Biodiversity, its loss, and how we in the hospitality industry can protect it

May 26, 2021

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Xenia zu Hohenlohe

Nature is the backbone of human well-being and the foundation for all economic activity” *

*Science Based Targets Network, 2020, p.2

We are currently estimated to be losing around 150 species a day according to a ‘Special report on global warming’ released by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which personally I find frightening.

Natural capital is at the centre of success of every business. In tourism our need for pristine natural environments is even greater, as they form a key part of the reason people travel.

Healthy and functioning ecosystems are not just a core offering of a touristic experience but are also required for the delivery of another of our principle offerings in hospitality – food and beverage. Without healthy eco-systems, all food production is in peril.

As an industry, we are in a unique position to have a positive impact on the restoration and preservation of so many of the world’s ecosystems and natural environments, which have the additional value of being potential carbon sequestration areas (a topic for another day).

Let me give some examples as to how hotels in different settings can help address the issues around biodiversity.

Hotels located in natural settings can:

Develop projects to support biodiversity on their own land.

Work with local projects to support conservation programmes. These could protect anything from a peatland to local forests, wildflower meadows to mangroves, coral reefs and many more.

We work with Mustique Island in the Caribbean, where the resort has activated and supported a coral reef restoration programme, through which they have managed to outplant over 7000 new coral reefs over the last five years. This has not only contributed to an increase in diverse fish life around the corals but also improved the water quality. It had the added bonus of providing a great guest snorkelling activity which raises awareness and helps support the costs of the project. (more here).

Hotels located in urban settings can:

Focus on addressing biodiversity through their supply chain. Selecting the products purchased carefully, for F&B in particular, can have a huge impact.

Work closely with partners to find farmers and producers who have the conservation of biodiversity at the heart of their production cycles. With business support, they will be able to continue using these methods, which can be more onerous and expensive.

Here is a specific example:

Sourcing all milk and dairy products from a farm where cows are left to graze on normal grass in natural settings has a huge range of environmental benefits.

Grass for grazing usually grows in areas where traditional agriculture is unable to thrive, meaning this land can be used efficiently for letting cows roam. Cows have enzymes to digest grass and turn it into protein rich in omega 3 fatty acids which is good for human health (and tasty!).

Cows not raised on soya beans and other artificial feeding products, and who are able to roam the fields, will have a healthy, longer life, with increased fertility.

Another benefit is that cow dung, from animals fed with natural food sources, is one of the most effective fertilizers for farming.

The UN will be launching the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration on the 5th of June, World Environment Day. Maybe this is a good time for all tourism businesses to start thinking about their own role they can play in this process too.