Travelocity’s Green Directory: It’s Not Socially Conscious Tourism, Is it Even Eco-Tourism?
As we’ve said before, ecotourism is a good step towards socially conscious tourism. What’s the difference, you say? Being eco-friendly is part of being socially conscious, but it’s not the whole package. A socially conscious tourist will seek out lodging, ground transportation, meals, tours, and souvenirs that are locally-made/owned/operated and that highlight the local culture in an environmentally friendly way.
Of course, it’s probably impossible to make your whole vacation socially conscious. After all, you’ll probably have to get to wherever you’re going on United, American, Southwest, etc. There are no options for socially conscious international air travel (that I’m aware of). You will also want to make sure you’re safe so if the only option for a locally owned hotel seems sketchy to you, sure, book your room at the Marriott down the street. The key is to strive for as much socially conscious activities as possible.
Getting back to eco-friendly or “green” travel. There are a lot of initiatives looking at assigning criteria to let visitors know which hotels may be “green.” There’s even a United Nations effort doing just that. However, while these hotels may be “green,” they are not necessarily socially conscious. Recently, Travelocity has been promoting its “Green Directory,” hotels they have gathered that:
“have been endorsed by a leading green hotel certification provider, appear in the Rainforest Alliance’s Eco-Index, or are making significant strides in at least three of the four areas the UN Foundation’s initiative recommends as the most critical aspects of sustainable tourism: maximizing tourism’s social and economic benefits to local communities; reducing negative impacts on cultural heritage; reducing harm to local environments; and planning for sustainability.”
First of all, how does Travelocity know these hotels are making strides toward three of the four areas of the UN Foundation’s initiative? They may well be, but Travelocity should tell its readers and potential customers exactly how this was determined.
Secondly, while these hotels may be more eco-friendly than most, they are certainly not all socially conscious. There are plenty of chain hotels on this list. By definition chain hotels are not going to be socially conscious. Yes, some may reduce negative impacts on a cultural heritage or reduce harm to local environments but that’s not the same as helping cultural heritage or helping local environments. We stayed in a Kimpton Hotel once – the Hotel Madera in Washington, DC. Yes, we appreciated the organic snacks and the non-toxic cleaners but let’s not make the mistake that this is comprehensive socially conscious travel.
Worse, there are many hotels on this Green Directory that are extremely suspect, including all Orlando Disney resorts (really?), Hyatt properties, Marriott properties, Sheraton properties, Fairmont properties, etc. We have a very hard time believing so many hotels are eco-friendly as defined above by Travelocity. We hope that the criteria being discussed and decided upon at the United Nations is more stringent that what Travelocity seems to be using.