Sustainable Vegas hotels and cruises report in Travel Weekly sparks green outrage
"The trade magazine Travel Weekly claiming that Vegas hotels are 'models of sustainability' and that 'most cruises can be sold as responsible + eco friendly.' We are all sustainable now! Laughable as this is, the worrying thing is that the Vegas hotels have multiple sustainability 'Gold' Awards." Said Justin Francis
The responsibletravel.com boss continued "It's clear you can get a Gold Sustainability Award regardless of how much you waste or pollute, just as long as a) you make modest improvements each year and b) pay for the certification."
"This is really going to undermine the agenda for responsible and sustainable tourism."
The article that sparked off Justin's outrage was in the big US trade magazine Travel Weekly USA and he accuses it of sustainable and responsible tourism greenwashing
"Las Vegas Strip, that legendary bastion of glitz and neon, is actually a model community when it comes to sustainable environmental practices." … in Travel Weekly USA, October 10th was the article that raised Justin's ire.
The article continued: "Today, agents can sell most cruises as responsible, some even as eco friendly. Perhaps no major line has been more active than Royal Caribbean in promoting its image as a green company." - Travel Weekly USA, September 26th.
Justin made the following comments (reproduced in full from his blog):
1. Here is Channel 4′s expose of Royal Caribbean's staff practices, Cruises Undercover, broadcast on October 1st. I challenge anyone to watch it and, like Travel Weekly, conclude 'most cruises are responsible.' This program, to which Royal Caribbean have offered no satisfactory defence, reveals a truly appalling lack or regard for staff welfare.
The program did not cover environmental issues but Cruise Junkie has, here from public records is a list of environmental fines (law breaking) over recent years. It is clearly, far, far too early to conclude that Cruising can be sold as responsible - and it was highly irresponsible (and uninformed) for Travel Weekly USA to claim it is.
2. The Las Vegas piece lauds the MGM Resorts environmental performance, and acknowledges that Vegas is a desert with extremely low rainfall. MGM Grand's Vegas are proud of their Grand Pool Complex, which you are invited to 'take a dip in one of our 4 pools, 3 jacuzzis, or our world famous lazy river.'
Here is a photo of the front of the Grand, you will notice how concerned about energy use they are by the amount of neon lights on the front:
Neon lights on the front of a Las Vegas hotel
"I doubt many people would take Travel Weekly USA's claims seriously but there is a wider and more important point. Travel Weekly quotes various certification awards these hotels have won - including U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
These, and most other sustainability accreditation schemes in tourism, reward incremental performance. So for example, if like MGM Grand, you use an obscene amount of water and energy but can show small annual improvements you are Gold Rated. People are led to believe they are 'sustainable' when they are not. This is dangerous for responsible and sustainable tourism. They are allowing the green washers to win. Anyone can be sustainable, regardless of the levels of waste, waste, energy they produce - just as long as they improve a little bit each year.
In truth these Vegas hotels are appalling wasters of energy and water who are trying to improve. Cruise ships have a truly terrible record in staff welfare and environmental pollution. It's too early to say if they are serious about improving.
Should they be given encouragement for getting a little better, yes. Should they be held up as shining examples of responsible and sustainable tourism Travel Weekly USA? Absolutely not.
So what do you think?
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012