by Manuel Calderón de la Barca
Luis Angarita, president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Puerto Vallarta began the “Sustainability in the Hotel Industry” workshop by saying, “Puerto Vallarta is a privileged combination of mountains and sea with an enchanting village in between, allowing us to make our living from tourism; a piece of real Mexico that has great qualities and that has the goal of staying clean and maintaining quality tourist offerings, in order to continue being successful”.
The workshop was organized by the Secretary of Tourism and Australian environmental certification company Earthcheck, and was held at Velas Vallarta on September 6th and 7th.
The workshop’s objective, as indicated by EarthCheck’s Ambassador to Latin America Gustavo Ramos Fumagalli, is to make the EarthCheck certification known as a means of generating sustainability in the tourism business, emphasizing the importance of administering and optimizing the earth’s resources in order to continue coexisting with it not only in terms of savings but to cause the least amount of damage possible to the natural world; this criteria is aligned with global standards of sustainable tourism endorsed by the World Tourism Organization.
Esmeralda Ríos, representative of the Secretary of Tourism pointed out that “one of the Federal Secretary of Tourism’s priorities is to promote sustainability in the most important destinations and business empires in the country, as according to research by international organizations there is currently a large interest on the part of the tourist in travel that has a lower environmental impact”.
The state of Jalisco’s Director of Tourism Ludwig Estrada also attended the conference, stating “we work daily in the state to provide inviting, quality tourism and this greatly involves making this industry sustainable in Mexico, an industry by which we find ourselves in 8th place of the most successful destinations in the world.“
He continued, “We should regulate tourism so that it does not affect biodiversity and have conscious tourism that impacts the environment less and less. Those who succeed in adapting to the new demands in environmental standards are sure to be those who will continue being successful hotels”.
The event began promptly at 9:00am at the Velas Vallarta Convention Center where audio-visual environmental presentations were made, followed by tours of various successful cases in hotels certified by EarthCheck.
The first exhibit was at the host resort Velas Vallarta, where engineer and Maintenance Manager José Luis Mejía Paz informed the group about “Alternative Energies applied to the hotel”; a project that EarthCheck has recognized as outstanding.
Sr. Mejía Paz showed how the resort installed solar panels on the roof to capture the energy of the sun’s light, with two primary objectives: to heat the pools and bring hot water to all 345 suites. “This has caused significant savings on our electric energy invoices, and in the purchase of LP gas, but above all it has benefitted us in terms of environmental impact”.
He shared that before purchasing the solar panels, the hotel consumed almost 226 thousand liters of gas per year. After installing this technology, consumption was reduced to 140 thousand liters of gas, meaning that they stopped the release of over 115 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa began the second day of activities on the morning of September
7th, lead by Quality Manager Wilson Canul, with the theme “Care of the Ecosystem and Guest Involvement”.
Measures that the resort has taken include the opening of a zoo that cares for animal victims of mistreatment, the maintenance and conservation of a botanical garden with native plants, and programs for guests of the resort to connect with the natural world. He also highlighted the promotion of staff awareness through the creation of the “Green Team”, made up of six multidisciplinary groups that function as auditors of different areas including:
Politics and Legislation, Recycling and Ecosystems, Communication and Connections with Society, and Revision and Good Practices.
Biologist Carlos Ponce, Operations Manager of the Martí Initiative also participated in the workshop, presenting “Hotel Members of the Riviera Maya” in which he highlighted the programs in the area and agreements between civil organizations and tourism businesses aimed at achieving permanent change in the planning, design and construction of hotels and tourism facilities to aid in the conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef. Grand Velas Riviera Maya, a Velas Resort property, is an active member of this environmentally-concerned group of businesses.
It was then Grupo Vidanta’s turn, lead by engineer Ulises Quintana Equihua of the Security and Hygiene department of Vallarta Development, who presented “Efficient Use of Drinking Water and Management of Solid Waste”.
He mentioned that the group has a residual water treatment plant, which services the Jarretaderas area as part of the commitment to community support, and that the development has recycling programs for solid waste as well as producing high-quality compost through an innovative technique that uses worms to enrich the soil for use as an organic fertilizer in the gardens and golf courses.
After the conference, the group was taken to the Grupo Vidanta treatment plant located in Nuevo Vallarta for a practical tour to see the way the facilities are operated.
Hours later, upon returning to Velas Vallarta, Arturo Cruz Castellanos of Barceló Hotel presented “Support for the Community”, speaking about a special program called “We Learn through Play” implemented in the Assistance Center of the El Tuito community, where workshop attendees were taken and treated to a special festival organized by the children of the Center.
There, the organizing committee of the workshop provided all attendees with a written summary of the event and the representative of the Secretary of Tourism Esmeralda Rios brought the workshop to a close, inviting all hotels to join “this certification of the tasks of sustainability, in which we seek not only to leave a better planet for our children, but to create consciousness in offices, communities, homes and families to also leave better children for our planet.”
An international certification agency in Sustainable Tourism, EarthCheck was founded in Australia in 1987. It is a non-profit organization that reinvests in research and development, with presence in over 70 countries and over 1000 members. Currently in Mexico over 40 businesses are certified by EarthCheck. In Puerto Vallarta five organizations are certified, including Velas Vallarta and Casa Velas and a golf course that comply with the standards of this environmental administration program.