Creating greener vacations

Holidays on tropical beaches and protecting nature often don’t go together. But in reality, hotels and resorts have a multitude of environmentally-friendly options that appeal to tourists and also promote conservation.  IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has developed a set of five principles for biodiversity conservation in the planning of hotels and resorts.

El Nido Resorts – Philippines

“The tourism industry, including the hospitality sector, heavily depend upon healthy nature and the services that it provides because the wildlife, habitats and landscapes are often the thing that draws tourists there in the first place,” says Giulia Carbone, Deputy Head of IUCN’s Global Business and Biodiversity Programme. “Integrating nature into siting and design decisions for hotel development is important also for the long-term financial success of hotels and resorts.”

An approach that factors in nature and the benefits it helps identify and address the impacts of hotels and resorts, as well as maintains the integrity and essential value of nature. Areas of critical natural habitat should be highlighted in land-use plans and include relevant planning controls that prevent development in areas of highly vulnerable and irreplaceable biodiversity.

“Biodiversity plays an important role also in the day-to-day operations of a hotel: from the food in the restaurant and wood in furniture and fittings, to the amenities in the spa, the products of biodiversity are everywhere both inside and outside hotels,” says Carbone. “To address these challenges managers need to work internally, source sustainably and work closely to their suppliers.”

Hotel and resort developers should make all efforts to avoid negative impacts from siting, design and construction, and aim to achieve a demonstrable, overall positive contribution to the conservation of local biodiversity. The design of the properties also plays a critical role on the overall impact on nature. Hotels and resorts should blend into their natural landscape, enhance it, and use nature as a source of inspiration in design and in operations.

“The use of non-threatened species and natural, sustainably sourced materials should be maximized in construction, and consideration should be given to the durability and recyclable nature of all materials used in construction and furnishing,” says Paola Mosig Reidl, Program Officer, TRAFFIC North America/ WWF Mexico. “One of the major threats to biodiversity is the use of non-native species—when introduced to a site, they can spread quickly and overwhelm, even eliminate native wild species. Steps must be taken to prevent this from happening.”

Hotel and resort developments can contribute positively to local community development, respect land rights and land-use rights of local stakeholders and involve them in decision making, according to IUCN. Governments, private developers, investors, architects and contractors, civil society organizations, communities and academic institutions all have a role to play in the search for forms of hotel and resort development that do not threaten, but instead enhance, biodiversity.

Issues involving sustainable development and conservation will be discussed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 6 to 15 September 2012.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:
Maggie Roth
, IUCN Media Relations, m +1 202 262 5313, e

Work area: 
North America
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