11 Global Companies in Travel that Take Sustainability Seriously
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
As elusive as travel may feel for all of us today, it is still well worth tipping our travel hats in the direction of businesses that commit to conservation and sustainability on this Earth Day.
After all of this time in place for reflection and introspection, when we do step back out on the global road, perhaps we will take a gentler and more mindful approach, one that leaves less of a footprint on our path. Here’s hoping. In the interim, enjoy a breezy visit with these incredible companies from around the world.
The Feynan Ecolodge
The Feynan Ecolodge was constructed in 2005 by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and was the first sustainable lodge in all of Jordan. The lodge is in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, one of Jordan's most threatened reserves. The lodge was created to provide a sustainable alternative to open cast copper mining. The lodge stands as a conservation triumph over unsustainable resource mining.
Ecohotels took over the management of the lodge in 2009. Since then, the lodge has received endless acclaims in the media, added unique experiences, increased its staff, and, most importantly, decreased its environmental footprint.
Sustainability is evident in almost every aspect of the operations of Feynan. The Lodge generates 100 percent of its electricity through solar panels mounted on the roof. This solar power is also used in its solar heating system for hot water throughout the lodge. As Jordan is one of the world’s most water-deficient countries, the Lodge aims to minimize its water usage by sourcing it from a local spring.
The Lodge is committed to providing guests a unique and memorable stay while putting sustainability at the forefront of its operations. For those reasons, it continues as one of the most celebrated hotels in the world. It has also entered into TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame.
Quark Expeditions has long been a leader in polar travel as it hosts off-ship and on-ship expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctica. The company took the first group of commercial travelers to the North Pole in 1991 and has continued to take travelers to remote parts of the Arctic and Antarctic.
Quark emphasizes protecting the polar regions they travel to keep the natural beauty alive for future generations. The company has designed a cohesive plan with sustainability initiatives with which they use to identify what they can do better to protect these fragile polar regions.
Quark recognizes that its most substantial adverse impact comes from the carbon emissions of its ships. They continuously measure and report carbon emissions per passenger. In 2019, historical ship fuel consumption showed that the average passenger emissions had decreased by 13%.
Outside of reducing their carbon footprint, Quark takes many steps to reduce the amount of waste they send to landfills. The company avoids single-use plastics and has office and field operations reuse or recycle 100% of the waste produced on Quark’s vessels. Ultimately, they are working towards a zero-waste plan on the ship.
Their contribution to the environment does not stop there. The company aims to contribute a minimum of $500,000 each year to support environmental research, community engagement, and sustainable development projects.
Frontiers North Adventures
This family-owned and operated adventure travel company kicked into gear more than 30 years ago. A couple founded the company in 1987 and has developed it into an internationally recognized eco-tourism operation. Since day one, the company has held the local communities and the environment close to its heart.
Their focus has remained on sustainable, experiential adventure travel. Whether chasing the northern lights or photographing bears, belugas, or bison, Frontiers North always travels responsibly to protect the fragile habitats of Northern Canada.
The company operates on trails established by the military in the 1950s to prevent further damage to the tundra ecosystem. Their Tundra Buggy Lodge uses a Grey Water Management System to ensure not one drop of water waste touches the tundra and is instead transported back to the nearby town of Churchill for disposal.
The town of Churchill is a close partner of Frontiers North, as it also receives all recyclable materials from the company. Further initiatives include using rainforest certified paper for brochures, going water bottle-free in 2016, and transporting the Tundra Buggy Lodge over frozen tidal flats rather than overland to have no impact on the tundra.
Frontiers are willing to limit company growth to preserve Canada’s North. Their eco-initiatives are endless. So, it’s no surprise that the company has earned several awards and accolades as a top responsible tourism business through these practices and particular initiatives. They understand that even the smallest sustainable practices can help to promote a healthy environment.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Established in 2003, Grootbos is located in the Western Cape of South Africa, close to Africa's southernmost tip. What began as a small bed and breakfast years ago has turned into a 5-star luxury lodge attracting eco-warriors and luxury travelers from around the world.
Currently, Grootbos rests between the mountains, a forest, and the sea. Consequently, it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet as it houses a plethora of plant, bird, and mammal species and several amphibians, many of which the aforementioned are threatened by extinction. Grootbos understands its responsibility to conserve this unique and fragile ecosystem.
