Eco-tourism: Being a Conscious Traveler


As summer comes to an end, it’s time to look back at this highly anticipated time of the year which marks the start of the holiday season and gives full-time workers the opportunity to take some time off their stressful jobs. Holidays are planned well in advance and shopping sprees are majorly enjoyed - but regardless of the season, everyone loves a good vacation in some of the ‘hottest’ and most picturesque (Instagrammable) destinations around the world. Though, no one quite realises the carbon footprint that tourism leaves on the face of our planet every year. So, before we take our next trip(s) in the last few months of 2018, let’s talk about it.


As a trillion-dollar industry, it’s no surprise that travel accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a study published by Nature Climate Change, the rise in amount of gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide came from tourist spending on transport, shopping and food. Driven by rising incomes, the appetite for travel continues to grow - making tourism a highly carbon-intensive industry. Let’s not forget the impact of aviation itself, as we all travel in planes - which accounts for 11% of all transport-related emissions in the United States alone (New York Times, 2017). Hotels are also highly resource-intensive, utilising a large amount of commodities; usually packaged and delivered in single use plastic packaging, to provide their visitors with the best experience. This includes the sweet-scented single-use shampoo bottles, toiletries sets, coffee packets, number of times our hotel room towels and sheets are washed & so forth, so we get the idea and understand the magnitude of the problem at hand.

That is why the concept of eco-tourism exists and sustainable travel has become a widespread priority within many airlines and hotels across the globe. This article will focus specifically on hotels and highlight the many ways that different hotels in various countries contribute to lowering their carbon footprint, whether it be through building an eco-space or green taxations.


Noteworthy Eco-Spaces

Although it’s difficult to have a truly eco-friendly holiday, it’s well-worth opting for accommodation that is making a move in the right direction by supporting their green measures. In Costa Rica, The Harmony Hotel has created an eco-space which composts, uses solar-powered water heaters and serves organic food. It also calculates and compensates for the hotel’s remaining carbon emissions with their “Plant a Tree” initiative. Ecuador’s Mashpi Lodge is powered with 100% hydroelectricity, while eco-chic villas in the Maldives such as Soneva Fushi have waste management systems and marine conservation programmes in place to ensure the island continues to remain the dreamy destination that it is known by many today.

Let’s not get started on Europe’s vast range of hotels across all it’s countries that go the extra mile in implementing strong sustainability practices. Hotel Allegro Bern in Switzerland uses a waste heat recovery system and recycles 90% of its mattresses and furnitures, while the Voksenasen AS Hotel in Norway boasts a fantastic eco-friendly design which includes a geothermal system and a roof planted with vegetation. If you ever decide to travel to Vienna, be sure to stay at Boutique Hotel Stadhalle - which features over 130m square ft of solar panels and a roof garden featuring Vienna’s largest lavender field. What’s more, it even gives its guests green bonus rewards for traveling by bike or train!

Even in Hong Kong, all the way on the other side, it’s great to see more luxury hotels jump on the bandwagon - such as The Langham, which uses energy efficient lighting, low flush toilets, low flow taps, recycled wet amenities and much more. In terms of its dining, it uses organic food options and a shark-free menu amongst other things. Another one of the city’s finest five-star hotels, The Mandarin Oriental, has replaced plastic straws with bamboo and has placed free water dispensers in the lobby areas to replace the 500+ plastic bottles used everyday in the hotel.


Green Taxations

Right after graduating from college early this June, we decided to take a couple days off to explore an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean - the Maldives. While booking accommodation, we were quite surprised to see a small portion of the hotel fees being allocated to a ‘green tax’. According to research as of 2016, green tax is payable at the rate of 3 to 6 US dollars per day of stay at tourist hotels and guesthouses (Maldives Inland Revenue Authority). Travel & tourism has a direct contribution of almost 50% to the country’s total GDP, and is expected to increase over the years, which is no surprise with its reputation as a ‘paradise’-like luxury holiday destination (World Travel & Tourism Council). The pristine islands, colorful coral reefs and top-notch services to its tourists comes at a price in an archipelago that is threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. In this case, the price is a tax paid by all visitors - which the government uses in waste management schemes and other environmental efforts to protect its islands.

These green or eco-taxes are implemented within many hotels across the globe and are quite effective in raising revenues used to improve environmental standards. It can be used to fund beach clean-ups, coral reefs, preserve natural spaces, collect & manage waste and much more. Next time you book a hotel, check if there’s any additional taxation, it’s worth knowing where your money goes into! The question is, are these taxes enough to fight climate change?


Other Tips for the Trips

It’s not all up to the places we travel to and hotels we stay at to make our trips more green, whether they have an eco-space or a green tax shouldn’t stop us from making our own individual efforts. After all, it’s the small things that count and make a difference. Whilst packing for your trip, don’t forget your reusables; such as a tote bag for your shopping trips, a bottle to store your drinkable liquids and a metal straw so the plastic ones don’t end up in the stunning coastlines of your resort. Let’s try dining in rather than taking out as much as possible, and keep our waste to a minimum. It’s also very important to pack smart in terms of clothing options - bringing staples and items that are easy to mix and match will keep us from unnecessary shopping just because we forgot a matching pair of shoes!

Being a conscious traveler doesn’t mean having the perfect ‘green’ holiday, it simply means being mindful and responsible of our actions. The way we travel can be a reflection of our personality and lifestyle in general, so let’s do it well and always appreciate our surroundings, it’s never too late to make a conscious choice.


+ Words: Mashal Mush

Mashal Mush is a driven Pakistan-born, Hong Kong-bred individual that has a love for traveling and writing. As a fresh grad, she is a sustainable fashion marketer in the making, taking one green step at a time - and aims to inform, inspire & influence many along the way.

Instagram: @mashgoesgreen