You know ecotourism has hit the big time if global travel booking giants Orbitz and Expedia have started their own eco travel sections providing green accommodation options. So it was with gusto that I trawled through their new pages to see if they’d fallen into the greenwashing trap or whether they’ve done ecotourism proud. The results of my search were both surprising and disappointing.
Expedia Go Green
Expedia’s new Go Green landing page says, “We believe that travel is the best way to bridge boundaries, broaden perspectives, and increase our understanding of the world around us — but we also know that a destination’s popularity can put it at risk.”
“Expedia is committed to creating sustainable travel initiatives that address environmental and social concerns — and that are easy to use. You can make a big difference in the places you visit with just a few small steps. Carbon offsetting and green hotels are just the beginning…”
Genuinely Green or is it All Just Greenwash?
Expedia offer tips for responsible travel and advice on how travellers can reduce their carbon footprint but their choice of green hotels is dubious, to say the least. While their statement says the criteria used for inclusion on to the green hotels list must comply with existing certification programs that best match the Global Baseline for Sustainable Tourism Criteria, most of the hotels on the list fail to offer any details of their eco credentials.
I checked out the very first option on the list, The Langham Hotel in Melbourne, which I happen to know. It is a sumptuously luxurious hotel but doesn’t have a green bone in its body, or should I say a green brick in its building; even The Langham’s own website fails to list a single green credential, so how has it attained sustainable listing? I then checked a number of other hotels on the list and while half of them are eco-friendly in some way the rest aren’t.
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When I book a hotel I want to know exactly what they do environmentally-wise and would expect Expedia to pay more attention to the details if they are to be taken seriously in ecotourism circles.
Expedia do however state that “this is just the beginning.” Well, I hope so because at the minute the whole thing reeks of greenwash.
Orbitz’s ecotourism section features hotels within America only so it’s impossible to review their system as thoroughly as I’m not as familiar with their hotels.
Their eco-friendly hotel criteria is listed prominently on the main ecotourism page so offers potential travellers more of an insight into what the ratings are based on. Not every hotel fitted all the criteria and some fitted only one which again raised suspicion; how can a hotel be classed as eco-friendly just because it uses energy-saving light bulbs? If that’s all a hotel needs to qualify then realistically nearly every hotel in the world would could be called eco-friendly.
Orbitz Eco-Friendly Hotel Criteria
- Use a natural source of energy (wind, water, solar, bio-fuel)
- Use environmentally-friendly and safe products (detergents for linens, soaps, shampoos, etc.)
- Contribute $$ from each hotel reservation to an environmental organization
- Use of energy conserving devices (ie. eco-friendly light fixtures/bulbs triggered by motion detectors, water-saving devices, water filtration systems and air filtration/purifiers)
- Earned the ENERGY STARÂ® — a national mark of excellence in energy efficiency and carbon performance. To qualify for the Energy Star rating buildings have to demonstrate they use nearly 40 percent less energy than average buildings and emit 35 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, offering a significantly smaller carbon footprint.
Orbitz do however offer handy eco tips for travellers and post an article on a featured eco-friendly destination every month, so they are trying.
What’s your opinion?
I just can’t help thinking that this was the big boys chance to shine in ecotourism terms, to lead the way and show the hotel giants that they can’t just shove a sticker on the bathroom mirror offering to wash the towels less and hope that will lead to eco accreditation.
What do you think?