Type that into Google and you will find a number of Top 10 websites with hotels from around the world offering exotic pictures for the carbon-guilty tourists. A decent website even mentioned the LED retrofits and heat recovery systems in place at some of these hotels. Locally sourced firewood, replacing bottled water with spring water, the list goes on and on. Are these hotels the epitome of sustainability? Do they care about the environment more than they do about their bottom line?
Many people say sustainability goes both ways- that it has to be profitable and environment-friendly. But in the hotel industry, I disagree. Whether they provide staycations or vacations, the majority of hotels hinge on the idea of luxury. The few recent ones may be about budget experience. The availability of free toiletries, warm lighting, daily cleaning, express laundry and breakfast buffets are all about enjoying unlimited resources for a limited time. The more you consume, the better you have taken advantage of the amount you paid at the hotel reception.
Having stayed at a hotel (more like stuck) here in Riyadh for the past week, I have come to realise that when the entire industry has accepted the free unlimited services as the standard, it drives the notion of consumption in the minds of the travellers and the tourists who stay at one. And it forgets a critical detail in today’s world- that the resources are limited. Is it possible to get luxury hotels to stop restocking shampoo bottles and bath towels every day? If these unsustainable practices are stopped, then what defines luxury?
And what about the hotels on bamboo stilts in the middle of a jungle like the beautiful resort shown in the thumbnail? Well, with the restricted consumption and proper waste management, these may be on their way to sustainability but venturing into forests often means displacing the woodlands and the wild animals hosted by these rainforests. The concept of wildlife retreats may cause more harm than good when the idea catches on and everyone tries to make a quick buck.
These are the problem with putting the terms “Sustainable” and “Hotel” together. As time goes forward we may innovate in the travelling and tourism industry. May be one day the hotels will run behind the trend of limited supplies- I am sure it will catch on as it helps their bottom line. I look forward to staying at a truly sustainable hotel, from the ground up!