Sustainable Tourism: How close are we getting, one business' nine year review

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After efficiency must come significant behaviour change
Does a solar farm change people's consumption?
Swaping spa baths for pleasurable smaller baths

Today Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages & Spa Resort completed its Responsible Tourism Report 2014-15 which compares the impact of nine years of monitoring. There has been progress, but there are also clear signs that easy early gains are followed by much more serious and challenging barriers to becoming a more sustainable tourism business. These barriers may only be resolved by behaviour change and major technological innovations. In preparing this report Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions were considered together with Scope 3 (includes the manager’s residence and all business and leisure flights). This is an additional level of monitoring pertinent to SMEs and excluded from larger businesses, which further underlines the scale of reduction required to cut human induced Climate Change.

Efficiency Cuts

In addition to buying green energy and running a solar farm, the tourist accommodation business has managed to cut electricity consumption by 45% between the Australian financial years 2006-07 and 2014-15. Despite an increase in occupancy, electricity consumption by guest night has dropped by 55%, landfill by 63% resulting in a 53% cut in guest night CO2 footprint to 6.12 kg.

In preparation for the forecast severe El Nino season this year and future Climate Change impacts to rainfall frequency, water consumption in the bathrooms has been cut by 34%. This has in turn helped to reduce gas (hot water) and further contributed to the CO2 reduction. These good results have been achieved through technological efficiencies and have involved very little guest participation. Here lies our future challenge.

Tokenism verses Real Change

Over the nine years of reporting we have meet with over 12,000 visitors personally. In the beginning we noted a steady rise in guest Climate Change concern with a following increase in pro-environmental action at Crystal Creek Meadows, e.g. planting trees and taking trains instead of driving to the destination. However, in recent years these voluntary behaviours have declined as the public appear to be demotivated by the unclear benefits of their actions, and they might even consider them tokenistic. Meanwhile gusts still hold onto high energy transport options which are tourism’s biggest negative contribution to CO2 emissions.

Next Steps towards greater participation

Continuous efficiency improvement by the accommodation providers reaches a point of very little gain from a great deal of effort/ investment. There has to be social change and guest conservation. However, until we can provide sustainable alternatives that make life easier in our complex modern society, individuals are going to continue to make unsustainable choices simply because it is permitted, it is affordable and practical, and there is no alternative. Responsible Tourism is a partnership between accommodation host and guest. We therefore need tourism to move beyond drives for greater efficiency and take up the challenge of directly involving guests in minimising consumption and their CO2 footprint. We need positive programmes, like Trip Advisor’s Green Leaders, to more actively encourage ‘green’ behaviours and list far more ways guests can participate at accommodation in responsible practice, so mindful consumption becomes ‘normal’ in society , and we can progress beyond the easy initial gains brought by greater efficiency. As a recent Roy Morgan Research report stated that 21.6% of Australians would like a "real eco-tourism experience" only 1.1% had actually experienced one. With tens of thousands of accommodation providers available online more must be done to mainstream eco-friendly accommodation so the public can experience the difference where they participate in making change happen.





This report reflects progress to a more sustainable tourism in Australia. There are other accommodation providers around the world which are actively making strides towards changing visitor consumption.

The BIG picture Responsible Accommodation Report 2014-15 FINAL.pdf1.41 MB