A Sustainable Return to Travel: Earth Month

April 1st, 2021

As celebration of Earth Day today, we must also reflect on the past year. We saw a shift from over-tourism to under-tourism and new research began on how this period of stillness might have affected climate change – if at all. As the industry continues to rebound from the pandemic, travel brands are preparing for how to promote a responsible recovery. The following hotels, tourism boards and expedition lines are leading by example. From ensuring clean drinking water for local communities to combatting climate change through reforestation to repopulating endangered species, we’ve rounded up the latest on the brands who are getting it right.

Hotels Designed with Sustainability in Mind

Paradero Todos Santos, Baja California, Mexico: Pablo Carmona and Josh Kremer, Mexican entrepreneurs and financiers, are conscious-minded seekers of adventure travel in unspoiled destinations. They have created Mexico’s first luxury soft adventure brand, Paradero Hotels, with the first property in Todos Santos that launched on February 1, 2021. The fundamental brand value is that extraordinary outdoor experiences go hand-in-hand with sustainability, community development, and conservation. Overseen by Mexico City-based POLEN, who was behind the landscape design of the Google and Twitter offices in Mexico, Paradero Todos Santos is an 80 percent landscape, 20 percent construction project that blends indoor and outdoor living. The all-suite property is nestled within an unspoiled farming community and agricultural area comprising more than a dozen family-owned farms. Pablo and Josh deliberately chose a plot of land that was previously farmed, but had not been cultivated for many years. For the on-site 100,000-square-foot botanical garden, the team harvested more than 60 endemic species (from red sand verbena and Mojave yucca to Shaw’s agave) and planted only what the hotel’s plot could naturally support (orienting each tree, flower, and bush in a way that promotes maximum growth and vitality).

andBeyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia: During a 10-month rebuild in 2019, South African-based Fox Browne Creative, a long-time design partner of andBeyond, redesigned the lodge to maximize views of both landscape and skyscape through floor-to-ceiling glass walls and above-bed retractable skylights while embracing andBeyond’s core ethos of sustainability with as light a footprint as possible. Each self-sustaining suite acts as its own solar power plant, producing enough energy to power electricity, air conditioning, and water treatment and recycling systems. The interior’s chic, desert-inspired minimalism uses local minerals such as semi-precious agate and quartz, and quirky accents harken back to the reserve’s past as a working farm. Fox Browne worked with local Namibian artisans to create custom basket-ware, wool wall hangings and rugs by Karukulia weavers (a local textile company using Namibia wool), and ostrich leather products. The lodge’s water system recycles more than 26,417 gallons of grey water a month. Approximately $600,000 has been invested in state-of-the-art sustainability initiatives, including the addition of a water bottling plant. By bottling water on-site and using recycled glass bottles, the lodge saves a significant amount of CO² per month, absorbing the carbon footprint of the delivery truck used to bring in bottled water.

Nayara Tented Camp, Costa Rica: Following one of the highest rates of deforestation in Latin America, Costa Rica has since reversed that trend and embraced reforestation. This was largely because of the government’s commitment to the cause, making it illegal in 1996 to chop down trees without approval from authorities. Costa Rica also launched PES, a program that pays farmers to protect watersheds, conserve biodiversity, or capture carbon dioxide, which has positively impacted tourism. According to the tourism board, over 60% of visitors cite nature as a reason for coming. The national parks and protected areas now cover over a quarter of the country’s land. Nayara Resorts is committed to the cause and hired a reforestation expert to rebuild the rainforest – which began with the planting of 40,000 indigenous trees. Their newest property, Nayara Tented Camp, which opened in December 2019, sits on a hillside that was completely deforested by farmers over 50 years ago. The company also expanded the property’s sloth sanctuary to over 1,000 Cecropia trees (the sloth’s main food source) to serve as a home to more than 15 sloths. Upon arrival, every group is introduced to their dedicated naturalist, who accompanies them on experiences throughout their stay (à la safari rangers in the African bush). These expert nature guides (Juan Pablo is a fan favorite) bring guests on sloth sanctuary tours, early morning bird-watching walks, and nighttime frog spotting tours on property.

Repopulating Endangered Animals from Brazil to South Africa

The loss of species has a domino effect on the entire ecosystem. In addition to protecting the land on which they live and survive, both andBeyond and Belmond are taking active roles in repopulating endangered animals. When Belmond took over Hotel das Cataratas, Iguassu Falls in 2007, it not only invested in the hotel itself, but in the surrounding Iguassu National Park. The company donated 1.4 million Brazilian Reals (approximately $250,000) towards the Projeto Onças do Iguaçu (Jaguars of Iguassu Project) to help preserve the last of the area’s jaguars. Ten years ago the population of these big cats was in sharp decline. The Jaguars of Iguassu Project installed night vision cameras around the park and used tracking devices fitted onto captured and released animals to study their behaviors and devise programs to improve their survival and breeding rates. Since the Jaguars of Iguassu Project began the number of jaguars has increased over 300% from around 9 to at least 28 (census of 2019).

Indigenous to South Africa, pangolins are mini (and adorable) dinosaur-like mammals. While not commonly known in the U.S., these native African anteaters are covered in keratin scales, which are highly valuable to poachers, making them the most trafficked mammal in the world. The species used to roam freely in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, but have been locally extinct for decades. Private groups at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve can have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with these elusive creatures with andBeyond’s Pangolin Conservation Experience and assist in replacing tags and monitoring behavior.

Three Education Initiatives in Local Communities

Sustainable travel not only involves reducing carbon footprint or regenerating local biodiversity but also actively contributing to the local communities who live there. Napa Valley Vintners (NVV), a nonprofit trade association leading the wine region since 1944, has partnered with UNCF to create a new scholarship program for people of color to pursue college degrees in subjects ranging from grape growing, winemaking, marketing, business and more, investing $1 million into the program. Each year over the next five years, NVV will invest $200,000 in scholarships and will encourage its members to bolster the scholarship program with donations to help even more students and to ensure the effort extends beyond five years.

In collaboration with Africa Foundation, andBeyond offers a Conservation Lesson program for both children and adults living in communities close to wildlife areas. Through the initiative, over 1,600 students in East Africa were able to visit andBeyond’s properties, learning firsthand about the wildlife conservation that takes place so close to their home – partaking in game drives with rangers, swimming with dolphins and witnessing turtles hatch. For many, this is the first time in their life they have been exposed to fauna in a meaningful way. These conservation lessons and interactions with andBeyond guides have been a turning point in many participants’ lives, instilling the passion and knowledge of wildlife conservation and community development in them and playing a major part in influencing their careers.

In 2019, PONANT created the PONANT Foundation to encourage the development of innovative solutions to better understand and protect the oceans and the polar regions and to promote mutually beneficial interactions between travelers and local communities. When crafting a new itinerary, PONANT is the only cruise company to undertake environmental and social impact studies on the new destination so as to better understand and preserve the natural settings and the indigenous populations. By entering into dialogue with local communities, PONANT ensures that its activity takes into account the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the zones visited and limits the impact. Located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the African nation of Guinea-Bissau, the Bijagós Archipelago is one of the most preserved and protected archipelagos on the planet. With a population of less than 30,000, it is made up of 88 islands and islets, only 23 of which are inhabited, at the mouth of the Rio Geba. As part of its outreach to the local communities in October 2019 in preparation of a new cruise to the region, PONANT joined forces with the local ESCama Foundation to rebuild a community school on Caravela Island. Construction began in March 2021 to build a new school that will have a kindergarten, four levels of primary school, literacy classes for adults, a community garden, a sustainable advocacy program for recycling as well as housing for the teachers.

Leave a Reply



« »