From the start, Grootbos made its commitment to the land where the reserve and the lodge reside. Initially, it was a single farm. It has since grown into a total of seven farms spanning over nine square miles of land, most of which had been poorly managed and mistreated prior. The Grootbos team has meticulously restored these damaged areas. They continue to research, innovate, and pioneer new initiatives that will sustain the health and wellness of the reserve.
The lodge only serves locally, as in from their farm, organic food. They have replaced single-use plastic water bottles on-site with a water-bottling project. The laundry service is now eco-friendly. Water is minimal, particularly in this region of South Africa. So, the reserve has water meters that measure extraction and usage to manage their water resources effectively.
There is so much good work that this company is doing; it’s almost too much to keep up with, let alone tell. The Green Futures, Growing the Future, the Youth Development Programme, and Future Trees are a few of the many. The company continues to be lauded and recognized worldwide by National Geographic, the World Tourism Market, the World Travel and Tourism Council, and many more.
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve has provided a safari experience for visitors from around the world since 1979. Situated in Greater Kruger National Park, the reserve is a wildlife oasis where guests can observe lions, buffalos, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, and over 200 other species. Photographing the big five is a given.
Guests here enjoy on and off-road experiences led by qualified rangers and trackers in safari vehicles. Because the Sabi Sabi reserve sits in a hotspot of biodiversity, they have a higher responsibility to protect the habitat and the ecosystem.
Sabi Sabi starts their conservation practices with their guide and ranger training. They endure intense training of very high standards that includes learning about the orientation and geography of the reserve, animal and plant identification, and principles of ecology. The reserve sees its rangers as environmental educators.
Habitat management is another crucial part of the reserve’s operations. Sabi Sabi engages in controlled burning, consisting of burning sections of the reserve every four years to clear encroached areas and encouraging new grass growth. They also focus on reducing lodge waste. Sabi Sabi’s lodges (Selati, Bush Camp, Little Bush Camp) recycle most of its waste, burn some, uses wet waste for compost, and return plastics to their suppliers.
Finally, the reserve puts a hard focus on protecting its wildlife with a committed and coordinated anti-poaching unit. The Sabi Sabi Reserve continues to be a leader in wildlife management and conservation in South Africa and beyond.
The Cayuga Collection consists of 10 award-winning 5-star sustainable luxury hotels in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua. While luxury can come at a cost to the environment, the Cayuga Collection provides a luxury hotel experience that supports versus threatens the environment around it.
Sustainability is rooted in every aspect of their hotels, from the infrastructure of the buildings to day-to-day operations. Cayuga implements sustainability into all aspects of its operations and services.
To continue to push the sustainable innovation envelope within their operations, Cayuga Collections hosts the Cayuga’s Innovation Contest for their employees to enter their ideas. From the contest, the company has amassed over 65 new and improved sustainable views.
Outside of the contest, employees continue to go to management with new ideas. Don Tino, a former gardener for Cayuga, introduced his idea of using bamboo shoots to make biodegradable straws. This initiative is one of the many single-use plastics that Cayuga has eliminated from its hotels and lodges.
Furthermore, food found in the hotels comes from Cayuga’s very own garden of vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Their gardens irrigate water through a biological system that uses purified wastewater from the hotels. Eco-interested guests can take advantage of Cayuga’s intimate, behind-the-scenes sustainability tours.
BioHotel Organic Suites
Located in the heart of Bogota, Colombia, BioHotel Organic Suites is an eco-friendly hotel that combines luxury and comfort with the utmost respect for the environment.
The hotel’s owner Samuel Huertas was inspired by other sustainable hotel properties worldwide to create this gem. It was a groundbreaking move as it is still the only eco-hotel in this trendy South American city.
Its promise of protecting the environment started with the original construction. The hotel used controlled-cut wood, flooring made from bamboo, and recyclable glass windows in its design.
Even with its furnishing, the hotel adheres to sustainable standards. It has curtains made of recycled PET, rugs made of recycled fiber, and furniture with wood from sustainable forests. Everyday operations are also green, including solar energy, water-saving systems, and LED bulbs for lighting.
Their sustainability commitment carries through all aspects of operations, big and small. The hotel’s bicycles in the fitness center help to generate electricity. Other bikes are provided for guests to use outside the hotel for local transportation in this busy city. The Green Piece restaurant in the hotel features vegetables grown on-site, and organic meats and wine are all provided by local suppliers. A food waste decomposition machine onsite converts all food waste into reusable water.
BioHotel Organic Suites is a sexy urban example that any hotel can be both trendy and eco-friendly.
