The tourism industry is a sector in constant evolution. In the past few years, this sector has experienced a progressive transformation towards a more sustainable model, redefining its business and developing innovative solutions that provide economic, technical, and environmental balance to its activities. And what is left to come.
On last May’s iFriday we discussed innovation, environmental management, and sustainability in the tourism industry. We did it with one of the leading companies in the tourism sector worldwide. An innovative, committed company that has become an international model in sustainability. We talked to Rebeca Ávila, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager of Accor Hotels in Southern Europe.
A journey to sustainability
We live in a world that advances at light speed, in which companies from all sectors are experiencing massive advances in how they operate, produce, and manage their activities. All of that, situating innovation and sustainability at the center of their strategies.
The tourism industry is not indifferent to these changes and is evolving towards a more environmentally respectful model, based on improving the industry’s competitiveness and profitability, sustained and sustainable growth, and the destinations’ natural and cultural differential values.
In turn, with the irruption of COVID-19, the sector needed to readapt and reinvent its business model, innovating in this new context and putting the thousands of hotel infrastructures to society’s service to fight the virus. “During the first months of the pandemic, our activity disappeared overnight. This way, we made solidarity come through, as the true meaning of the hospitality industry, that is, people taking care of people. So, we put our hotels at the health authorities’ disposal and at the service of the essential workers, who were performing fundamental functions, like shipping drivers”, notes Rebeca Ávila, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager of Accor Hotels in Southern Europe.
Innovation and sustainability, the perfect pair
Without a doubt, innovation and sustainable development have become the principal agents of change for great companies globally. To corporations like Accor, innovation has always been at its DNA. Throughout its trajectory, the company has launched innovation projects with a clear focus on sustainability. Initiatives like eliminating single-use plastic items, researching renewable energies, such as hydrogen, or reforestation with a social impact are just a few of the actions that Accor is carrying out on sustainable developments within its ‘Planet 21. Acting Here’ program.
In this sense, according to last iFriday’s speake, Accor has “planted more than 9 million trees globally in more than 150 reforestation projects”. Furthermore, the company is already researching renewable energies, like hydrogen “because that is where we see the future is headed to. We already have pilot hotels in motion to discern whether our hotels can be hydrogen-powered in the coming years”, she points out.
Likewise, another one of Accor’s great projects focuses on its commitment to promoting healthy and responsible eating habits. “We decided to support a startup, at European level, through the implementation of an app that helps us manage spare food from the hotels in an agile and quick way. We have more than 700 hotels that adhered to this app, and we have saved an average of around 500,000 meals per year. Food that in any other way would have ended up in the trash can, along with the environmental impact that this entails”, affirms Ávila.
Lastly, Ávila highlighted the importance of the company backing diversity. “We have put the focus on gender diversity because we came from inequality in having access to responsibility positions, but you need to have cultural diversity, generational diversity, etc. Currently, we are making a strong bet on inclusion as a diversity pillar, on how to cater for the needs of specific groups of people”, concludes Rebeca Ávila, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager of Accor Hotels in Southern Europe.