How Google is helping travelers go green


A global survey released in June laid bare the new expectations of travelers: some 83% of 29,000 people surveyed said they found sustainable travel essential, with 61% noting that the pandemic had heightened their interest in sustainable travel.

Half added that it is not easy to find a hotel with real green credibility, and they are right. Hotels that take sustainability seriously don’t often shout it from the rooftops, while others brag about being green just to offer an option to skip the daily laundry.

The most important new tool comes courtesy of Google. Starting September 22, hotels will be tagged as “eco-certified” in global search results, with a leaf icon next to the hotel name. By clicking on the ‘About’ tab, you will detail the property’s specific sustainability practices, such as independent water use verification or energy use from non-hazardous sources. carbon.

The new feature leverages 29 certification programs to do the hard work of establishing a hotel’s green credibility; the property must have a range of sustainability measures audited by third party experts. It will be up to hotel staff, rather than the search engine, to update hotel listings, using the free Google My Business profile.

This decision aims to offer travelers more transparency against greenwashing, which is rampant in the hotel industry. It also responds to the increase in search volume around eco-travel buzzwords. The term “green hotel,” for example, has quadrupled in search volume since March 2020, according to Google Trends.

“We have worked closely with hotels to learn more about their approach to sustainability and how best to represent these different approaches within our product,” said Richard Holden, vice president of product management at Google. “Standardization will be key in getting consumers to understand, trust and take action based on the sustainability information we provide. “


EarthCheck is one of the most stringent green certifications Google will recognize. Established in 2000 by Australia’s Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Center (STCRC), the benchmarking system is constantly updated based on the latest research. It already works with 550 hotels around the world, including the Langham Hospitality Group, which has reduced its energy and carbon intensity by a third since joining the program in 2011. This month, Belmond, a brand owned by LVMH, a announced that she would start EarthCheck. certification process not only for all of its 34 hotels, but also for its restaurants, cruise ships and trains. This means that guests staying at Belmond’s properties in Peru can expect not only a gourmet dinner in partnership with the farmers of the Huama community, but also a lighter journey to Machu Picchu aboard the iconic Hiram train. Bingham of the brand.

Other notable certifications Google will recognize include Green Key, LEED, Green Seal and Green Globe, which have all been around for decades, as well as newcomers such as the Green Growth 2050 standard, which since 2015 has been measuring hotels and resorts. resort. through 200 metrics related to sustainable development. Green Growth has a seal of approval from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), which provides accreditation for certification bodies. Some programs only have a handful of hotels under their umbrella; tripping over them without Google’s help would be difficult at best.

What Google won’t show are programs that contain only self-reported environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data, such as the new Conscious Certified Hotels program from investment firm CGI Merchant Group, which donates 1% of revenue. overnight stays at select Hilton hotels at organizations. Internal sustainability initiatives such as Iberostar Hotels & Resorts’ Wave of Change program, which targets various goals, including zero waste by 2025 and carbon neutrality by 2030, will also not count towards obtain an “eco-certified” check.

However, not all hotels that do a good job are accredited, in part because of cost – fees for a Bronze Green Seal certification for hotels with less than 75 rooms start at $ 1,500 per year, for example – and because some programs are too focused on just one aspect of greening such as energy efficiency, thus avoiding hotels that focus on pro-social efforts such as promoting ethical wildlife experiences or invest heavily in their communities.

“Hotels are realizing that they need a label,” says Hans Pfister, co-founder and president of the Cayuga Collection, a group of sustainable lodges that were among the first to obtain certifications from the famous eco-government. -responsible for Costa Rica. “But there is a difference between putting a certification on your website and actually working. “

Instead of spending hours on the paperwork needed to maintain certifications, Pfister felt that energy could be better directed towards new initiatives that enrich local communities and the customer experience. A stay at his private resort Isla Palenque in Panama could include searching for wild ingredients in 400 acres of protected rainforest with a local guide or learning traditional fishing techniques preserved by the fishermen of Boca Chica.

A handful of new tools beyond Google can help make it easier to find and book hotels with strong social and environmental values ​​such as Pfister.

Preferred Hotel Group‘s Beyond Green Travel portfolio is a network of 27 hotels, resorts and lodges that adhere to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Its members include the Francis Ford Coppola Hydroelectric Refuges in Belize, Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn, and andBeyond Mnemba Island in Zanzibar, a protected nesting site for endangered green sea turtles.

Other directories include Rethink Travel, which helps travelers filter hotels based on sustainability practices such as “fair food,” “waste control,” and “clean energy,” and Green Pearls, which organizes and rates its members in areas such as their engagement culture and authentic customer experiences.

So far, 319 tourism businesses, organizations and individuals have come together for Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, a coalition whose members commit to developing action plans to halve their carbon emissions by 2030. Hotel groups such as Banyan Tree, Accor and Iberostar Hotels & Resorts have joined Expedia Group and Unesco in expanding Unesco’s commitment to sustainable travel, which encourages signatories to phase out single-use plastics and supporting local economies and cultures.

Prince Harry has rallied some of the biggest travel brands, including, Skyscanner, Tripadvisor and Visa, to form a think tank on sustainable initiatives called Travalyst, which Google is also joining. As a member of the group, the research titan will help develop a standardized way to calculate carbon emissions for air travel and align its new hotel features with Travalyst’s criteria for sustainable accommodation. With the pre-pandemic tourism industry accounting for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2018 study, there is a lot of pressure to jump on the bandwagon.

“It stands to reason that in the context of Covid, people take more time to consider what they enjoy in terms of travel and how that impacts the world in general,” says Google’s Holden. “As the travel industry recovers, hotels that can demonstrate a significant commitment to sustainability will be well positioned to respond to this growing consumer interest. “- Bloomberg


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