January 31, 2012
The Tourism Industry and the Environment
Tourism is a very important part of the global economy as it is the largest and fastest growing sector of today’s world. The travel industry is the number one employer of the world, and it represents more than 10% of global expenditure (Ecole Hoteliere de Loussane, n.d., para. 1). The Tourism and Hospitality Industry also depends greatly in environmental and cultural resources; naturally, the industry offers activities that constantly interact with the environment. Tourists are usually looking for places that are secluded from civilization, resulting in deforestation of natural areas for the development of hotels and resorts (Wahab & Pigram, 1997, p.17). In the last few years many hotels have started labeling themselves as “environmentally friendly” or “green hotels”; unfortunately, this label is frequently used in an attempt to reduce costs and as a marketing tool.
In November 2009 Sol Meliá, the giant hotel company based in Spain, was the first in the world to be certified by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), supported by UNESCO, as a “Biosphere Hotel Company” (Mengel, 2010, para.1). Amongst the major environmentally-friendly practices that Sol Meliá has to put into practice we can find efficient energy management, solid waste and water management, and employee education. All these factors have been put together to reduce their hotel’s environmental foot prints. None the less, Sol Meliá has been known for opening properties in environmentally delicate areas, where the true eco-decision would have been to not build the hotel at all.
Emerging in the early 80’s, the concept of ‘Eco Tourism’ was the new way of tourism that would change the mass and environmentally degrading traveling to a more gentle way that supports the whole concept of sustainability. However, a report by The World Bank (Brandon, 1996, p.2) informs that this new ‘alternative tourism’...