By: Stephanie Auslander, Destinations International
The term sustainability has gained more traction in recent months as it moves from merely a buzzword to a growing segment of the industry expected to grow incrementally over the next five years. A report by Technavio predicts that sustainable tourism will grow by $235 billion dollars with 51% of the growth accounted for in European destinations. One of the key indicators shifting the industry towards sustainability includes the preference to have more local and authentic travel experiences. Europe, which is primarily ahead of other destinations on sustainability efforts, provides a key framework for other destinations to emulate.
Destination Stewardship, one of the key pillars of Destinations International's strategic focus, is about assessing ways in which organizations may adopt best practices that preserve the environment for future generations. Sonoma County which was recently named the United States’ first Destination Stewardship organization has recognized the role of environmental conservation and connection to a thriving community for years. Sonoma County mentions several key initiatives in becoming a good steward of the earth including the pledge to travel kindly, leave no trace seven principles and calculating your carbon footprint. Their organization provides information for travelers on how to navigate droughts, find birdwatching parks, and shop sustainably in Sonoma.
Tourism Vancouver is transitioning towards the future with the introduction of 4VI, a social enterprise in support of sustainability on the island. The project which started as a pandemic recovery measure has grown into a transition away from a management organization into a social enterprise focusing on identifying social goods and redirecting revenue towards that good. Four pillars of social responsibility will be integrated in the new model: communities, business, culture, and the environment, all working towards the goal of becoming a sustainable destination by 2030. Tourism Vancouver aims to be at the forefront of the sustainability conversation including putting their expertise into action in a meaningful way. Moreover, the organization has signed on with the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action focusing on a commitment to reduce emissions by 2030 to reach net zero by 2050.
Hotel Marcel operated by Hilton in New Haven, CT has begun operations on the country's first net-zero hotel completely independent of fossil fuels utilizing renewable solar power sources to generate electricity. Renewable sources of energy will help power its four communal areas: rooms & suites, restaurant, laundry, and meeting rooms resulting in zero carbon emissions. The hotel will be among the nation's few LEED platinum certified properties. The innovative hotel features a power over ethernet lighting system designed to reduce energy use by 30%, repurposed building materials, enhancements to room temperature aimed at improving air quality, and restoring wood-panel walls that result in utilizing less energy per square foot than most hotels.
Furthermore, sustainability was designed with guests’ luxury and comfort in mind with the introduction of blackout shades to provide a good night’s sleep, universal level two charges for their electric vehicles, and including ultra-efficient insulation to keep room temperatures stable. The hotel provides guests with a sustainable dining experience that offers locally sourced menu items, organic wines, and a grab-and-go station offering sustainable snacks.
In addition to being known as the horse capital of the world, Lexington is now known as the destination with the world’s first plant friendly hotel. Visit Lexington has partnered with Elmwood Hotel & Suites designed to offer eco-friendly minded visitors a unique experience with amenities ranging from special rooms for plant moms and dads to lush garden hotel suites. When referencing the strategy to go green, the director of development for the hotel states “With Airbnb and other outlets like that, people do not want cookie-cutter anymore. We are different and unique. We want to be a staple of the community and involved in our community.”
Additionally, guests can choose from plant friendly packages at the hotel including the gardeners premier corner room package, staycations, and stay and dine packages offering complimentary dinner at the onsite restaurant featuring locally sourced ingredients. The Premier corner dining package includes botanical bath offerings and a potted succulent to take home.
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There are a wide range of plant friendly attractions for travelers to enjoy including plant-based meal options, parks & gardens, green retail, and the Kentucky bluegrass. There is no shortage of outdoor experiences encompassing everything from zip lining, canopy bridges, nature centers, arboretums and hiking trails which are the best known in the region. There is also a variety of plant stores for consumers to bring back with them to their hotel from either Forage or Michler’s. Travelers can sample the weekly farmers market with home selections of fresh farm herbs, eggs, vegetables, honey, and local cheeses.