With such an extensive experience in sustainable travel journalism, which sustainable hospitality initiatives would be your top 3 picks and why?
I have been a journalist for more than 25 years, specialising in sustainability in the last five; most of that time has been spent researching and visiting extraordinary hotels. As someone who was brought up caring for the environment and community the hotels that go the extra mile for minimising negative impact have always stood out to me. Fogo Island Inn in Canada will always be the benchmark because of their ECONOMIC NUTRITION Certification Mark. Nutrition labelling on food was introduced in 1973 and it revolutionised the way people eat and understand their agency as consumers of food products. I remember visiting CGH Earth properties in South India back in 2006 and Marari Beach near Alleppey and Coconut Lagoon in the backwaters of Kerala were two of their upmarket Keralan resorts already talking about how they featured bio-gas made from kitchen scraps, solar panelling, rainwater harvesting, organic vegetable gardens and drinkable water thanks to a sophisticated filtration system. For me, the Datai in Malaysia which is launching the Datai Pledge this year — the pillars of this robust programme of initiatives has the objective of modelling sustainability through business operations, wildlife initiatives and community connections.
In 2020 how did your writing change with the times and what are your expectations for 2021?
In 2020, when the world came to a standstill suddenly everyone took stock. I’ve always talked about travel in a slightly different way to others — I try and consider and communicate back-of-house practices rather than just look at guest-facing virtues. I try and awaken the consumer to what makes hotels tick so they can have a better take on constitutes value for money. Conde Nast Traveller appointed me Sustainability Editor — a first for this leading global publisher, which demonstrates the paradigm shift. There has been much talk about travelling less but travelling better in the future, and building back better. Suddenly it is fashionable to talk about sustainability. For me it’s not a trend: it’s the only way to do business. Thank goodness there is much more of a focus on ESG and carbon emissions and social impact, but there’s still a lot more to be done for there to be true accountability and understanding around impact. We need the hospitality sector have less of an emphasis on investment in hotels as real-estate assets and more consideration about investing in people and local communities.
What is one piece of advice that you can give to aspiring writers?
I would urge all writers to follow that time tested edict in creative writing which is "show don’t tell" but apply this maxim to how we write about sustainability — be sure to research and verify facts and demonstrate science-based measurement of impact where possible; it’s very easy otherwise to perpetuate a propensity for Greenwash with puff pieces about token-gesture eco initiatives. Journalism carries a great responsibility when it comes to conveying knowledge and facts rather than opinion and belief — it’s our duty to ensure we craft original sentences that aren’t only lovely to read, but which educate the reader with fact-checked information which will widen their world views and help them think more deeply about the many complex and nuanced aspects of sustainability so they can understand the bigger picture.