It is the private sector’s responsibility, now more than ever, to build businesses that support a sustainable ocean economy. As the impact of COVID-19 is felt around the globe, the tourism industry has experienced the largest disruption in its history as an industry. In this pandemic, we find hope for a recovery that supports sustainable development. This is why now, more than ever, Iberostar is taking bold new steps towards its commitment to the ocean, and is adding momentum to our Wave of Change movement.
If we view the pandemic in another lens, tourism has the unique opportunity to build more responsibly, come back with a more sustainable footprint and deepen its commitment to the local ecosystems and economies where it operates. Iberostar has taken unique steps to ensure the health and safety of all our clients, all the while ensuring sustainability stays at the forefront of our mission.
Here are some examples of programs and policies we have implemented as a call towards this sustainable development:
Creation of a Medical Advisory Committee for decision-making
Since the global pandemic began, we understood that it was necessary to make any new decisions driven by science. Since we were faced with new challenges in health and safety outside of our expertise, we established a Medical Advisory Committee with pulmonologists and infectious disease doctors to inform our executive committee. We became the first Spanish hotel company to create a medical advisory council made up of experts in public health and health safety linked to tourism.
Circular vision applied to all new products
We needed to add new products to our operations to adjust to the challenges presented by COVID-19. New masks, sanitizers, cleaning products, and food-service items were evaluated using our our evolving policies to embody a circular economy . New masks for our employees came from recycled materials. Santizers were purchased in bulk so we could refill sanitizing stations over and over again. Cleaning chemicals were recommended by our Medical Advisory Board and then filtered by the sustainability office to ensure minimal impact on the local water systems. During the search process for each product, our suppliers continued their incredible collaboration in our commitment, sourcing these products across a global footprint, not only for Iberostar but for other tourism providers in the region.
Training for better waste management
As a result of the introduction of hygiene and safety materials and equipment necessary to prevent any type of contagion, it was critical that we also ensured proper management of this waste at the end of its life.
We fast-tracked the establishment of a new department dedicated to managing the end-use of products. Our sustainability office advised all new training sessions prior to the opening of each hotel to ensure that the directors and heads of areas understand and take responsibility for better waste management.
Guidelines for Motivating more responsible seafood consumption post COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic caused massive shifts to supply chains, market disruptions and shifts in global distribution of supply chains. In hotels, mismatches in volumes of products and demand as well as a need to ensure increased economic savings due to months of lost income threatened food service offerings.
Yet we used sustainability as a filter for increasing efficiency and transparency in our supply chains as we continued moving forward and launched our commitment to sourcing 100% responsible seafood by 2025. In May, we established working groups with our purchasing department and food advisors to use our new roadmap for sustainable seafood as a guide for requesting or refusing seafood products. We’re excited to announce at the end of the year the incredible progress made towards our 2020 goal to source 45% of our seafood from responsible sources.
Riding the Wave conversation series
While COVID-19 put tourism on pause, we used this time to bring together experts from different areas for our conversation series titled Riding the Wave. This is a series of pre-recorded discussions with invited speakers to explore topics that help a general public and the tourism sector learn about the importance of our oceans, as well as share cutting-edge ideas that can help spark change among industry players.
Riding the Wave represents Iberostar’s efforts to build back better through responsible tourism as tourism returns to business.
Iberostar establishes second coral nursery
After establishing our first coral nursery in the Dominican Republic with FUNDEMAR, we immediately started the permitting process to work with CINVESTAV in Mexico. The moment our permits came through, the pandemic prevented our science team from finally putting coral in the water. As our hotels remained closed, our science team worked behind the scenes to build the structures for our new nursery to break ground. With the re-opening of our facilities in Mexico in June, we also opened our second coral nursery in front of the Iberostar complex in the Riviera Maya. One month later, we opened our third coral nursery in the Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park in front of the Iberostar Cozumel. These nurseries will serve as spaces to increase the diversity of species in our nurseries across different locations in the Caribbean, analyze the temporal variation of the coral community before and after installation and analyze temporal variations of the physiochemical parameters.
These decisions are not just unique to Iberostar, all businesses can take steps like these to ensure we are building back better as tourism returns. Sustainability must have an equal seat at when determining responses and recovery policies post COVID-19. The time is now to prioritize sustainability in the tourism industry to ensure a healthy future for our oceans and ecosystems.