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Opinions of Thursday, 15 April 2021

Columnist: Rixon O. Campbell and Tawanda Collins Muzamwese

A leadership imperative: Greening the hospitality and tourism sector

Tourists all over the world have drastically changed patterns of consumption and lifestyle due to a looming environmental catastrophe. Global resource scarcity has necessitated a new drive towards sustainable tourism and hospitality.

Therefore, organisations in the sector have begun to realise that without a strategy for sustainable development, business will be like a white elephant.

A global approach is needed at all levels. U.S. President Joe Biden wants the United States to take back up the mantle of global climate leadership.

But that won’t be fully possible until his administration prioritises critical partners: African nations. Africa’s urban centres are swelling, threatening more emissions, other environmental concerns and half of the global population growth over the next two decades is expected to occur in the continent.

It must be a global priority to strike a balance between this ongoing development and its climate impact. And with Washington’s help, the sustainability strides made in Africa over the next decade can serve as models for countries worldwide according to Teriye Gbadegesin at the Mandarin.

Tourism development comes with costs. Two of the costs are socio-cultural and environmental impacts. For the great part as hospitality and tourism practitioners we tend to focus on the economic impacts to destinations which is consequential on every metric.

In my own research “residents” perceptions of tourism development in Jamaica, the environmental consciousness of the residents was evident in their responses.

The creativity and dynamism of leadership in the tourism and hospitality industry is required now more than ever. Green creativity contributes to green innovation and green sustainability across services sectors.

For many years we have been talking about transformational leadership, but the question is how does one actionize this theory? This is a moment for tourism leaders to transform.

A research conducted in Taiwan among 395 supervisor-employee dyads on “integrating transformational leadership and creativity'' explored the relationships among transformational leadership, creative role identity, creative self-efficacy, job complexity and creativity.

The findings show creative role identity was found to mediate the relationship between transformational leadership and employee creative self-efficacy, while both creative role identity and creative self-efficacy were found to mediate the relationship between transformational leadership and employee creativity.

The point is, leaders who have a transformational mindset do impact others to effect change, this might be positive or negative. What is known from findings is that organizational behaviours can permeate the broader society. Consequently, leadership at all levels of the Tourism industry play a role for tourists as they venture to explore destinations.

The environmental consciousness is one aspect that many tourists are seeking through ego-tourism but greening of the industry is critical.

Vast opportunities abound for tourism and hospitality stakeholders to green their destinations. The rise of electric mobility and modes of transport that reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions has greatly increased.

Transportation of tourists and visitors is greatly being transformed whether it is private vehicles or mass transportation to be based on low-emission innovations.

Waste management is an enormous headache to many tourism and hospitality institutions. In this regard, solid, liquid, gaseous and hazardous waste can emanate from tourist destinations, hotels and other facilities amenable to tourists. A global trend is moving towards the ban of single use plastics and there is greater preference towards biodegradable materials.

Water use efficiency is a low-hanging fruit that can be achieved by hospitality players. This is mainly due to the fact that significant amounts of water are used in the hospitality and tourism sectors including but not limited to laundry cooking and cleaning. Programmes earmarked at preserving natural resources are gaining ground.

This includes using high pressure nozzles for bathing facilities and also ensuring that linen is washed only when there is need to wash it in liaison with the visitor lodging a facility of accommodation.

Energy usage is a key cost driver for tourism and hospitality. Energy use can be in the form of electricity, coal, gas, biomass depending on the specific part of the world. We have seen a shift against the use of “dirty fuels” and there is a major shift towards “clean energy sources”.

Leaders and stakeholders in the hospitality and tourism sector are beginning to come alive to the reality of renewable energy and there is an increased number of hospitality and tourism facilities operating based on solar energy, wind power, wave power, mini-hydro and biogas.

Depending on the regional location of the facility, there is potential to harness solar radiation for both electrical power needs and heating purposes.

As the clock ticks away for those companies who disregard sustainability, it is quite clear that there is little room to falter from a green economy transition. Tourism and hospitality players need to be proactive and come to the party earlier.

With the future in mind, those tourism and hospitality players who take heed of the call to action by having leaders who have a keen understanding of service will not only create a more significant effect on creating a trust climate and a more direct effect regarding increasing employees’ positive attitudes toward the environment, and the financial rewards, these leaders, companies, industries shall have a greater chance of attaining the green passport – an invisible permission to attract modern day environmental conscious customers.

The truth is, leadership is not something that just happens. Nor is it something that requires a specific role or title. Rather, leadership is a choice. And it is a choice that involves values, vision, voice, and action. Actions should begin now!

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