It’s important to try to travel sustainably, but it’s not always easy to find sustainable tourism companies. That’s why we’ve prepared this post for you.
How does a sustainable tourism company work?
Like any other company or organisation, a tourism company has a set of responsibilities with regard to the environment in which it works.
Companies are obliged to participate in the development of the community in which they operate.
The term sustainable development was first used in 1987. The term appeared in the Brundtal Report, which was based on a socio-economic study prepared by the United Nations.
In the report, they defined it as follows:
«Sustainable development is that which is capable
of meeting the needs of current generations without
compromising the resources that will be needed to satisfy
the needs of future generations.”
That said, it should be emphasised that the role of a sustainable tourism company goes beyond its immediate economic profitability.
Its role is linked to a very clear mission to preserve or even improve the environment in which it operates, applying policies of resource conservation, social well-being and long-term economic returns.
How is the sustainability of tourism company measured?
Companies that decide to move from a conventional management system to a sustainable management system must be comprehensive in their approach.
Sustainability is not a fashion, a trend, or a goal. Rather, starting to work in a more sustainable way means creating a new reality.
For a company, thinking about sustainability means thinking long-term about what we are leaving for future generations and acting accordingly.
In the public sector, we are aware that perhaps the most difficult step is to get started.
Employers sometimes require some technical help when getting started, which is why the Vallès Oriental Regional Council has worked with some fifty companies this year as part of its Commitment to the Sustainability of the Tourism Biosphere.
During this process, companies work on sustainability from three perspectives or dimensions:
- The importance of climate change and the environment.
- The sociocultural perspective
- The economic perspective
Therefore, choosing a tourism company with the Biosphere label will guarantee that its daily practices are designed to make the world a more sustainable place.
How should companies approach sustainability?
Although sustainability must be understood as a whole, when it comes to taking action, it helps to break it down to its constituent parts. That way, strategies can be designed for targeting each aspect specifically.
Shall we break them down?
1. Climate change and the environment
This is the most alarming perspective because, despite the fact that it has been talked about for years and that we’ve done little to thread the needle, we are now in the middle of a climate emergency.
The degradation of the earth and its resources is having very severe consequences on our climate. According to experts, the extreme climatic events we are experiencing have only just begun.
To help companies act better in terms of climate change, the Biosphere label proposes a series of good practices, some of which are mandatory from the outset, and the rest can be introduced year after year.
Among the mandatory measures that can be taken as starting points, there are:
- The creation of manuals of internal good practices aimed at staff and customers to achieve a more efficient use of resources.
- The periodic assessment of water and energy consumption
- The periodic assessment of the use of various products such as paper, detergents and other chemicals, with the aim of reducing or replacing them with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
- Quantify the waste generation, storage and management model.
Sustainability in the socio-cultural sphere is perhaps the least well known.
However, in the tourism industry, it is of paramount importance in terms of identity loss.
In regions such as Vallès Oriental, which doesn’t have mass tourism, we still preserve the customs, traditions and products of the land.
At a time when many destinations are overloaded with tourism, we are aware that manifestations of tradition and culture are an attraction in themselves and that visitors seek and reward authenticity.
Therefore, in this area, sustainable tourism companies ensure both the well-being of the people who work at the company as well as the development of the community.
Actions that work towards the social well-being of the community:
- Using respectful and non-discriminatory language.
- Operating in accordance with gender equality and wage gap reduction policies.
- Including people with functional diversity.
- Implementing specific employment plans to combat unemployment and job insecurity.
- Actively participating in the life of the town or city, sponsoring and making joint proposals with local entities and associations
- Including activities related to the cultural and natural resources of the destination as part of their programs of activities.
- Educating their customer-facing personnel about the area’s resources so they can advise the customer on how they can make a positive impact.
Economicsustainability means that the wealth generated by companies should have a direct impact on the region.
It’s about generating an economic exchange that’s sustained over time, based on trust and the quality of products and services.
A sustainable financial policy could involve the application of responsible purchasing policies; for example, a restaurant or a hotel adding locally produced food to its menu.
Locally produced and organically grown, for those who want to go further.
Another example of a responsible policy in the case of a hotel, for example, could be sourcing products from employment agencies for people with functional diversity.
One of the most pressing issues right now is how to avoid food waste:
In the kitchen, having very well-measured portions helps decrease food rejection and increase product yield. Meanwhile, in the dining room, it’s helpful to know how to guide the customer so that they don’t order too much food.
If we go further, sustainable tourism companies of a certain size, such as a hotel, have a multiplier effect on the economy.
What does that mean?
Because beyond being job creators themselves, due to their activity, they encourage the creation of new companies.
A clear example of this can be external services such as laundry, gardening, or independent services that customers may need.
Not having a planet B means that we have to let the planet regenerate year after year and not consume more than it can produce.
Therefore, right now the biggest challenge facing sustainable tourism is how to reduce:
- Reduce resource consumption.
- Reduce CO₂ emissions.
- Reduce any activities that damage soil and aquifers.
Consequently, if we want to organise our holidays and getaways in a more sustainable way, it’s important that we not only look at the cost but all the other factors that we have talked about too.
If you want to learn about the companies distinguished with the Biosphere seal in Vallès Oriental, here’s a link, and we invite you to browse the turismevalles.com website.