Responsible Hospitality over Sustainable Hospitality?

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Some might think that these are interchangeable terms, as they share the same theoretical space, but I beg to differ. In my mind sustainable practices are promoted top down, while responsible practices grow mostly grassroots, bottom up. Sustainable practices are largely environmental, as in “going green”, while responsible practices are equally environmental, social and economical. Sustainable practices tend to be more universal, while responsible practices are more contextual. Lastly, but perhaps even most importantly, sustainable practices are more ideological, while responsible practices are more commonsensical.

For something to work, it has to make sense to all, or at least it has to make sense to the majority of the stakeholders. In order for it to makes sense, it has to be contextual and nested in the cultural, historical, geographical and socio-political background in which it is being applied. If it is nested in all of these contexts, it has to account for more than just the environment, so social and economical aspects are crucial. Once all these aspects are met, the practices have to be clearly communicated, without shaming, moral grandstanding and virtue signaling. Then, and only then, we can expect the majority to accept these changes and the cultural shift is imminent and inevitable. This is what I call responsible hospitality.

I thought that these characteristics should be obvious, but they are anything but. We have a chance, in the travel and leisure industry, especially in new hotel developments to institute principles that share all of those abovementioned characteristics. However, this will require more than just regurgitating corporate PR lingo and instead getting into the communities and environments where these developments are taking place. Only then one can understand and assign value and importance of certain practices, on an imaginary “responsible hospitality” scale for the given location. Only then, one can understand how and if, for example, low visual impact architecture is important, if the project should be low light and/or low audio pollution, should it have electric cars or not, does the use of local materials makes sense or not, are the local communities involved and happy to provide seasonal produce, how are the accessibility issues going to affect long term viability of the project and so on. And then, all of these have to endure the test of time, and have to be able to evolve in the everchanging contexts of the new knowledge and information that becomes available with the passing of time.

If there is anything that history teaches us is that what we thought yesterday was the best way forward, and this very much applies to the sustainable and green initiatives, is debated today and might be completely overturned tomorrow. Therefore, don’t adopt it as an ideology, but as a philosophy, a framework for thinking.

You can read more from Zoran Pejovic on his TCN author page.



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