Travel: Green Key Sustainable Tourism


Paul Morris finds out more about an impressive initiative to make our hotel stays more environmentally friendly.  The Green Key concept of sustainable travel and tourism is already catching on in Brussels.

Green key is a non-governmental, non-profit independent programme, recognised and supported by the World Tourism Organization and UNEP. It is the largest global eco-label for accommodation and has a national administration centre in each participating country. The object is to bring the positive effects of responsible tourism to bear on the industry, creating a major benefit for the environment.

Among Green Key’s objectives are the education of staff, clients and owners towards increased sustainable development and environmental awareness, environmental preservation, management by the reduction of consumption and strengthening tourism and leisure by encouraging them to take responsibility broader than then their individual establishments.

Being awarded the Green Key label means that an establishment has fulfilled a list of strict requirements. And one local hotel group, Thon Hotels Group, takes its responsibility very seriously. Hans Van der biesen, General Manager of the Thon Hotel EU explained: “We were still in the early stages of opening when we focused on responding to Green Key sustainability expectation, investing in photovoltaic panels and various ‘green’ investments’.”

A ‘green team’ has been created to plan different initiatives throughout the year and implement two or three new ‘green’ ideas per year. “At the same time,” said Van der Biesen, “we are working with external businesses chosen for their own respectful approach to the environment, as in the case of the security firm that only works with electric vehicles.”

Ilse Huenaerts, Sustainability Section Manager at the group’s Stanhope Hotel said: “The different initiatives we deliver are similar to those implemented by the Thon Hotel EU (Client Eco-cheque, European Week for Waste Reduction, recycling, waste sorting, awareness-raising for personnel, etc.) but since our hotel is older, we have to adapt the building gradually, and gradually change the outlook of the staff and clients.”

One unusual initiative in the Thon Hotel EU is the introduction of beehives on the rooftop. Bees are very good for the environment and provide very tasteful honey that is used in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The next time you’re set to travel and book a hotel room, look out for that little green key symbol and you’ll know you that when you travel you are doing your bit for the environment.