The IHI held its first online Hospitality & Tourism Professionals Day on the 26th
November 2020 and had 2 Keynote Speakers who delivered a very similar message with respect to our Environment and Sustainability. Unfortunately, the existing world class service providers were casually dismissed during the panel sessions.
Pól Ó Conghaile presented his Big 5mm with Sustainability front and centre,
suggesting that it might be Tourisms Fast Fashion moment and reminded
us that Climate Change has not Gone Away whilst Valentina
Doorly identified 5 Megatrends which include Climate Change and the Climate Crisis.
These observations came on the back of the Environmental Protection
Agency’s State of the Environment report where the Director General
stated “The overall quality of Ireland’s environment is not what it
should be, and the outlook is not optimistic unless we accelerate the implementation of
solutions across all sectors and society.”
According to the scientific community we have less than 10
years left to positively influence the future of our planet by
fundamentally reducing our Carbon Emissions. It’s called the
Climate Change Crisis for a reason.
The Irish Government has committed to an economic policy
placing the environment and decarbonisation of our economy
front and centre and we have a new Climate Action Bill and
Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy as well as The Green New Deal which sets
out huge challenges for every business sector
(To view all the referenced documents Click Here)
Taken together there is a very clear message for the Irish Tourism Sector –
Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Actions must be at the
heart of any Tourism Policy, Strategy or Action Plan – NOW.
A few words in support of the existing environmental sustainability
During the last 2 decades a few service providers have worked hard to create and
develop environmental supports for tourism businesses. These supports include training,
workshops, services, mentoring, engagement, lobbying, certification and recognition
programmes, etc. and they provide ongoing skill and knowledge to support and assist
many tourism businesses in embedding environmental sustainability within their day-today operations – a wide range of interlocking supports.
The existing service providers have consistently delivered this ever increasingly
important environmental message to the tourism sector in Ireland, with very little direct
support from within the sector – compared to external agencies such as the EPA and
These service providers have delivered multiple service levels to suit the needs of a
varied sector consistently and professionally. We are recognised internationally for our
good practices and have enabled the Irish Tourism Sector to be recognised as one that is
engaged positively with environmental sustainability. Our existence has had a major
part to play in the successful launch of the Global Destination Sustainability Index across
5 convention bureaux, relying on our certification programme to score highly and
position them to attract International Business Tourism.
We should be encouraged, supported, engaged with, not dismissed. There is no single
solution that any single organisation will deliver that will result in the Tourism Sector
achieving success in delivering on the commitments made by our government – or the
moral and ethical response we should be taking.
All players need to recognise the skills, knowledge and abilities of all those committed to
positioning the Irish Tourism Sector as one of the World’s most environmentally
sustainable destinations and the multi-faceted approach that is required.
All current service providers deliver excellent services and will continue to do, despite
We are calling for real engagement from the organisations tasked with leading our
industry out of the pandemic and into a new way of doing business, that actively
respects the environment. We are at the coal (sic) face, delivering, working with
businesses, reducing their impact and emissions. We are ready, able and willing to
What should happen now?
What we need is a robust Tourism Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Plan that is
part of the current Tourism Recovery Plan with a clear focus on:
- Pulling together all the existing expertise into a body that can deliver a clear and
compelling approach to embed environmental sustainability within the sector with
clear targets and delivery dates.
- Develop a Tourism Environmental Sustainability Strategy and Plan with quantifiable
deliverables and defined responsibilities and a Budget demonstrating leadership and
- Creating a culture of environmental responsibility within the Industry through a
wide-ranging awareness programme that must include access to training – online
and direct for both tourism providers, employees and educational establishments.
- Delivering a suite of easy to access supports to enable predominately Small and
Micro businesses engage, with a focus on;
o Climate Change – Energy Efficiency, Carbon Reductions
o Food Waste Minimisation
o Single Use Plastic Elimination
o Green Procurement
o Water Efficiency
- Deliver easily accessible financial supports for environmental efficiency activities
funded through the increased environmental taxes levied on the sector, including;
o SME Resource Efficiency Support programme
o Financial incentives to upgrade plant and equipment with a specific focus on
Energy Efficiency/Carbon Reduction
This must not be a territorial dispute nor must it ignore or avoid the tough questions the industry
must face. Valentina Doorly spoke about Cognitive Bias which is a systemic error in thinking
that influences actions and decisions. Is this our root problem within tourism when we talk
about Climate Change actions – Tourism is not the real problem, it’s the farmers, industry,
somebody else’s job to fix. Are we terrified about the elephant in the Room – Air Travel and
its negative environmental impact.
Is it that we really do not want to face up to the challenges facing us because we either
don’t believe we are part of the problem or we might have to re-imagine and change how
we do our business?
We believe that there are solutions to all these challenges that will result in a stronger and
more sustainable tourism sector – Financially, Socially and Environmentally.
Maurice J Bergin FIHI MSc, Green Hospitality Programme, November 2020