2020 was a challenging year for sustainability in the hospitality industry.
In the face of a global pandemic, safety came first – which meant many hotels and restaurants increased their use of single-use disposable masks, gloves and utensils, while experts determined the best path forward for hygiene and cleanliness. Some of the programs we had in place in 2019, such as moving away from small amenity bottles at our hotels, were placed temporarily on hold in locations where we were forced to close hotels and restaurants or modify the way we delivered our offerings and amenities.
At the same time, 2020 clearly demonstrated the impact human activity has had on the planet. When much of the world shut down due to COVID-19, we saw formerly smoggy skies turn back to blue and fish could be seen in once murky waters. While many of us spent months indoors, wishing we could go outside, we developed a greater appreciation for nature and a better understanding of the risks at stake when we don’t protect our precious ecosystems and biodiversity.
During the most challenging year in our history, it was abundantly clear how important it is to protect our Earth. We understand action is needed and that businesses have a large role to play in this global effort. Furthermore, today’s marketplace demands this effort. Our guests, especially the next generation, increasingly expect the companies they patronize to act in a sustainable, eco-conscious manner. As we’ve done for nearly 94 years, when our guests ask, our hotels and associates deliver.
As we celebrate Earth Day today, I want to thank our associates, hotel owners and franchisees around the world who have worked throughout this pandemic to continue to protect, restore and enhance the ecosystems where we operate, so those locations will remain vibrant destinations to live, work and visit. It is not just vital to the long-term success of our business, but to the wellbeing of our associates, their families and communities.
From reforestation to responsible fishing to reef restoration and more, our hotels invested in meaningful projects throughout the last year that can be scaled and replicated to help protect the world’s natural resources. Let me share a few of my favorite examples from 2020.
Understanding the vital role trees play in the fight against climate change, last year a number of our properties continued to invest in reforestation efforts around the world. In the U.S. and Canada, properties planted more than 45,000 trees while associates in Fiji from The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa joined forces with the Marriott Resort Momi Bay to plant about 1,800 mangrove trees along the coastline.
In the Caribbean and Latin America, a number of our properties continued their turtle protection efforts. The JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and the Marriott Cancun Resort in Mexico, for example, have a comprehensive Turtle Protection and Preservation Program for endangered sea turtles. The program’s efforts include training courses, installing and maintaining corrals, egg transfers and hatchling releases. Last year, these hotels helped protect 433 turtle nests, successfully releasing more than 40,000 baby turtles back into the sea.
In Costa Rica, the Reserva Conchal Apiary is an active project on the properties of the Westin and W Reserva Conchal to protect one of the best pollinators in the world: bees. There are 60 hives on the properties, with each housing about 60,000 bees, that help in the pollination of the Reserva Conchal wildlife reserve and vicinity. As a bonus, the harvests have generated about 2,000 pounds of honey.
Meanwhile, hotels from Bali to France participated in the global International Coastal Cleanup and World Cleanup Day. One particularly impressive example is North Island, a Luxury Collection Resort in the Seychelles, which spent more than 600 volunteer hours collecting ocean trash from the beaches.
One of the best parts about our sustainability efforts is our engagement with our guests. Many of today’s travelers are looking for experiences that involve learning. This means that in addition to making their stay as sustainable as possible, we have an opportunity to make our efforts interactive, such as our Good Travel pilot in Asia Pacific, where our guests can participate in various efforts to enhance the local community and environment such as coral plantings and sea turtle shelters. Our hope, of course, is that our guests leave our hotels well versed and eager to become ambassadors of sustainability at home.
As we look forward to a global recovery, we know there is more we can do – as a company and a world community. In 2021 and beyond, we’ll be picking up what we paused, building on the work our hotels have maintained, and looking for opportunities to go further. Our planet is counting on us and we are committed to doing our part.
Happy Earth Day.