Travellers’ Sustainable Appetite is Growing – Set to Double this Year!
A tourism establishment’s sustainability message should be threaded throughout the whole hospitality experience but not be blatantly obvious, where the hotel comes across as too prescriptive. One needs to strike a fine balance between creating a warm place for your guests and inspiring them to join you in stimulating long-lasting behavioural change.
At a time when South Africans – especially Western Cape residents – are growing intensely aware of their environment’s vulnerability and the serious need to tread gently, businesses championing the environmental protection cause should share encouraging messages of their sustainability initiatives and business ethos.
From a tourism perspective, more and more travellers are looking for sustainable tourism options. A wine farm outside Stellenbosch, Spier, believes the secret to successful sustainable tourism lies in taking guests and staff with you on your sustainability journey.
“While fostering a culture of sustainability, sharing these initiatives help us learn from one another and create a stronger sense of community,” says Heidi Newton-King, Director of Sustainability and Human Resources at Spier. “It’s important that we collaborate as we’re facing this enormous challenge together.”
According to Booking.com’s recent Sustainability Report, “the number of travellers staying in an eco-friendly accommodation at least once could double this year with 65% of global travellers expressing this intention, versus 34% who stayed in one or more last year”. With “environmentally-friendly lodging” also named a top 2017 travel trend by Travel Channel/TODAY**, it is clear that travellers’ sustainable appetite is growing.
Sustainability has always been at the heart of Spier (with its hotel featuring energy-efficient mini-bars, water-wise showers and Vivreau filtered water served in reusable glass bottles), being the first in SA to be awarded a Fair Trade in Tourism accreditation in 2003.
Ten years ago, as a means to balancing the business and environment, Spier set specific environmental and social macro goals for 2017. It has reduced electricity consumption per guest by 30% while still guaranteeing guests a four-star, luxury experience around the clock. The initial electricity consumption measurements were 27.65 kWh (kilowatt-hour)/guest with an achievement of 19.01 kWh to date, even lower than their 2017 target of 19,35 kWh.
“Your guests first need to know you’re serious and genuine in your efforts before they’ll play a role, so you have to illustrate that as a business you are taking responsibility in caring for the environment and for people,” explains Newton-King. “Identify the largest energy consumers, measuring, monitoring and reporting regularly. Then start acting on the results, implementing programmes and putting systems in place.”
“The toughest challenge in achieving sustainability goals remains behavioural change,” she shares. “That’s why we offer guests opportunities to make a difference, such as its offset programme and “Pack with a Purpose” project where guests are encouraged to bring much-needed items with them to South Africa that they then donate to a school or community project that Spier supports.”
Spier invests considerably in creating a working environment that encourages employees to be agents of change. Through its “Love the Land” programme, staff learn more about river and alien clearing, indigenous plant propagation, food sources, and the recycling and conservation of water. They in turn play a key role in conveying sustainability messages to guests. “Our porters are well trained to help guests understand our environment, challenges our region is facing and what we’re doing about it.”