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Sustainability has long been a buzzword in the travel sector, driven primarily by the demand from educated travellers who now expect it. It has led to industry implementing stringent practices, starting with eliminating plastics. Some of the key players include Six Senses, which recycles glass onsite and has removed plastic drink bottles and straws. The company has the ambitious plan to be completely plastic-free by 2022. Vice president of sustainability Jeff Smith says they take it so seriously that in some cases they are refusing plastic if it turns up at its hotels and simply sending the product back.

In September last year, Hyatt eliminated single-use plastic worldwide, and Meliá Hotels single-use plastic has also been eliminated in a move it says saves more than 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. For Smith, it makes perfect sense to move in this direction: “We want to limit the exposure to guests because it’s not good for your health, and there’s a lot of science about that now. Besides, why would you give people this cheap toxin as part of a luxury experience?”

The move to a more environmentally friendly holiday experience doesn’t end with plastics. At adults-only Likuliku Lagoon Resort on Fiji’s Malolo Island, a dry forest regeneration program is helping the survival of the critically endangered Fijian crested iguana. Here travellers can plant trees on the island to ensure the survival of the rare lizard, which was spotted in 2010 for the first time in 25 years. The work impacts the entire ecosystem through the redistribution of seeds on the island from the iguana’s faeces. At Meliá a new programme recycles discarded soap to reduce waste and provide employment to local communities. Last year alone it recycled 13.3 tonnes of soap, and helped more than 9800 people. So will this sustainable boom all come to a crashing end 20 years from now? None of the experts think so. Meliá’s Senior Vice President Bernardo Cabot says he expects it to be far more wide-reaching in years to come. “Hotel groups will launch more innovative and high-tech sustainable measures, as well as consumer-focused activities, ensuring luxury travellers enjoy a higher standard of service and a more unique experience”.

Smith agrees. “People are craving this authenticity. It’s about projects that give back. They don’t want to feel like they’re watching life on a TV, so if they’re going to get involved they might as well get their hands dirty. In doing that they learn about what’s important. I’m sure it’ll grow because people love to share stories and everyone wants to be at the centre of that story.

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