According to the International Ecotourism Society, more than two-thirds of U.S. travelers consider “active protection of the environment, including support of local communities,” to be part of a hotel’s responsibility, while 70% would pay a premium to stay at a hotel with “a responsible environmental attitude.” With such consumer passions as their guide, luxury hotels and resorts are going green with programs and amenities that help protect the Big Blue Marble. Who is “eco-friendliest” at the top-end of the hospitality industry? Read on:
• Le Méridien Bora Bora is stepping up to assure a vibrant future for hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles with its on-site Turtle Sanctuary. Located in the resort’s private lagoon, the sanctuary provides much-needed protection for some of the South Pacific’s most vulnerable creatures, while educating guests and islanders on the importance of the marine turtles’ survival. Guests are offered an array of educational interactions, including the opportunity to swim with turtles in their natural environment. They can also “adopt” a turtle and track its progress online after returning home. The only effort of its kind in French Polynesia, Le Méridien Bora Bora’s Turtle Sanctuary celebrates its 5th anniversary this year. www.starwood.com/lemeridien
• With a nod toward clean air, The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine is helping keep auto emissions to a minimum with an electric “Gem Car.” The boutique hotel selected the Gem as its “house transportation” for its environmental pedigree and quiet convenience on the streets. Guests often request the car to whisk them from their yachts to The White Barn Inn, or from guest cottages to dinner at the famous White Barn Inn Restaurant – the only Mobil Five-Star in the state. http://www.whitebarninn.com/
• Café Fleuri at Langham Hotel, Boston, has been certified as a “Green Restaurant,” making it the first hotel restaurant in Boston to be recognized by the Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com). In order to become certified, the property had to address several aspects of its operation, including discontinuing the use of Styrofoam throughout the hotel; switching to recycled and chlorine-free paper; installing low-flow spray valves in the kitchen to conserve water usage; and recycling all cardboard, plastic and glass bottles. Water conservation has also been instituted in the guest rooms. While Green Restaurant certification can take up to a year, focused pursuit by Hotel Manager Stephanie Mehail wrapped up the process for Langham in just two months. http://www.boston.langhamhotels.com/
• Mountain Travel Sobek has partnered with the Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org) to preserve the dramatic natural setting and ancient traditions of China’s Yunnan Peninsula, which is slated for development by the Chinese government. The adventure travel pioneer, which completed the first commercial descent of the Mekong River in 2006, is working with the Nature Conservancy to train locals to work the rivers and welcome travelers in ways that do not threaten the region’s delicate ecosystem. http://www.mtsobek.com/
• The South African constitution guarantees that every citizen has the right “to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations.” With the world’s third-highest level of biodiversity, a stellar record of ethical tourism, and 20 Blue Flag Beaches (a recognition from the non-profit Foundation for Environmental Education), it’s no surprise South Africa has its share of eco-friendly tour operators. One notable example is African Travel Inc. www.africantravelinc.com , which dedicates a portion of profits from every safari to the Cheetah Outreach Foundation, South Africa (www.cheetah.co.za/) an organization focused on increasing awareness of the diminishing numbers of free-ranging cheetahs. South African hotels are also going “green,” including the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town (www.mountnelson.co.za), which has established an on-site worm farm – a.k.a., vermiculture – to process leftover food and other organic matter in fertilizer and soil conditioner. http://www.southafrica.net/ • Hyatt Key West Resort & Marina is on its way to becoming “Green Certified” by the Florida Green Lodging Program (www.FloridaGreenLodging.org), including wrapping up its application for “1 Palm” status to become Key West’s first “Green Approved” resort by year’s end. The Florida Green Lodging Program is an effort by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to encourage the lodging industry to conserve and protect Florida’s natural resources. This program acknowledges and promotes lodging facilities that demonstrate water and energy conservation, waste minimization, recycling, indoor air quality, environmentally preferable purchasing, program sustainability and pollution prevention. Hyatt Key West also recently announced a partnership with the Reef Relief Organization (www.reefrelief.org) to donate $5 from special signature treatments at the new Jala Spa for Reef Relief. http://www.keywest.hyatt.com/
• Little Dix Bay, A Rosewood Resort on Virgin Gorda recently introduced “Coral Reef Chats” to educate guests on the importance of preserving the extensive reef located in swimming distance from the resort’s crescent-shaped shoreline. Each Friday, Clive Petrovic, a Marine Biologist from Tortola, drops by to lead an interactive seminar highlighted by carefully collected reef specimens. During the “chat,” guests are encouraged to look, smell and touch the specimens under the Petrovic’s supervision, with Q&A opportunities as the biologist educates guests on how to protect the environment and the reef and discusses symbiosis and the life histories of each creature. Afterwards, Petrovic returns all specimens back to their original locations. http://www.littledixbay.com/
• Hawksbill turtles have a safe haven at Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort. The private island resort off the coast of Antigua is site of the Hawksbill Turtle Program, a privately funded research project sponsored by island residents and under direction of the University of Georgia. Each year, Hawksbills return to nest on the resort’s Pasture Bay Beach, a protected nesting area that has been drawing the now-endangered sea turtles since the age of the dinosaurs. Ecologically minded guests on island from June through November may sign up for “turtle watch” to play an active role in the program, the longest running scientific study of its kind. http://www.jumbybayresort.com/
• Can Mongolia, Bhutan, Tibet, China and Siberia benefit from an ecologically based and sustainable approach to tourism? Nomadic Expeditions sure thinks so. The pioneering purveyor of authentic cultural travel goes out of its way to minimize the impact on the environment it explores, to promote awareness of conservation and sustainable tourism, and to provide ongoing training for guides and drivers so that trip participants can receive the latest environmental information.
Through arrangements with local farmers, Nomadic Expeditions’ Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi Desert (www.threecamellodge.com) was forged through a cooperative agreement with local authorities for sustainable development and conservation. The property fully utilizes renewable energy resources, including solar and wind power. http://www.nomadicexpeditions.com/
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