If looking for a long-stay vacation in the Canary Islands, Nautilus Lanzarote is a mere five minutes from the sea in Puerto del Carmen. This 4-star luxury apartment complex attracts eco-savvy guests each year from around the world. It’s easy to keep one’s carbon footprint to a minimum as the luxe apartment complex comes with two heated pools, a beautiful garden area, mini-golf, and a supermarket. Why would one leave?
As if we needed another reason to linger. Nautilus Lanzarote is also a hub for art and creativity. Several artists are on-site, and the property is home to more than 800 works of art displayed in the apartments and throughout the grounds. No two residences are alike, as each one has unique artwork.
Aside from being known as a hub for culture and creativity, it is equally known for striking that beautiful balance with luxury and sustainability. Fifty percent of the energy consumed in the complex is clean energy, thus reducing emissions. Nautilus uses solar energy storage batteries, which capture energy through their rooftop panels.
In one year, Nautilus produces enough energy to charge 44,540 computers through its solar energy program. Reduced energy usage also comes from low consumption light bulbs and LEDs installed throughout their apartments. Products provided by Nautilus in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry are eco-friendly.
Also, there is limited water waste by double push buttons on toilets and drip irrigation systems. Plastic waste is also reduced through the limited use of paper and recycling of all products where possible. Nautilus continues to be recognized each year as “Biosphere Apartments” by the Institute of Responsible Tourism.
Solar-powered boats are one of the newest innovations to enter the sustainable luxury marketplace. Based in the Netherlands, Soel Yachts produces luxe sustainable vessels for the ocean. As water transport creates the most significant carbon dioxide footprint, Soel Yachts was committed to providing authentic ecotourism by reducing this footprint. The vessels are powered by sunlight through the roof-mounted solar array. Battery systems provide enough energy for operations at night or in low sunlight conditions.
Their vessels eliminate the noise, smell, and fuel costs that traditionally come with water transport. Soel Yachts identifies as a taxi service for reef excursions and transportation around on-water resorts, its target market. There are currently three versions of these sustainable vessels and one custom model option. Besides, Soel introduced its first sustainable floating bar or restaurant.
After a cruise on the sea, the SoelCat12 model can be hooked up to the grid and can deliver enough energy to power up to four households while charging itself. That is a power play.
Finolhu Villas in Baa Atoll stands as one of the top beach resorts in the Maldives. Opened in 2016, Finolhu has 125 private villas that stretch across four different islands and two kilometers of beaches. The unique geographical location is just one of many aspects that makes this resort so breathtaking.
One of 26 natural ring-shaped reefs in the Indian Ocean, Finolhu, is located at the ocean's edge. All around the resort are reefs, submerged cliffs, and underwater hills that serve as a natural marine habitat, home to 1,200 reef species. This region of Baa Atoll has been declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
With marine biologists on their team, Finolhu’s respect for the environment starts with their staff. They have a deep understanding and an unwavering commitment to the Baa Atoll, one of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean.
They protect hatching turtles as they make their way to the sea for the first time. They do not allow single-use plastic water bottles and plastic straws at the resort, and guests are discouraged from bringing their own. Additionally, the resort uses osmosis plants to convert seawater into viable glass-bottled drinking water.
The 5-star luxury resort is the first in the world to be powered by 100% solar energy. The resort captures solar energy with its 67,000 square feet of solar panels. It captures and stores it in a battery that accounts for all of the energy produced on the island. This 5-star luxury resort is a superstar in our eyes.
Ecoventura is a luxury expedition company that has been operating in the Galápagos islands since the 1990s. Santiago Dunn, the executive president of the company, was named an Individual Sustainable Standard-Setter in 2005. Dunn has made many contributions to the conservation of the rainforest.
The company has a long history of sustainability. In 2000, it became the first recipient of the SmartVoyager ecological certification. This voluntary program sets strict conservation standards, which Ecoventura continues to meet and exceed.
One of their many initiatives has been the installation of a system to produce fresh water on board. Another effort is the implementation of a waste management and recycling program. Furthermore, 30% of the produce used in Ecoventura’s menu items comes from the Galápagos. Their menu remains 48% organic.
Perhaps the company's most impactful way to support the environment and ecosystem is its involvement in sustainability funds and ecological and social programs. With the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galápagos National Park Services, the company established the Galápagos Biodiversity and Education for Sustainability Fund. This fund supports various projects related to biodiversity conservation, such as research and monitoring trips, community outreach, scientific equipment, and boat maintenance and equipment.
Written by Samantha Miller and Karen Loftus