December 7, 2023
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How Travel Companies Are Going Green

Innovations and changes spread across the tourism industry
as operators and customers alike opt for eco-friendly trends

By Rebecca Matheson Ortiz

Vacations Magazine: How Travel Companies Are Going Green
MSC Cruises
From emissions pollution to the estimated 8 million tons of plastic that make their way to the ocean each year, environmental concerns are hot topics. The world is taking notice, and many destinations are making some big changes to live a little greener. Amsterdam plans to ban all gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2030, and states like California, Oregon and Vermont now prohibit single-use plastic bags.

According to research by the United Nations' World Tourism Organization, transport-related tourism will be responsible for 5.3% of all man-made emissions by the end of the decade. To combat this, the travel industry is working to increase fuel efficiency, opting for vehicles that utilize electric power and using lower-carbon fuels. In the cruise sector, new ships are built with hydrodynamic hulls, making them more fuel efficient. Companies like Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have invested in wastewater treatment technology. Other ships boast gas turbines, and Hurtigruten's expedition ships will feature hybrid power sources.

In the escorted tour industry, small-group travel, community conservation projects and a commitment to lowering waste supports sustainability in the places operators visit. Resorts are turning to regional food suppliers and artisans, as well as opting to help marine habitats through coral rehabilitation programs. The reduction of single-use plastics helps lower instances of them snaring sea life and clogging fish bellies.

Read on to learn about the environmental leaders of the tourism industry and how they're doing their part to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Cleaner cruises
A world leader in expedition travel, Hurtigruten has been making some serious waves in cruising. In 2018, the line banned all unnecessary single-use plastics, including straws, coffee lids, cups and bags. Hurtigruten strives to be the first plastic-free shipping company, but it also wows with the creation of hybrid ships and retrofitting of older vessels to feature clean fuel alternatives. The company also has partnered with Norwegian company Biokraft, which will supply a climate-neutral liquefied biogas sourced from organic waste to power ships.

Named after two polar pioneers, the 530-guest Rolls Royce-designed MS Roald Amundsen (new for 2019) and MS Fridtjof Nansen (coming this April) are the first Hurtigruten ships to be powered with hybrid technology that allows for fully electric propulsion. That, combined with sleek hull designs and electricity conservation efforts on board, will shrink ship emissions by 20%. These polar exploration ships are lavishly appointed with Scandinavian granite and wool and tout observation platforms, infinity pools and hulls that can traverse icy waters.

A two-week sailing aboard the Fridtjof Nansen travels round trip from Hamburg, Germany, on June 10, with 14 stops along the Norwegian coast, including six above the Arctic Circle. Prices start at $9,805.

MSC Cruises also is eliminating single-use plastics, but even more impressive: In January, the line achieved its goal of going carbon-neutral as it continued its investment in tree-planting projects and other green initiatives. MSC uses special software to plan voyages along ideal sailing routes to reduce fuel consumption, and energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting and smart HVAC systems add to the onboard energy savings. To fight emissions, MSC opts for exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) or liquid natural gas (LNG); the EGCS are able to remove up to 97% of sulfur dioxide instead of belching it into the air.

With the 2019 debut of the MSC Grandiosa, MSC shows off its Selective Catalytic Reduction system, which minimizes nitrogen oxide by turning it into harmless nitrogen and water. And wastewater isn't polluting seas, either, as it's treated with systems so advanced that by the time it's discharged the quality is nearly as good as tap water.

Along with shipboard innovations, the company's charitable branch recently launched the Super Coral Play campaign. With an estimated 90% loss of coral reefs in the next two decades, "We have to act now," says MSC Foundation Advisory Board chairman Matthew McKinnon. MSC's private Bahamian island, the newly opened Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, showcases a coral restoration project where super corals, the species that have survived the harsh conditions, will be studied, grown in on-site nurseries and eventually transplanted to offshore reefs.

Hop aboard the MSC Seaside on May 16 and set sail for Ocean Cay and Nassau, the Bahamian capital, on a four-night getaway sailing round trip from Miami. Cruisers are invited to explore the coral nurseries and learn what they can do to help reefs around the world. Prices start at $279 for an ocean-view room.

