Mr. Chomat

Eco-Friendly Practices

Luxury Tourism's Emphasis on Eco-Tourism

By Mandy Chomat, Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Leisure travel contributed $7.58 trillion last year to the global economy, with the luxury sector in particular growing a phenomenal 48 percent in the last five years, according to a special evaluation of the World Travel Monitor®, which is conducted by IPK International. Furthermore, consulting firm Deloitte found that the number of travelers who are aware of sustainable travel issues and the willingness of said travelers to spend on environmentally-sustainable travel have increased by a third in the last decade.

Luxury hospitality companies around the world including Karisma Hotels & Resorts, Bulgari Hotels, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts and Six Senses, among others, are responding to spikes within their own industry and eco-tourism, introducing environmentally- conscious products and implementing environmentally-friendly practices into existing properties. Given that travelers to these hotels and resorts expect nothing but the best, the successful integration of green within the luxury travel space is being done in extreme eco-chic fashion. But first, an understanding of the fundamentals of eco-tourism.

What is Eco-Tourism?

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) defines eco-tourism as "Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples." Although certain areas and properties may be challenged to abide by the strict definition of eco-tourism, there are still ample opportunities to reflect its key characteristics on-property and beyond, including: Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity; Support for local conservation efforts; Sustainable benefits to local communities; Local participation in decision-making; and Educational components for both the traveler and local communities.

There is often the argument that increased tourism can negatively impact the environment without appropriate management. However, tourism is also a major contributor to generating the revenues necessary to protect natural areas. This is particularly true of luxury travel, which is defined by the World Travel Monitor® as costing more than $750 per night on short trips and more than $500 per night on long trips, and producing the income required to fund programs that benefit the planet.

By example, the owners El Dorado Spa Resorts by Karisma, an award-winning collection of Gourmet Inclusive®, luxury properties in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, recently commission the creation of the world's largest artificial reef, Kan Kanan. Stretching longer than the Brooklyn Bridge, Kan Kanan - meaning guardian of the sea - covers more than a mile of coastline parallel to the coast of Punta Brava in Mexico. It was built by a team of expert engineers, environmentalists, architects and specialized divers at a cost of $1 million as a monumental solution to the deterioration of the marine systems. Kan Kanan intends to divert attention and negative impact of time on the natural ecosystem, and fight against climate change to preserve the Mexican Caribbean's splendor. It is the new home to thousands of sea species and is protecting the coast from natural erosion.

When done right, grandiose green gestures have far reaching benefits but so, too, do smaller actions. On a more individualized scale, how can luxury hotel collections and hoteliers do their part toward becoming more eco-conscious and helping the environment?

How to Implement Environmentally-Friendly Practices into Upscale Properties

The growth of luxury and eco-tourism have brought with them an increased expectation that hotels and resorts will be environmentally friendly. Deloitte found that "95 percent of business travelers surveyed believe that the hotel industry should be undertaking 'green' initiatives and that sustainability will become a defining issue for the hospitality industry in 2015 and beyond". United Nations agreed and last December, announced that 2017 will be the International Year of Sustainable Travel for Development. It seems there's no time like the present.

Going green, particularly in an eco-chic manner, can be achieved in any number of ways both behind the scenes and before guests provided hotels consider the aforementioned pillars of eco-tourism and implement practices that abide by its principles rather than act solely as marketing ploys. Additional luxury hotel brands instilling eco-conscious practices into their daily operations include The Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas, Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole and The Green House in Bournemouth, UK.

The largest LEED-certified building in the world, The Palazzo Hotel conserves enough water to provide each resident of Nevada with 266 eight-ounce glasses for a year. Hotel Terra Jackson Hole utilizes fluorescent light bulbs, recycled steel, organic mattresses and aluminum water bottles as part of its commitment to being an environmentally sustainable hotel located within close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. A Victorian-style villa tucked away within a forest of trees, The Green House has implemented energy efficient heating and lighting, and each room is fitted with locally-made 100% wool carpets and an eco-bed made by a leading UK based luxury bed manufacturer using trees felled by storms or tree surgeons.

The Global Green-certified El Dorado Maroma, A Beachfront Resort, by Karisma recently debuted Palafitos - Overwater Bungalows, Mexico's first and only over-the-ocean suites. The country's most luxurious accommodations, Palafitos - Overwater Bungalows are also among the most sustainable. Palafitos - Overwater Bungalows were built of eco materials that avoid pollution as the base of each of the 30 standalone suites acts as an artificial reef that attracts and helps sea life flourish in a similar manner as Kan Kanan. Not only will savvy travelers feel good about visiting, the experience will be enhanced as sea life flourish under the glass-bottom floors of their Palafitos - Overwater Bungalows. We also recently announced that a selection of Palafitos - Overwater Bungalows are certified PURE Rooms, having undergone a patented, 7-step purification process that treats every surface, including the air, removing up to 99 percent of pollutants for allergy-friendly suites that deliver the freshest air quality in the hotel industry.

