You just arrived at your hotel and after switching on the light, which you will later find out is a CFL or Compact Fluorescent Lamp, you then proceed to the bathroom for a leisurely warm shower without knowing that the heat that warmed your bathing water could have come from a pump that collects heat from other sources which is then converted into reusable heat.
Those are just a few of the many characteristics that would make a hotel environment-friendly.
Incidentally, this is not a presumed scenario but what is actually being practiced by most of the hotels here like the Marco Polo Hotel Davao. The hotel also segregates its waste to limit its carbon footprint to a minimum. With these green practices, it should not come as a surprise that Marco Polo Davao was one of the Philippine hotels that received the Asean Green Hotel Recognition Award.
The Marco Polo Davao experience should be an eye opener to other tourism establishments in Davao City that are still hesitant about the practice of green tourism.
“There are numerous tourism establishments and for many of them sustainability is costly,” said Dr. Stefanos Fotiou, regional coordinator of the Resource Efficiency United Nations Environmental Programme.
Fotiou flew all the way from Thailand to Davao City to talk on “Greening the Tourism Industry: The Role of Standards and Certification” during the Green Tourism Forum held at the Marco Polo Hotel early this week.
Marco Polo Hotel Davao general manager Mr. Nigel Fisher said the tourism sector is such a major player in the world economy that there is no place or continent in the world without any tourism activity.
“Tourism has a significant impact on the world economy”, he said, but consumption and the residual products left behind should be a cause for concern.
Mary Anne Montemayor, convenor of the Green Alliance for Davao which organized the event, said green tourism is nothing new but the sector should be encouraged to go for environmentally-friendly practices within their establishments if only to minimize the effects of climate change.
“The green tourism idea has become exponential in view of calamities like typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the El Nino phenomenon and the Haiti earthquake,” Montemayor said.
Montemayor said all these calamities make climate change real for all of us, and it is time to take a collective action and make a difference. It may be too far out for the ordinary citizen to relate tourism with climate change. But take note that the moment a tourist books his flight and gets his ticket for a certain tourism destination, it is already equal to a significant carbon footprint that can contribute to global warming.
As Fotiou said, “a typical tourist will consume three to eight times more water than a local in the destination.”
It is thus important that tourism facilities lessen their carbon footprint as much as possible to help in the campaign against global warming, Montemayor said.
“Green tourism is the only way for the future; it has to be a movement and with its growth it can result to a more affordable way of doing things the green way,” Marco Polo Davao Executive Assistant Manager Art Boncato said.
Fotiou said 83 percent of the world’s tourism industry is dominated by small and medium enterprises who find sustainability costly. Despite this, he said, tourism has a great potential to contribute to sustainable development.
Among the United Nations’ initiatives to promote sustainable development is the green passport campaign and the sustainable coastal tourism campaign. It has also established the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) and the Tourism Sustainability Council (TSC) which will be launched this month. The TSC aims to develop GSTC, accredit certification programs and spread awareness of sustainable tourism.
He said the strategy is to encourage tourism business to voluntarily adopt the basic green guidelines so they can become more sustainable.
Fotiou said the GSTC is the minimum basis for the standards to be accredited.
However, he said a global sustainable accreditation will not work because there are different situations unique for Davao and for the other tourism destinations.
He suggested that the green tourism initiative should start as a local initiative to be accredited by the national organization and then the GSTC.
Fotiou also made mention of Envirotel which is one of the UN initiatives to promote green tourism. This is a simple and practical guide that will assist hotel managers and staff to incorporate environmental practices in their daily operations. The small hotels will be able to download this tool for free once it is uploaded on the UNEP website.
Marco Polo Davao is however not the only tourism establishment in the city that has started to go green.
“Green tourism is now practiced by some responsible resorts and tourism players and the Davao Gulf Management Council has in fact acknowledged some in the hope that others will follow,” Save Davao Gulf Foundation, Inc. president and Councillor Leo Avila III said.
Toryanos, a local native chicken house, is also keen about green tourism and has already started implementing green changes by using environmentally-friendly products for its chicken house. Used barbecue sticks have also been recycled and are now used by the chicken house to fill up its walls.
SM City Davao, another tourism establishment, has also strengthened its environmental protection advocacy by making sure that all the lights inside the mall are CFLs since they use less power and have a longer rated life.
The Mall also partnered with the Davao Light and Power Company for the CFL Exchange Project. It is also involved in the “Trash to Cash” campaign.
SM City regional operations manager for Mindanao Debby A. Go said the company’s core environmental programs are in the areas of energy efficiency, water conservation, air quality efficiency and solid waste management. It has also spearheaded the green bag campaign. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has recognized SM City Davao for its best environmental advocacy and campaign.
Montemayor said there are a lot of pressing environmental issues affecting the Davao Region’s tourism industry foremost of which is the power crisis. She said the industry is one of the major users of energy and it is important that the tourism sector start embracing an energy-saving lifestyle.
By using CFL, Department of Energy chief science and research specialist Engr. Antonio de Guzman said, the consumer could save up to 5 kilowatt hour which is equal to P37.50 per month.
This, she added, means foregoing up to 2.1 kg of CO2 emission.
Montemayor said promoting Davao City as a major green destination will not only help the region but will also contribute to sustainable tourism. Green tourism could actually mean tourism areas that are bent in protecting their environments. These are areas that are proud of their environmentally safe practices, from resorts, restaurants and even hotels that are unpolluted and with minimal carbon footprints.
Department of Tourism-Tourism Services and Regional Offices undersecretary Oscar P. Palabyab said there is a market for green tourism and “Davao City will be the Green City of the Philippines.”
He said it is all about creating communities that are clean and healthy, which will then create the tourism markets. The world’s temperature is rising and the effects are already manifested in terms of the calamities that the whole world is experiencing. While the Philippines is not among the big league countries that pollute the environment with their carbon emissions, the country’s largest city in terms of land area can make a dent in lessening the world’s carbon footprint by going green. Source – PNA