We in the tourism sector have a responsibility to lead the way on nature restoration. Beautiful places surrounded by glorious forests, beaches, flowers, birdlife, and mountain views understandably draw visitors, yet the consumption of fossil fuels and wasteful use of food and resources by hospitality adds to pollution and depletion of those same natural assets.
This is a dichotomy that tourist accommodation must resolve – how to tread gently and nurture the planet. Grasping the challenges of biodiversity loss can forge a bath towards better visitor experience and a strong competitive advantage. Humans, to different degrees, draw immense pleasure and understanding from the wildlife, plants, and landscapes in nature. If we harness human affinity to nature, we can adjust behaviours, services, and resources.
Tourism has much to gain from embracing biophilia – humanity’s innate love of life and nature. American naturalist Edward Wilson wrote in his book on the subject, “The more we know of other forms of life, the more we enjoy and respect ourselves… Humanity is exalted not because we are so above other living creatures, but because knowing them well elevates the very concept of life”. The same is true of hospitality. Biophilia can be used to engage guests in our sustainability programmes.
This year’s UN Environment Day also marks the official launch of Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. It offers an important stimulus to contribute. Through biophilia we can increase visitor connectedness, participation, and appreciation. We can also – through careful experience design – reduce emissions, improve habitat, and improve the hospitality firm’s reputation and appeal.
Below are some pointers on how to start integrating your hospitality business with the local environment.
Tips for tourist accommodation in urban settings
- Promote biophilia through interior design. Research shows that rooms and public spaces made with natural materials, displaying plants and promoting connectedness with nature enjoy a higher level of guest use;
- Identify indigenous species of life (flora or fauna) and their unique characteristics for surviving in your climate, how they adjust to the weather or build their nests/borrows. Within these special adaptive skills will lie ideas of retrofitting the building through biomimicry design to use less energy. Explain your project and results to guests to demonstrate nature’s creative talents;
- Use natural materials to provide guests with better experiences and increased comfort. For example, using natural fibres on their beds; wooden shutters providing shade, creating ‘green walls’ with plants that reduce the temperature and purify the air. Buying exclusively green energy, collecting rainwater for consumption would further enhance the experience;
- Cater to all the senses. Smell and sound are also powerful ways to enhance the natural experience; follow the example of traditional architecture and introduce fountains (using your renewable water supply), and displays of scented seasonal flowers. Provide seating and let guests enjoy the tranquillity, coolness, and aromas;
- Celebrate the use of natural, sustainably produced materials. It will help you convey your environmental commitment and raise the guest’s curiosity.
Tips for tourist accommodation in natural settings
- Undertake a site audit of flora and fauna. Identify threatened species to prioritise, as well as species which are damaging the local ecosystem. Contact local ornithologists, environment groups, or national parks to conduct audits and recommend suitable rehabilitation action(s);
- Make interpretation of nature available in your guest rooms explaining flora/fauna of particular importance in your location. Include items like field glasses, applications, literature, in-room TV documentary. Theme public areas to reflect the natural habitat of local threatened species;
- Select an existing programme to contribute to fundraising with guests, staff, and strategic partners outside your property area. Run working bees or practical donations of materials. Involve your guests in the project. Visitors seek authentic experiences which allow them to get close to nature and see positive benefits from their visit and your property. Create tours and invite them to visit. Those who donate could receive a souvenir or special extra features of the tour. You could also raise funds through the sale of memorabilia.
- Conduct quarterly progress reports and make these visible to all staff, guests and corporate clients and strategic partners
- Run a social media page about the programme. Link this to guest touch points so they can ‘follow’ and stay in the loop on all the great work you are doing.
Cooperation strengthens impact
At My Green Butler we work with biomimicry architects to design hospitality environments that capture nature’s ingenious solutions. Whether the design is new or retrofitted, we promote biophilia using our persuasive technology. Our system interprets the experience motivating participation to reduce consumption and avoid waste. It becomes a synergy of physical design with adaptive behaviours which reflect nature’s own skill, ability to adjust and thrive.
A feature of My Green Butler is our ‘Noble Cause’, which introduces conservation projects to guests, raising donations, and directing fiscal savings achieved from responsible resource use to schemes improving ecosystems. People are most motivated by causes that are immediate and clear, where they can see tangible evidence for themselves. Local causes strengthen guest connection to the environment.
My Green Butler has raised thousands of dollars in projects like Crystal Creek Meadows in Australia, with the funds going to orphaned wombats and Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies. Similarly, Langdale timeshare and Thorney How B&B – both in Cumbria, UK – raise funds by saving resources and guest donations for the endangered Red Squirrels.
Our system raises awareness at properties in Gippsland Victoria for local sea life, and the 5-star Amora Hotel in Sydney raises funds for the Wheen Bee Foundation, in sync with its conscious food miles menu. In all our cases, the experiences increase guest satisfaction and social media reviews.
Too often I meet hoteliers making great efforts to reduce their footprint, yet hide this fact from corporate clients and guests. Don’t! If you make your efforts tangible and enhance them, then you can do good and build a discernible competitive advantage at the same time.
By Dr. Christopher Warren | @ChrisWarrenRT