Topic 2 Circular tourism practices

Several circular economy principles are already used in the tourism industry. As some labels bear witness of the use of circular economy principles, they are a good indicator for the existence and evolution of circular tourism. Today,

✔385 tourist accommodations have the Ecolabel for their activities;

✔1500 organisations are certified Green Key in Europe;

✔100 tour-operators, destinations or other tourism organisations are certified TourCert in Europe.

This shows that circular practices are already well implemented by several tourism businesses.

Here will be described the results of a circular approach for tourist accomodation launched in Corsica, France and named Rispettu project (Rispettu project, 2017).

A set of ten hotels undertook this circular economy approach at the same time. None of them were labellised at that time or had engaged a proper environmental approach. The objectives of the project were to:

  • Significantly reduce the environmental impacts of hotels;
  • Increase the profitability of hotels through the reduction of operating costs;
  • Increase the notoriety of Corsica destination thanks to environmental communication.

Source: Optigede Ademe (2020) 

  • GHG emissions: 7.9 kg – Electricity was the main contributor (65%) due to air conditioning and refrigeration equipments;
  • Water consumption: 170l without taking swimming pools into account;
  • Primary energy consumption: 15.7 kWh per night, 2/3 are due to heating, air conditioning and ventilation, 19% due to other electrical equipments, 9% for the hot water, 9% for laundry cleaning and 4% for the lighting;
  • Waste (excepting biowaste and construction waste): 130 g with high discrepancy (70 g to 330 g) 27% were due to breakfast packaging and 17% to cleaner packaging;
  • Only 6% of products used were organic or eco-labeled;
  • The operating costs amounted to 7.5 € and represented a total average expenditure of 170k€/hotel.

This gave a global overview of the impact and cost distribution per hotel to elaborate an action plan.

Source: Optigede Ademe (2020)

  • Optimisation of water flows (shower, flushes, plant watering, etc.);
  • Guidelines for the staff and customers for the use of energy-using equipments (setpoint temperature devices, etc.);
  • Setup of regulation or optimisation devices (timers, motion sensors, light sensors, grey water heat recovery units, etc.;
  • Purchase of low impact products (natural cleaners, large format packages, local products, organic products, seasonal products).

The following gains were obtained, including increasing purchase of organic products.

Source: Optigede Ademe (2020)

Interesting opportunities thanks to cooperation between the 10 hotels the cooperation work between the 10 hotel gave the oppportunity:

  • To have interesting prices for joint purchasing: 4000 LED bulbs at 2.5€ instead of 9€🡪 40k€ savings
  • To obtain some free devices among the purchased quantity:
    •   3000 aerators to reduce water consumption🡪 4.5k€ savings.
    •   1200 shower heads with flow restrictors🡪10k€ savings.
  • To work with energy providers to redefine energy contracts🡪15k€ savings
  • Moreover, some subsidies were received for the installation of solar thermal systems 🡪 700k€ for the equipment of 6 hotels. This represents about 770k€ additional savings for the first year.

This case study of Circular Economy in Tourism shows that circular strategies can combine environmental improvements while reducing operating costs. To get an overview of some other practical applications of the circular economy in the tourism industry, you can consult the Handbook of Circular Economy “Best Practices in the Tourism Industry,

  1. Because tourists will always need places to feel welcomed.
  2. Because the tourism industry is a large economy supporting so many people.
  3. Because future generations should have the possibility to meet their own needs, the tourism industry needs to keep on offering valuable experiences while becoming an ambassador for circularity and regenerative practices.
If sustainable tourism, which aims to counterbalance the social and environmental impacts associated with travel, was the aspirational outer limit of ecotourism before the pandemic, the new frontier is “regenerative travel” or leaving a place better than you found it. Sustainable tourism is sort of a low bar. At the end of the day, it’s just not making a mess of the place. Regenerative tourism says: let’s make it better for future generations, states Jonathon Day (2020), an associate professor focused on sustainable tourism at Purdue University. Tourism is just at the beginning of this process of how we can apply circular economy ideas to the system. To go further on these regenerative travel perspectives, read this NewYork Time article.