How sustainability disrupts luxury tourism

Does sustainability disrupt luxury tourism or is it a chance for changes? Is the guest’s environmental awareness changing services in the luxury hospitality industry? Why do we accept certain single-use products to be banned and others we do not want to lose?

The year 2019 is coming to an end with a word that accompanied us all year around. Almost to a point that even that it is such an important task that we should all take serious, it started to be annoying. Why? Because of the media who used global warming, sustainability and CO2 reduction as a topic to dramatize to a point it was not taken serious anymore. They wrote about those concerning topics when they did not get enough news on Brexit or Trump posting another senseless provocation.

This is why I would like to be the next guy who thinks he has to share his opinion on sustainability and write another blog on it. This blog is not about me avoiding the plane and sail from Europe to the US in a high tech super sailing yacht (not that this isn’t one of my dreams), wearing Gore-Tex fabric and rubber boots (very sustainable in deed). It’s also not about me buying a Tesla with a battery that I cannot charge with renewable energy sources and unclear recycling options at the end of the battery’s lifetime. I would like to look at sustainability in the hospitality industry and focus on luxury tourism in relation with environmental sustainability. Sustainability is not a new and trendy topic for me. I hold a degree in sustainable tourism management from back in 2003. In Switzerland we know already for years about the mistakes done in the early days of growing tourism and expansion of the touristic infrastructure. I live in a country with a very high environmental framework of rules and regulations, not only since global warming became a media filler. But what about those little things that can make a big change if we would all be a little bit more cautious in our daily routine? At the end of the day it’s all about acceptance of measures, behaviour and opinions.

Looking at the luxury hospitality industry I really ask myself why certain routines are changed in no time and sustainable behaviour is self-evident. Other products are “must haves“ and some guest would in no way change their routine. Since a couple of years there is no doubt that restaurants and chefs have to focus on healthy food, high quality organic, even local products and costs are accepted to be higher. Why would the same high end guest who is desperate to know that the meat is local from the Engadine valley, fed only with the best alpine grass (and of course no antibiotics are interfering with the final organic product), not accept to drink our amazing water from the tap served in a reusable glass bottle? No, it has to be healthy Fiji water, flown around the world, delivered in a plastic bottle and with a water quality that can by far not match our local tap water…Of course, someone could have poisoned the water before and „I only drink out of a closed bottle“. Yeah right, this cannot happen with an organic carrot. I am by no meaning stating that this behaviour is stupid, people just do not give enough thoughts about it.

„Single-use“ was declared Word of the Year in 2018 by Collins Dictionary. This because since 2013 a four time increase in use of the word was tracked. Now we come back to my point of acceptance of those small habits that make the difference. Why is it accepted to go shopping with a cool reusable bag rather than buying a plastic single-use bag? Finally plastic straws are mostly banned and replaced with cool products in all kinds of materials. But why do we still have to buy so many items for guests staying a week and they just leave products behind that are definitely not meant to be single use items just because it seems that everything that travellers are used to from home they need on holidays as well…

So, is the luxury hospitality industry disrupted by a sustainable business model? In my opinion changing a company‘s attitude from “wanna be green” to transparent – meaning that a company is not just claiming to have good intentions – is a chance for a change in our industry. Changes that are not only sustainable but also create new products, another type of service and a distribution of luxury tourism matching the public awareness and consumer confidence in sustainable behaviour of brands and companies.

At PPM this means that also in the season 2019/20 we will keep on working to increase awareness amongst our team and change some types of services to match our goal to implement real sustainable service rather than a mainstream type of going green. Of course PPM will still stand for “anything is possible” but we will keep on letting our guests taste the purity of our Engadine tap water out of the reusable glass bottle.

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