Luxury Travel Meets Sustainability

Secrets Akumal.jpg
Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya

By Luz Elena Reyes, Tourism Associate

With summer holidays just around the corner, many people enjoy taking a few weeks off to unplug, find adventure, and travel the world. For those that are committed to living sustainably in their everyday lives, their values and lifestyle can transcend borders, and be instilled in their vacation plans as well.

Now travelers do not need to choose between luxury and sustainability. AMResorts’ corporate commitment to offer sustainable tourism services, has led thirty two hotels in its collection of luxury resorts to achieve certification under the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable tourism certification standards, recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Their sustainability actions are the result of various efforts and initiatives undertaken within each hotel to meet the corporate, environmental and social objectives of the company. The positive effects and added value of getting certified are reflected throughout the entire operation by differentiating their tourism services from other vacation resorts, while benefiting environmental and cultural conservation, as well as the development of local society.

We have selected three out of the thirty-two certified hotels to showcase a few outstanding sustainability practices that AMResorts has implemented in their hotels, due to their commitment to the Rainforest Alliance tourism standard.

The Secret Garden

Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa, located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico has solidified its commitment to sustainability through its Secret Garden project, transforming an idle area of the property into a refuge for biodiversity and well-being, open to its guests, while also functioning as a flowery nursery for use in the hotel gardens.

The idea of developing the project came from the collaborator Omar Muñoz Barenca, based on the need to improve the landscape of the areas for the enjoyment of guests and collaborators and to have a nursery of native plants for the hotel’s gardens, which are not offered commercially in the region. The initiative was well received by the top management of Secrets Huatulco, who led the project and saw it as an opportunity to support the conservation of the region’s biodiversity as part of its environmental commitment and to encourage teamwork as a fundamental element for achieving business goals. In addition, the hotel received the support and participation of representatives of the nearby Huatulco National Park.

In August of 2017, the Secret Garden was opened to the public, a natural and conservation area fulfilling the dual purpose of offering guests and visitors’ new experiences for learning and as a nursery of native plants to green the hotel grounds. As a part of the Rainforest Alliance tourism standard, operations must demonstrate that natural ecosystems are protected, and the loss of biodiversity is prevented. Through their Secret Garden project, AMResorts has gone beyond the standard to address two key criterions, contributing to reversing negative conversion of ecosystems and promoting the adoption of sustainable lifestyles and behaviors by creating this refuge for biodiversity and educational activities for clients, employees and community members.

The place of sea turtles

Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya is located on the Akumal Bay Refuge, an area of unique natural beauty and of great importance for the conservation of coral reefs, sea turtles and many endangered species. Recognizing the significance of its location as conservation hotspot as one of the most salient features that differentiate its offer of services from the rest of the tourist market of the region, Secrets Akumal has included a beach activity called “Akumal, the place of the turtles.”

This new environmental activity raises awareness about the importance of the conservation of sea turtles as highly endangered and emblematic species of marine ecosystems, the importance of responsible tourism practices and the commitment of the hotel to safeguard nests during the nesting season. The Akumal activity consists of simulating the spawning procedure, like what a turtle would do and the actions that the staff carries out for the care of the nests, such as removing the beds and turning off the lights of the buildings that are in front of the beach. At the end of the activity a certificate is given to the guests for their participation in the sustainable activities carried out by the hotel.

This activity is part of many other actions the hotel takes to raise awareness for responsible interaction with marine fauna, particularly sea turtles, and promoting responsible tourism practices as one of the differentiating aspects of its offer to guests. Sustainability education is a key principle under the Sustainable Tourism Standard that requires companies to develop a formal program to educate clients, staff and the larger community about the most relevant issues of sustainable development. The Akumal program achieves this end by bringing awareness to a local species that guests may interact with and reducing adverse impacts, so human and turtles alike can enjoy the natural beauty of the Akumal Bay, while also distinguishing itself within the tourism industry, and protecting one of the main attractions of the resort, so guests continue to return for years to come.

Supporting local artisans

Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf Resort & Spa, located in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, committed to local economic development and seeking to strengthen the relationship with its local suppliers as part of its management of sustainable purchases, joined forces with the association “Identidades” to help Quintana Roo artisans improve their entrepreneurial skills and become part of the tourist market as suppliers of quality crafts.

The strategic alliance between Secrets Playa Mujeres and “Identidades”, which acts as liaison between the communities of Quintana Roo and the hotel, allows channeling the support for the capacity building of the artisans of the Kumul Family workshop, located in the community of Buenavista and the Laser Creative workshop, located in the Cancun area. 100% handmade products such as fruit bowls, trays, USB, diplomas, separators, among others, are produced exclusively for the hotel by these families of craftsmen and used as gifts for VIP guests and as part of the select products offered to guests in the Coco Café.

The positive impacts of this initiative to support local initiatives are many, and range from protecting generations of jobs among young people in the communities, reducing forest fires by reusing waste of forest sawyers, and strengthening the local supply chain to preserve demand for artisan products from the hotel.

Contribution to local development is a key principle of the Sustainable Tourism Standard that the hotel has embraced through creating this unique collaboration with local artisans. Through their efforts they have met the key criteria of taking specific actions to give preference to engaging with local suppliers of goods and services and respecting and appreciating local cultures and conserving the tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Memorable experiences

The sustainable efforts undertaken by the hotels operated by AMResorts have a clear focus on guaranteeing quality and memorable experiences for their guests, all without neglecting their responsibility to the environmental, social and cultural environment. AMResorts has made a commitment to sustainability “as a model to guide all our activities, services and continuously improve the efficiency of the management system. In all our activities we are concerned with respect for the cultures and rights of the local community, the reduction of our carbon footprint, the responsible use of water and energy, the protection of biodiversity, as well as the reduction and management responsible for all our emissions and waste.”

By adopting these sustainability principles, AMResorts can operate in a way that benefits both their business, and the pristine beauty of the area people flock from all over the world to see. Taking care of the Earth is their responsibility, and by protecting it, they also ensure that their guests will keep coming back to see the unique natural wonders that are slowly disappearing from elsewhere in the world. In educating hotel guests on their practices and conservation work, they ensure that people return home from their vacations not only relaxed and refreshed, but also reinvigorated with the call to live sustainability as well.

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