On the one hand there is a sector that employs 20 million people in the Mediterranean and represents 17 % of Greece’s GDP, 11 % in Spain and 7 % in Tunisia. On the other hand there is an activity that is responsible for a number of major environmental problems: the ruining and erosion of the coastline, the overconsumption of water and energy. All along the coastlines, tourism represents both a windfall and a threat.
Put simply, ShMILE 2, which brings together partners from Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Italy and France, enables accommodation professionals to reduce their environmental footprint. “103 are already looking to obtain the Ecolabel” explains Marie de Parseval of the environment division at the Nice-Côte d’Azur CCI and director of the programme.
This represents 16 French, 28 Italian, 15 Greek, 24 Jordanian, 5 Egyptian and 15 Tunisian accommodation professionals currently receiving the programme’s support. According to Marie de Parseval; “The situation differs from one country to the next. In Jordan where water and electricity supplies are limited, they continue to build while in Egypt, the current political upheaval is limiting the activity.”
An environmental issue … and a question of image
Paradoxically, the current economic crisis can prove favourable to change. “In Spain, Greece or in Tunisia, professionals are more aware of the problems than along the Côte d’Azur where hotels are often fully-booked” adds Marie de Parseval.
This does not mean however that some hotels along the south coast of France do not go for the Ecolabel – for example the Negresco in Nice – or have already received it– like the Splendid Hotel and Spa in Nice also. However only 0.9% of the hotels in the Alpes-Maritime currently have be awarded the Ecolabel.
Basically, those accommodation professionals who apply for the Ecolabel agree to respect a number of mandatory criteria. At the Negresco, the process involved for example staff training and the raising of staff awareness in terms of reducing water and energy consumption, the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning products, the sorting of waste, the possibility of renting electric cars and buying locally produced organic fruit and vegetables.
Although the decision to obtain an Ecolabel often results from raised environmental awareness or a need to reduce costs, it can also be linked to issues concerning an establishment’s image, and is therefore commercial. For the management at the Negresco, the choice of the European Ecolabel should allow the hotel to maintain is ranking as one of the “most luxurious avant-garde hotels”.