Further, at our El Dorado Spa Resorts and Azul Beach Resorts by Karisma in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, all of which are Green Globe certified, we've implemented solar panels throughout, which help to heat 40 to 100 percent of the water at each resort, and more efficient and eco-friendly laundry services that use reverse osmosis to reduce waste. Additionally, El Dorado Spa Resorts and Azul Beach Resorts by Karisma have implemented quality controls for linens, restroom sensors, and the use of green cleaning suppliers, such as Diversey. New energy efficient air conditioners and dehumidifiers were installed throughout all of the properties and at El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort, by Karisma, landscaping efforts utilize recycled water from chemical-free laundry services provided by the resort. The resort collection has also embarked on a recent project to repurpose used cooking oils into biodiesel fuel, which could potentially power the properties' emergency generators and landscaping equipment.

We are also proud of our major recycling initiative that is underway at El Dorado Spa Resorts and Azul Beach Resorts by Karisma, where extensive measures are taken to ensure that all garbage is separated and recycled properly, including hazardous waste, organic items, glass, and paper. Recycling bins are located throughout the properties and feature signage educating guests as to the importance of recycling. Employees are also encouraged to bring in their recycled goods from home once a week, which are then processed on property. At each property, guest rooms are equipped with environmental tent cards illustrating eco-efficient practices and encouraging preservation of water and electricity as well as recycling suitable materials. The implementation of a recycling initiative is a relatively simple way to engage employees as well as resort guests, who appreciate and enjoy being able to continue their at-home recycling routines while on vacation.

Even more significant for the affluent traveler, El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort, by Karisma is home to a 75,000 square-foot greenhouse - Riviera Maya's largest greenhouse and the first resort facility in the region. Produce and herbs from the now expanded El Dorado Royale greenhouse services Karisma's entire Gourmet Inclusive hotel collection, including nine sister Gourmet Inclusive properties, where guests savor exceptional food and service in a dining experience that fosters togetherness. The on-site greenhouse also services several high-profile neighboring resorts as they consider its produce to be the freshest in the region. Comprising 15 greenhouses in all, the greenhouse facility allows the resort to control the growing environment and choose specific produce characteristics such as taste, size, and color while "extending the seasons." By growing vegetables on-property, we are able to reduce emissions created during the transportation of products from their harvest locations to the resort as well as minimize out-of-pocket costs.

The expansive greenhouse celebrated its first harvest in August 2009. Eight years and tons of crops later, the greenhouse grows a variety hydroponic vegetables and herbs, including heirloom tomatoes, arugula, papaya, cucumbers, bell peppers, chilies, basil, parsley, and mint. The greenhouse also offers employees the opportunity to purchase the vegetables grown on-site. Green initiatives seem to be most successful when employees become invested and involved in the program, therefore acting as on-site ambassadors for hotel guests.

With the on-site greenhouse, we strive to heighten guests' Gourmet Inclusive culinary experiences by ensuring that only the most flavorful, hydroponic vegetables and herbs are used. While the 'farm to table' concept is thriving in foodie towns like San Francisco, this 'greenhouse to table' concept is unique to destinations like Mexico and caters to the increasing demand by consumers for local and sustainable foods.

In becoming more environmentally-friendly within the luxury market, it is critical to stay ahead of consumer trends to ensure the satisfaction of even your most discerning guests.

Eco-Aspects Help to Save the Planet and Fulfill Luxury Travelers

Eco-responsibility is rapidly evolving from a niche concept to a standard across the hospitality industry. Its benefits are far reaching - being environmentally-friendly helps preserve the natural environment that guests are paying to enjoy, it can support the culture and authenticity of a destination, and it can even increase on-property efficiencies to reduce operational costs.

Luxury hotels and resorts, whose clients and guests are particularly discerning, will also be rewarded for their eco-efforts by increased bookings. A recent study by RetailMeNot found that 89 percent of respondents do what they can to live environmentally friendly lifestyles while 73 percent of US consumers believe it is important to patronize companies that are socially or environmentally responsible, according to Tilton.

Additionally, the luxury sector may see a spike in guest satisfaction. Along with higher room rates at upscale properties come higher expectations. Going above and beyond to exceed standards of exceptional design, cuisine, amenities and service to create an authentic and eco-conscious experience that guests can feel good about will go a long way.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts has always tried to set a standard for sustainability - implementing measures within the luxury hospitality space to make certain that a growing tourism industry protects and nurtures the regions it celebrates. We are continually inspired by other properties and organizations, and look forward to being joined by more upscale hotels and resorts in our shared goal of growing luxury and eco-tourism around the globe.

Armando “Mandy” Chomat joined Karisma Hotels & Resorts in 2007 as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing. He oversees brand concepts and provides sales and marketing leadership for the collection of luxury properties. With more than 35 years in hospitality sales and marketing Mr. Chomat brings knowledge and experience to his role. Previously, he spent 17 years as the Unique Vacations Worldwide Representative for Sandals & Beaches Resorts. Mr. Chomat also served as the president and owner of Trac, a sales, marketing, and development company that focused on consulting corporations looking to expand their business in Latin America. Mr. Chomat can be contacted at 305-445-1077 or mchomat@karismahotels.com Extended Bio...

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