Sustainability in the Hospitality and Tourism Industry

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Sustainability is an important concept in the hospitality and tourism industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.”  When we think about sustainability, it’s easy to think about the environmental aspects. However, as the definition suggests, sustainability principles not only refer to the environmental aspects but also the economic and socio-cultural aspects as well.

Thinking about the environmental aspects of the hospitality and tourism industry, many hospitality businesses have a huge impact on the environment through the consumption of energy, water and other resources. For example, many hotels and restaurants are guilty of using an excessive amount of energy on HVAC, lighting, fuel and other equipment. Also, they create a lot of waste and engage in unsustainable purchasing. All of these practices contribute to irresponsible tourism. Thus, raising awareness of environmental sustainability and conserving the natural heritage and biodiversity are vital in order to keep tourism sustainable.

Another important aspect of sustainable tourism is the economic impact on the local communities. An important economic concept in sustainable tourism is called leakage. Leakage happens when tourists spend money at a tourist destination and the money does not circulate within the local community but leaks out. An example of this would be when hospitality businesses purchase their resources from outside of the local community or have headquarters elsewhere. Such practices deprive locals of the opportunity to grow because they are excluded from the supply chain. Thus, hospitality businesses need to work closely with the locals in order to support their economy.

Finally, we need to think about the socio-cultural aspects of sustainability. The hospitality and tourism industry may affect the socio-cultural authenticity of local communities in the destinations as only a fraction of the actual culture is represented to the tourists. It is crucial that hospitality businesses conserve the cultural heritage and traditions of the host communities and are respectful of such cultural aspects.

As such, sustainability in the hospitality industry is an essential factor that needs to be addressed properly. By practicing sustainability, hospitality businesses can improve their guest experience, brand image, and customer loyalty as well as help sustain the local communities in the destinations that they operate in.

By: Daegeun (Dan) Kim, CHIA

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