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Ecological travel observatory

Considerations about the environmental cost of travel are underway. It bears on air travel in particular and, to a lesser extent, on cruises for their impact on fragile ecosystems. Websites that make it possible to calculate the environmental impact of travel such as terrapass.com or voyages-sncf.com are multiplying. And that is not all, SNCF’s website makes it possible to compare the length and price of a trip by train, regular or low-cost airline and by private car, but thanks to a partnership with Ademe, an ecocomparateur tool now includes the environmental dimension of it, and travel by rail comes out on top. For a round trip between Paris and Marseille, the environment index is 20 kg of CO2 for the train, 313 kg for the car. And the real loser is the airplane at 388 kg of CO2.

• The Haute Qualité Environnementale (High Environmental Quality) concept that appeared in the early 90s, is gaining in importance. This voluntary approach in the framework of building construction or rehabilitation could soon lead to certification. (www.assohqe.org)Consequently: the apostles of “Slow Travel” recommend traveling less but better. Their credo: limit the multiplication of short courier flights by inciting travel far away, if possible, and for longer. Such recommendations run up against current trends that see short stays gaining ground on long holidays. Will the ecological trip be for just a minority who encourage degrowth, or will we see a brutal change in behavior? “We have not seen the slightest change at this time,” reassures Hélène Roques, director of sustainable growth at the group Accor.Even if... convention organizers are beginning to favor hotel properties that are environmentally responsible and certified. The press has had a field day with the environmental cost of the organization of the G8. And in the future, companies listed on the stock exchange may well set an example in this area for their important gatherings. “It is possible to hold conventions just a 2-hour flight away rather than 6,” remarks Hélène Roques who says she is prospecting this: “for now, actors in sustainable development have this on their minds more than hotel industry developers”.Another concern that affects this development closely is global warming. No snow in the winter, too hot summers, accumulation of natural catastrophes: in the end, the climatic change could implicate changes in seasonal habits, and, consequently, new hotel constructions. Will summer vacations in Heiligendamm, Sopot or beach resorts on the Baltic Sea soon be more “trendy” than stays at Cannes, Corfu or Jerba blasted by the sun in August? The idea arose at the last edition of the ITB. This scenario is catastrophic, but possible by 2030 since forecasts suggest a probable increase in the earth’s temperature by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees centigrade in the 21st century versus 0.6 degrees in the last century.This voluntarily pessimistic tableau must not make us forget the positive role of tourism on economic development. “This is the instrument available to populations for developing world peace and cultural understanding. Conceived in such a way as to respect the sustainability principle, leisure travel may help boost economic growth and lower poverty levels,” tempers Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the UN.Could the environmental cause compromise the tourism growth expected? Probably not. Airlines support it and the high volume of orders for the Airbus A 380 and Boeing 787 are there to remind us. It is improbable that businessmen will suddenly stop traveling and that tourists will stop going out to discover the world. On the other hand, in a new context of environmental concern, hoteliers are clearly making efforts to respect nature and the development of local communities should allow them to put their guests’ consciences at rest. Seals of approval are becoming more widespread (see box) and offer assurance about their seriousness. This benefits the future of hoteliers, because, as Hélène Roques reminds us, “under certain rigorous conditions, in particular thanks to these seals, environmental policies can develop customer loyalty.”Labels and standards Green Globe at the Melia Bali, Green Key at the Méridien Etoile in Paris, EU Flower at the Best Western Monopole Métropole in Strasbourg, Nordic Swan for Scandic properties; 180 ISO 14001 certified Ibis hotels, Hilton Vancouver Washington with LEED status or Novotel apostle of the HQE approach: guarantees of ecologically responsible operations are multiplying. HTR takes a look at the most highly recognized labels. The ecological labels: • The Nordic Swan is conferred upon eco-responsible products and services for a renewable 3-year period. This very demanding pioneer label finds its roots in Nordic countries, where it honors more than 100 properties.• The EU Flower: in 1992, the European Union launched its own ecological label to honor the most meritorious suppliers on the continent. Ahundred or so hotel properties or parahotel properties boast this label among their very complete list of specifications (www.eco-label.com)Labels specific to the world of tourism: • The Green Globe was launched by the WT&TC and takes its inspiration from Agenda 21 and recommendations proclaimed during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Today, it is one of the most widespread worldwide with over 150 hotels bearing the “Green Globe Certified” logo, the highest status, or “Green Globe Benchmarked”(www.greenglobe.org)• The Green Key is awarded each year by the Fondation pour l’Éducation à l’Environnement (FEE), an NGO that rewards Blue Flags to the cleanest beaches. Based on the same model, nearly 70 hotels in six countries currently bear this label: France, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania, Belgium. Fifteen or so countries around the world (Italy, Morocco, Japan, Chile) are currently looking into participating in this initiative (www.green-key.org)Environmental standards:• The ISO 14001 standard structures the implementation of environmental management. Certified by an authorized body, the hotel makes a double commitment to continuous progress and respect for regulated conformity.• The American system LEED, developed by the US Green Building Council, standardizes the norms in terms of eco-constructions. The buildings that consume the least energy can achieve four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum. (www.usgbc.org)• The Haute Qualité Environnementale (High Environmental Quality) concept that appeared in the early 90s, is gaining in importance. This voluntary approach in the framework of building construction or rehabilitation could soon lead to certification. (www.assohqe.org)

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