|Fuerte Hotels Responsible Tourism|
Environmentally Sustainable Tourism in Andalucia
The Fuerte Hoteles group is legendary in Andalucia for providing quality accommodations and top service. Recently Brenda Padilla interviewed Joaquín Pineda, head of environmental policy, regarding the group's environmental policies, strategies and plans for the future.
A: What the Fuerte Hoteles' main goal in terms of environmental policy?
JP: Fuerte Hoteles' environmental policy is base don three fundamental principles: preventing pollution, meeting legal requirements and continual improvement. The main objective that wherever our hotels are located we protect the environment to the maximum and even improve it not only for our clients to enjoy, but also for the good of all citizens, residents or not.
A: Please tell us a bit about your job as head of environmental policy at Fuerte Hoteles.
JP: For years my job was to gather all the information necessary to carry out environmental procedures. Ever since those procedures were functioning, and at present, my job is to ensure that environmental policies and procedures are properly carried out as well as to propose new strategies that differentiate us from the competition and, at the same time, satisfy the growing needs of clients, employees and both public and private insititutions.
Providing information from the company to all interested parties is also fundamental. It's my responsibility to make sure all information is provided in an easy to understand format so that it not only informs, but also raises awareness.
A: Is it common for hotels to have someone like you, in charge of carrying out strategies to protect the environment?
JP: It's still not very common, but more and more, this type of work is becoming a normal part of a company's functioning.
Companies need to incorporate this responsibility into the organisation's structure because, as I mentioned, environmentally respectful products and services are increasingly in demand by society and logically, companies must respond to this. I would even dare to say that, in the future, those who don't practice environmental protection will be penalized by law.
A: In practice, how do your stategies work?
JP: On a day to day basis there is a series of procedures that have been totally integrated into operations and are carried out by various managers. This includes everything from supervision and control of various forms of consumption, like electricity, fuel, water etcetera to proper management of rubbish, recycling, re-use and or elimination via authorized waste management organizations.
In addition, we carry out many projects that range from campaigns to raise awareness among clients to carrying out concrete measures to save resources, which also translates into better fiscal results.
A: How have your clients responded?
JP: The response has been very positive, even though we need to continue our efforts to reach them via more and better communication. I say that because many of the measures we have installed or implanted are not directly perceived by the client. For example, no client would know that we use renewable energy (solar panels to heat water and produce heat) unless we were to tell them directly, or that we participate in an "eco-route" as part of our schedule of activities.
The clients who participate in these activities are surprised at the number of environmentally friendly projects we are involved in.
A: How do your suppliers participate?
JP: The suppliers participate by accepting general environmental conditions that we send them in the process of evaluating and approving them as certified providers.
A: Could it be said that Fuerte Hotels forms part of the movement we know as "Eco-tourism"?
JP: Not exactly. Our goal is sustainable tourism, which is different from ecological tourism in that it not only considers environmental impact, but is also sensitive to economical and socio-cultural impact as well. This is defined as a balance between the maximum benefits that can be obtained from economic, social, cultural and natural resources in the area of a destination balanced against the satisfaction of visitors and the negative impact that could be caused to the host society and environment.
Resonsible tourism, more than a model, is an attitude that encompasses any form of tourism - whether ecological or sustainable - that is based on the premise that to create wealth, it's necessary to respect all key factors that intervene in touristic activity: natural and socio-cultural surroundings, shareholders, clients, employees, suppliers, government etcetera. That's why we call our hotels Responsible Hotels.
A: What are your recommendations for travelers and tourists who wish to support sustainability in the travel industry?
JP: Obviously, the best way is to choose companies that offer their services in the most sustainable and responsible manner possible. We are concerned not only with meeting and exceeding expectations in terms of the quality of our products and services, but also doing it in a way that is responsible for society and the environment.
A: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
JP: Yes. I'd just like to say that, taking advantage of these values, we have created the brand "Responsible Hotels", which is a new project - a sort of umbrella brand - for all those hoteliers that share our same values. The idea is to provide a well positioned Internet sales platform that meets the needs of a growing market segment consisting of clients who very aware, thanks to products and services that respect the environment as well as social development and local culture. At present we are already receiving petitions from hoteliers like ourselves, who wish to belong to the platform.