also strongly encouraged to take part in CO2-free travel by participating in the Barclays Cycle Superhighways Workplace scheme, which promotes safe use of bicycles and raises awareness of sustainable business practices.
The hotel chain goes above and beyond the constant conservation efforts of land rehabilitation, maintenance, wildlife monitoring and fencing security, to initiating effective and innovative anti-poaching methods, research, wildlife re-introduction, preserving invaluable San Rock Art sites, and training and placing local youth in culinary arts and positions through the Singita School of Cooking.
The property employs both local Maasai and Kamba peoples, in key roles in camp management and as safari guides, providing continuing education in the process. They also plan to work in conjunction with the local community to promote grassroots conservation projects, which engage the community in long-term ecological and cultural stability, and ultimately profitability.
In conclusion, businesses and corporations can enact real change through implementing external and internal social responsibility initiatives. This is aligned with mindfulness of employee needs and mindfulness of the needs of communities, environments, wildlife and cultures worldwide.
Does your company already practice something similar? If not, would you as an employee suggest it to management or HR, armed with this article? Let us know in the comments below!
All images used with expressed permission. See captions for credits.
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