Responsible Tourism

Responsible Tourism: The Key to Building Back a Better Industry

Responsible Tourism: The Key to Building Back a Better Industry

Transforming Vision Into Action - Oped

5 June 2020

In this guest post for World Environment Day, the CEO and CSO of Iberostar Group reflect on working towards a responsible recovery from COVID-19 for the tourism sector. 

Sabina Fluxà Thienemann, Iberostar Group Vice-Chairman and CEO and Gloria Fluxà Thienemann, Iberostar Vice-Chairman & CSO

This World Environment Day, Iberostar Group is delighted to stand alongside the One Planet Vision for a Responsible Recovery of the Tourism Sector. The vision provides recommendations for recovery plans that balance the needs of people, planet and prosperity through six lines of action: public health, social inclusion, biodiversity conservation, climate action, circular economy and governance and partnerships.

Here, Sabina Fluxà Thienemann, Vice-Chairman and CEO and Gloria Fluxà Thienemann, Vice-Chairman & CSO, reflect on working towards responsible recovery. 

In the last few months, we have spent countless hours taking new measures to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

Now people around the world eagerly anticipate more freedom. Some anticipate returning to work. Others might be fortunate enough to take the vacations they canceled or postponed.

Tourism must come back and it presents us with a choice: to return to business as usual (or worse, take backwards steps in progress), or to use sustainability as a core driver of our return. For all of our bottom lines, responsible tourism must lead the way to help tourism companies build back better.

We say this not only as owners or managers of more than 120 hotels in 19 countries, a business responsible for the health and safety of almost 10 million guests a year and the livelihoods of 34,000 employees. We say it as part of an industry that is responsible for our oceans. Eighty percent of our properties sit alongside them. The sooner tourists return, the faster we can expand our efforts to restore and protect these ecosystems and the communities where we operate.

We hope to be among the companies setting examples for others to follow, one of several in the UNWTO’s latest position paper on a vision for a responsible recovery of the tourism sector. We believe tourism companies who want to achieve long-term resilience have to adopt three characteristics.

First, hotel and tourism companies have to adopt a long-term vision.

Iberostar’s entire operations will be single-use plastic free by 2020, as far as local regulation allows. We’ll be waste-free by 2025. For the tourism sector, there’s a sector-wide goal to be neutral by 2050. We aim to be there by 2030. We hope to quantify how tourism, when done correctly and guided by science, can actually improve coastal regions.

Importantly, we’re calling out these efforts for guests so they feel a part of our movement Wave of Change  and we’re actively asking them to share their feedback.

Secondly, we have to base our decisions and priorities on science.

Because a healthy environment acts as a natural barrier to future pandemics, we’ve hired a Medical Advisory Council not only to provide counsel but as part of our core business operations team. It’s made up of internal talent and renown experts in public health, health security, virology and epidemiology. With them at the table for business decisions, in accordance with guidelines by the UNWTO and others, we will inspire confidence among guests, challenge misinformation and innovate around health and safety measures that create long-term resilience. 

Finally, we must consider all the ways our businesses affect the environment.

A cornerstone of our efforts to combat climate change include our commitment to be a net zero, carbon neutral company by 2030, even in places where renewable energy is just starting to take foot. We do this by not only minimizing our footprint, but offsetting with blue carbon solutions such as our mangrove and coral reef restoration programs.

We will be launching one of the sectors most ambitious roadmaps to 100% responsible seafood sourcing by 2025. Part of those plans means we’ll source at least 45% of our total seafood from responsible sources by the end of 2020. 

As more people venture out, we hope they will carry with them an environmental awareness they adopted in recent months and ask new questions about the places they choose to visit. By incorporating ocean management, sustainable seafood and other elements of responsible tourism into travelers’ experiences we can build back stronger and create a Wave of Change.

Iberostar Group is a 100% family-owned multinational Spanish company, dedicated for more than 60 years to tourism, and with origins in the footwear industry dating back to 1877. The main line of business is Iberostar Hotels & Resorts with a portfolio of over one hundred 4 and 5-star hotels in 16 countries, and a global workforce above 34,500 people of 91 nationalities. As a leader in quality, Iberostar Group promotes differentiation in the customer experience through constant product innovation and digital commitment. The company has positioned itself as an international benchmark in responsible tourism by promoting a more sustainable business model focused on the care for people and the environment, and boosting circularity policies. It pursues its own 2030 Agenda aimed at eliminating waste, neutralizing carbon emissions and improving the health of the ecosystems surrounding its hotels, among other targets. The Wave of Change movement reflects this commitment and the company's effort to share it with all of society.