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Supporting environmentally friendly practices

Date: February 23, 2017 | By: bigfive | Category: Travel Blog

Big Five LogoEach day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad. Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:

  • Environmentally-friendly Practices
  • Support for Protecting Cultural and Natural Heritage
  • Social and Economic Benefits to Local People

At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). We know that experiencing an outstanding vacation and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. We are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the journey of a lifetime.

Our second in this year-long series of related blogs explores the first pillar as stated above – Environmentally Friendly Practices.

Moving beyond our own company efforts, Big Five begins planning journeys by selecting partners that share our sustainability mind set. We ask lots and lots of questions about their operations, their local employees, the systems they have in place, projects and plans they are working on. Here are examples of authentically eco-friendly partners in three diverse regions.

In Northern Australia’s ‘Top End’ on the edge of the Mary River floodplains, a short distance from the coast, is the camp of Bamurru Plains, a private buffalo pastoral property with nine safari bungalows built on stilts overlooking the floodplains. This Top End region is home to an extraordinary wilderness in the Mary River Delta, just west of Kakadu National Park.

This is a place of climatic extremes where the tropical monsoon climate brings spectacular stormy skies and an annual cycle of environmental rebirth. Here, the camp has carefully planned every aspect with an eye to minimizing impacts on the land. The design encompasses energy usage, waste disposal, choice of linens, recycling bottles and eco-certified cleaning materials. The bulk, about 75%, of the camp’s power is generated by the sun through an array of 128 solar panels. This not only ensures a predominantly clean source of energy but also allows guests to hear the sounds of the bush at night without the noise of a diesel generator humming in the background. The camp also supports communities by using products that are produced locally. Bamurru Plains takes sustainability seriously while promoting a more intimate interaction between their guests and the local ecosystems; and between guests and the local community. Experience this amazing outing for yourself on our 14-day Wild Australia.

Far off in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, tiny Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, boasts a history that spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years, probably much farther. In this idyllic island setting, Jetwing Hotels Sri Lanka has created a collection of properties that range from pristine beach getaways, to lush mountain retreats, to rural hideaways. Eco-friendly practices are found in the center of every project. Companywide, Jetwing Hotels’ decisions include not using plastic water bottles in the restaurants; asking suppliers to reduce unnecessary packaging; switching to energy efficient lights; implementing active programs to reduce waste; and promptly replacing damaged equipment such as leaking taps. It has programs to train local service suppliers such as trishaw drivers so that they become quality-accredited business partners. Energy and water conservation are two vitally addressed issues at Jetwing properties. Hot water is generated by renewable energy sources: solar heaters and boilers powered by responsibly sourced cinnamon wood that would be an otherwise discarded by-product of the cinnamon spice industry. In 2014 alone, Jetwing Hotels saved over 140 million liters of freshwater by treating and reusing 100% of the wastewater generated at the hotels.

Each Jetwing hotel also has its own environmental initiatives. Jetwing Vil Uyana, within sight of the historically significant fortress of Sigiriya, embodies the best of environmentally proactive practices with luxury. The buildings blend into the landscape, a unique challenge as this was a wetland system on reclaimed agricultural lands. In fact, Jetwing Vil Uyana may have been the first hotel in the world to create a man-made wetland with a range of water-based and forested habitats on land previously used for slash and burn agriculture. The nearly 25-acre property has been planned to feature several projects including re-growing paddy using traditional and organic harvesting methods; developing a water reservoir; and replanting a forested area using species native to the dry zone. And the personnel here are committed to preserving and enhancing the naturalness of the environment while preventing damage and destruction. Treated water from the sewage treatment plant is used for the garden, water storage tanks and taps are checked daily for leaks by a duty technician, and housekeeping staff have been made aware to watch for of water leaks in guest rooms. Water-saving cisterns have been installed and routine preventative maintenance is carried out on a planned schedule. Explore Sir Lanka on our President’s Pick: Sri Lanka of Teas & Temples to experience two of Jetwing’s distinguished hotels.

For decades, the primary method to explore Ecuador’s fabled Galapagos Islands was by ship. But that has led to a slow degradation of the island experience with too much – too many ships, too many people and too much pollution. This is a prime example of a destination being “loved to death.”

But there is another way. A handful of hotels such as the Finch Bay Hotel and the Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island are heralding the way toward the historic islands’ future: land-based exploration, where guests fly between islands. This would result in fewer visitors, less stress on the islands and less pressure on the marine ecosystems. This will also provide an improved visitor experience.

Finch Bay Hotel, like other island hotels here, have developed a roster of core environmental practices to conserve resources and protect the unique attributes of each island. The hotel has developed an extensive network for rainwater collection and has a water treatment plant for purification for their own water uses. There is a program in place to constantly monitor water systems to avoid leaks. One drop of water per second in a pipe can add up to 2,650 gallons of water lost annually!

The hotel also maintains an organic garden to produce fruits and vegetables in order to reduce its carbon footprint, both by reducing the amount of food that needs to be imported and by recycling their home-made compost. The garden also improves fresh food availability. In addition, energy-saving measures include solar panels, LED light bulbs, movement sensors and more efficient electrical appliances, improved insulation in all rooms, using environmentally-friendly and biodegradable detergents, and by providing biodegradable amenities such as shampoos for guests.  Discover a better way to travel in the islands on our President’s Pick: Ecuador’s Galapagos & Amazon.

Stay tuned in coming months as we show you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further understanding across cultures while exploring on the journey of a lifetime.


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