How to Pick Socially Sustainable Accommodation
When booking a place to stay that does more good than harm, it’s easy to get distracted by the realms of green certifications, badges, targets, and carbon pledges out there. There are a staggering 300 plus travel certifications in the travel industry.
Although they can be a brilliant tool for accommodations to lift their positive impact game, they don’t always tell the whole story. These certifications often focus on environmental sustainability, meaning big hotel chains can tick the boxes — scale and economic clout make environmental efficiency achievable for these huge properties.
However, holistic sustainability is more nuanced. It considers social, economic and community impact alongside the environment. Here are a few ways to dodge the greenwash and choose a stay doing good for people and place.
Follow the money
Tourism is widely considered a great way to move money across borders, particularly from developed to developing countries. However, economic leakage — where money leaks out of a country via international owners and brands — often gets in the way. Make sure your tourism dollars stay in the destination you’re travelling to by choosing locally owned and run properties.
Scrutinise local employment claims
Look for a breakdown of local employment — it’s not that sustainable if local employees remain for years in low paying jobs rather than receiving the training and opportunities, they need to climb the ranks. Ring and ask if this information isn’t available on a hotel or lodge website.
Check out suppliers
Locally owned places to stay tend to be more sustainable because they are wedded to the region and are more likely to celebrate its produce, heritage, and craft. A quick check of suppliers will help to indicate a commitment to the community. Suppliers of food, design, interiors, and experiences should be local, but better still, look for partnerships with social enterprises or community interest companies. This will ensure funds, training, and empowerment go to those that need it most, supporting marginalised groups within a community.
Look for a realistic sense of place
Tourism can only be sustainable when it has a strong awareness and knowledge of people and places. The most socially responsible accommodation providers are aware that tourism isn’t all good and aren’t afraid to educate visitors about problems and solutions. Look for a narrative that demonstrates this deeper understanding highlighting how the property is overcoming problems like over-tourism, local infrastructure limitations, local access to experiences, and conflicts around land and resource use.
Support the genuine diversity champions
It’s easy enough for a hotel or lodge to splash words about diversity, equity, and inclusion on its website. See through the virtue signalling and look for meaningful action, like diversity statistics and targets in an annual or sustainability report, and evidence that a commitment trickles through every aspect of the property and experience.