I’m writing this weeks blog from Barcelona, on a trip checking out the eco-credentials of hotels using the Travelife system for which I’m a registered auditor. It’s been an interesting week, and on the whole I have been impressed with efforts in Catalunya to promote more sustainable tourism. But as the shift from pre-packaged holiday hotels to independent self catering breaks gathers momentum, I can´t help wondering where holiday rentals fit in to this whole idea of sustainable travel? Can, or indeed should, holiday property owners be doing more to be eco-friendly?
I think the problem lies in a lot of people not really “getting” what being eco-friendly truly means. Reading a Guardian article about reusing hotel towels that we shared last week on Twitter made me want to shout that its not just about washing fewer towels to save water/detergent/electricity/etc!!
Of course, being eco-friendly does begin with taking steps to reduce our impact on the environment, whether you look at it as trying to reduce global warming (big debate that one!) or protecting the eco-system surrounding your holiday let, which may or may not happen to be in an area of special natural interest.
But apart from the environmental side of things, one of the keys to Sustainable Tourism that we look for in the hotels is “nurturing understanding”, which in a practical sense means educating our visitors about our local areas, culture, customs, gastronomy, typical produce, fiestas, religion and anything else that will promote our area and keep it alive for future generations.
So to encourage a more sustainable way of thinking, I wanted to share 5 easy to implement ideas that you can do straight away to run a more eco-friendly rental:
Make Recycling Easy
This may be a no-brainer for those accustomed to separating and recycling back home in the UK, but on the continent the “system” may be different and your guests are not automatically going to know which bin to use for what, or even where to leave their rubbish at the end of their stay. Here in Spain for example since many people live in apartments, the rubbish containers might be located at the end of the street, or even hidden underground! There is a colour coding system for putting the right kind of waste in the right kind of container, but find me a Brit abroad who hasn’t mixed up their “Envases” with their “Cristal” once in a while?! So if you have holiday property overseas, find out and give this kind of information to your guests so they not only do their bit for the environment, but also help out your cleaners in the process!
Use Less Water
Water is a scarce commodity in any country so it is just plain common sense to strive to use less. A very quick and easy to way to reduce water use is to fit aerators to your taps. Aerators mix bubbles in with the water and can reduce the flow considerably – they are inexpensive to fit and only need cleaning out every few months. You should also reduce the level of the water in the cisterns and fit a reduced-flow shower-head too. I could go on all day about water and energy saving measures, but for today instead I will share a couple of innovative ideas that are easy to apply.
Another no-brainer maybe, but its worth remembering that travel can have a massive benefit to an area if people buy local, ensuring money goes directly to the local community rather than the big retail giants. This goes not only for what you put in your welcome baskets, but also for the suppliers you choose to do business with. For me personally, one of the best things about going on holiday is to sample the local food and wine, and even better if the property owner has taken the trouble to leave a little infomation about it for me to read – a book on local tapas, a guide to French wines, or a leaflet from the nearest farm shop would go down very well.
If you do not have a “Guest Information Folder” already in your holiday rental, shame on you! It may be true that some guests just want to “fly and flop”, but many more come on holiday to discover new places and enjoy new experiences. As the property owner you will know all sorts of insider tips for the best local restaurants, the best place to buy fresh croissants on a Sunday morning, which of the weekly markets is worth checking out, or that secret little cove with the fantastic fresh seafood that only the locals know about. Take some time to get these tips down in your visitor book so guests can experience the most authentic and memorable holiday possible. They will be sure to thank you for it!
Educate & motivate
A powerful way to encourage responsible travel is to educate your visitors about your region. Again, use that guest information book to share information about culture, traditions, flora & fauna, and even recommending ways in which visitors can act responsibly in your destination. It is no coincidence that the hotels I see with the best eco-credentials also happen to be the ones offering the best quality and enjoying the most repeat bookings and loyal customers. Sharing your local knowledge with your guests in this way shows not only your commitment to the area but also to creating truly memorable holidays that they will never forget.
This is a big topic and one I will write more on in future, but for now I am curious to know if this falls in line with your idea of being “eco-friendly” and do you even think it matters for holiday lets?
Answers on a postcard, or just leave us a comment below! If you liked this article please share it and remember you can also sign up to the Rental Tonic newsletter to receive more tips like these.