This post is an informative and well-researched guest post by Natalie Blake. Natalie is an environmentalist and a follower of the zero-waste lifestyle. She is a contributor at The Altruistic Traveller and talks about eco-friendly alternatives that eco-friendly folks can use in their daily lives. Follow Natalie at Bamboo Hearts.
In a tourism company, as in other companies, sustainability must be understood as the basis for voluntarily integrating social and environmental aspects into the activities of said company, all in relation to their stakeholders. In the tourism sector, sustainable tourism initiatives have been proposed as cooperative strategies that respond to the pressures and expectations of the groups affected by tourism activities, with cooperation objectives.
Tourism is usually classified as one of the most important social phenomena in the world. In fact, the World Tourism Organization projects that by 2020 there will be a tourist flow of 1.6 billion people. This massive movement of people, as expected, generates a series of positive and negative impacts in the places where it operates, both in environmental, socio-cultural and economic matters.
It is here that the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) takes importance in the tourism field to help mitigate these negative impacts, manifesting itself above all in the context of “Sustainable Tourism”. This can serve as a guiding conceptual framework to advance the debate on sustainability and tourism.
For example, Central American nations have opted for sustainable tourism, linking it to local communities. In fact, at the International Tourism Fair held in Madrid in 2014, the countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama were aware of the need to protect their natural wealth and cultural heritage as a tourist attraction.
In Guatemala, for example, the new Maya Trek was presented, combining an archaeological route with landscape and community management. In El Salvador, the Living Villages program includes 222 of the 262 municipalities in the country, also with a cultural approach and a focus on coexistence with nature. All programs express the common desire to “guarantee preservation and sustainability while continuing traditions,” in the words of the Vice Minister of Tourism of Guatemala, Maruja Acevedo.
Like the Central American nations, there is no doubt that many countries have decided to bet on tourism as a development tool. However, this development must be thought of in terms of sustainable development, based on equity. Under this context, CSR can be used as a means to achieve the sustainability goal.
Researchers in Colombia carried out an analysis of CSR activities led by the Park Hotel Management. The researchers determined that while the hotel does not have a program as such, CSR has become a response to the challenges that the society closest to its demands. The study shows a series of recommendations in each of the dimensions for CSR.
- Senior management: The responsibility for the management of CSR must not only be assumed by the hotel management but must be evidenced in a model that documents the relationship and dialogue between stakeholders.
- Clients: Promote good practices in business relationships, as well as in all matters related to the integral management of advertising elements and products.
- Suppliers: Like the large chains that offer goods, hotels must have supplier diagnostic and evaluation systems, based on previously defined purchasing criteria.
- Employees: In addition to promoting and enforcing the fulfilment of Human Rights, it must also seek to ensure respect for equal opportunities in access to jobs and vocational training.
- Social Environment: In addition to taking into account the repercussions of hotel activities in the community in which it operates, it should be sought to document them, whether they are negative or positive. It is also recommended to carry out solidarity or social action actions accompanied by the relevant report.
- Environmental Factors: To demonstrate the commitment to the environment, the need for an Environmental Management Program, Risk Plans and Environmental Reports is evident. These will help in the early identification of practices that ensure the health of the ecosystem and that go with the mission and vision of the hotel company.
The way in which CSR is understood and applied varies from locality to locality and from business to business. In the tourist field, there is already evidence of participation in activities focused on citizen science, environmental management and relations with customers and employees. It is clear that tourism depends on the community and the quality of the environment for its development (especially if you consider the example of the Central American nations). Therefore, the promotion of tourism practices that meet the criteria of Social Responsibility within the sector.