Green hotels: Green Globe certificates in the Caribbean

I was out in the Caribbean last week at CHTA Marketplace, an annual trade expo for Caribbean tourism, and attended a press conference by Green Globe – one of a burgeoning number of eco-certifying bodies for the tourism sector.

CEO Guido Bauer revealed the difference that a Green Globe certificate can make to a hotel’s bottom line: having the certificate lets hotels increase their room rates by 3-7%, reduces their operating costs by 3-11%, and adds 1-3% to the property’s value.

It’s great that they have proof of the financial benefit – in a cash-strapped economy like the Caribbean, a financial incentive for greening your business is particularly necessary.

I’m a little sceptical about such certification schemes though. Firstly, Green Globes are like several other schemes in that hotels pay to join the organisation which can’t fail to at least slightly compromise their impartiality.

Secondly, a hotel does not need to meet all or even most of the list of criteria in order to pass: they must satisfy just 51%. Some of the criteria are extremely difficult to satisfy (the newest criteria is PVC-free room keys) but you’ve got to ask – what about the other 49%?

I also had trouble with Guido’s comments that Caribbean countries are the most advanced region in the world in terms of sustainability, ahead of nearest contenders New Zealand / Australia / France.

Having stayed in countless hotels in the Caribbean which do not recycle, which turn the air-con on in my room while I’m not there, and which fly in food and beverages from around the world, I found this hard to believe.

Doubly hard after the lecture I attended in December in which Kristian Teleki of SeaWeb told us that outside Europe and North America, 80% of sewage enters the coastal ocean untreated – including in the Caribbean. Tourism is by far the biggest industry in the Caribbean so if 80% of its sewage is untreated, some of this must surely be coming from the hotels. Hardly sustainable!

I put this to Guido Bauer but he said he won’t accept that this is the case with the Caribbean…. I’m going to see if Kristian can point me in the direction of some further info.

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