Responsible resorts
Sandals Resorts, a well-known brand for romantic escapes, has partnered with Oceanic Global, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health of the seas. Scientists report that plastic and Styrofoam have affected 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals. Sandals began eliminating single-use plastics in 2018, and last year it stepped up to remove all Styrofoam from its 15 adults-only properties across the Caribbean.

All Sandals locations also are certified by the advisory group EarthCheck. They've snagged this prestigious designation thanks to strides in water conservation, energy and waste management and promoting social and cultural development within their host communities.

Spend some time away with the one you love at Sandals Grande St. Lucian, an all-inclusive nestled on its own peninsula on St. Lucia's northern coast. Enjoy views of a crystalline sea from a cozy overwater bungalow and play on the mile-long beach. Guests will enjoy unlimited dining at more than a dozen restaurants, water sports and live entertainment for one all-inclusive price.

Iberostar Group, with more than 100 hotels worldwide, has launched Wave of Change, an ambitious initiative that focuses on eliminating plastic pollution and promoting sustainable fishing and coastal health. The brand is collaborating with EarthCheck to coordinate a structure for these new programs, and plans call for each hotel to be EarthCheck certified by the end of 2021. This year, the company will have removed all single-use plastics from its properties, meeting its first goal.

Next on the agenda: Iberostar is purchasing more fish from local sources and removing less responsibly harvested entree choices from menus. The company also is opening coral nurseries in the Caribbean, funding research grants for marine study, planting mangroves around its properties and more.

Set out for the all-inclusive Iberostar Selection Bavaro in the Dominican Republic's Punta Cana region for a family-friendly escape. Along with seven restaurants and multiple watering holes, guests have access to a common area with a park for kiddos and brightly painted local shops touting handcrafted goods. This resort also is home to one of Iberostar's budding coral nurseries, where guests are invited to view 10 species of coral and learn more about the importance of reefs.

Eco-friendly escorted tours
Natural Habitat Adventures promotes sustainability and conservation travel, striving to create memorable experiences in the natural world. This escorted tour provider also has joined forces with World Wildlife Fund to promote cleaner travel.

Nat Hab's Carbon Pollution Reduction program, paying for environmental efforts like reforestation projects in Zimbabwe, has helped it achieve its title as the world's first carbon-neutral travel company, an accomplishment treasured since 2007. It operates a fleet of green vehicles, like 12-passenger vans that run on used vegetable oil and a hybrid safari truck. And, on each trip, Nat Hab guests receive reusable water bottles to cut down on disposable containers.

Last year, the company hosted its first Zero Waste Adventure with "Safari America: Yellowstone Country" a 12-person itinerary that included stays at four hotels and nine group restaurant visits over seven days. At the end of the trip, guests were able to fit all of the waste generated during the week into one small container, essentially diverting 99% of refuse produced during travel by composting leftover food, recycling and more. The company supplied each traveler with a coffee mug, water bottle, bamboo utensils, a cloth napkin and a tote bag to store recyclables in, and leftovers were added to a bin reserved for biodegradable goods.

Though there aren't any Zero Waste Adventures slated for this year, Nat Hab will be incorporating things learned from that first experiment into future trips. Set out on the seven-day, 14-guest "Yellowstone: Adventure Under the Big Sky" on one of eight departures available between June and August. Participants search for wolves in Yellowstone National Park and snap photos of peaks around Grand Teton National Park. Prices start at $5,995.

Intrepid Travel establishes projects to create jobs and provide skills training as a way to invest in the communities it visits, making sure they thrive for years to come. Carbon neutral since 2010, the tour provider aims to become even more climate-positive, starting with a new project to restore kelp forests off the coast of Tasmania, Australia, ultimately reducing carbon levels worldwide. The company also supports both human and animal rights around the world, refusing to participate in controversial activities such as elephant rides in Thailand.

Intrepid travelers are given a resident's perspective on itineraries that are created for "doing local things with local people," providing a more meaningful visit. Tour-goers will be encouraged to embrace public transport when possible, shop with local vendors for souvenirs, minimize plastic waste, manage energy and water usage and more.

Delve into a new culture during the seven-day "Inca Trail Express." Near-daily departures are available on this adventure, where guests learn about the ancient Inca people, explore famed Machu Picchu and visit the city of Cusco, Peru. Prices start at $1,165.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Spring 2020. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.

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