Hotel Online Special Report

 IH&RA Initiatives Meet UN Concerns on 
Sustainable Development
Paris, 12 May 1999 – Last month’s meeting in New York of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), demonstrated the synergy between UN concerns and International Hotel and Restaurant Association (IH&RA) initiatives to promote the sustainable development of the hospitality industry.

The meeting, which focused for the first time on the travel and tourism sector, was designed to foster agreements and initiatives to implement Agenda 21, the environmental blueprint for action developed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.  IH&RA and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) jointly led a delegation of more than 20 high-level hotel and tourism professionals to put the industry case and defend its interests.

With growing pressure on the tourism industry to demonstrate environmental responsibility and accountability in the way it operates, IH&RA representatives emphasised the efforts of hospitality businesses to promote sustainable development by conserving both the natural and cultural resources on which tourism depends.

Specific issues discussed in New York included the importance of voluntary initiatives by the industry to promote sustainability, and of education - not only of travellers but also of investors, employees and host communities.  The Commission emphasised the need for partnerships between all stakeholders to ensure tourism’s impact on the host community is a positive one.

For IH&RA, examples of voluntary initiatives included the annual Green Hotelier & Restaurateur Environmental Award.  Themed to coincide with CSD, this year’s award, sponsored by American Express, will recognise industry efforts to go beyond in-house environmental programmes and encourage sustainable development of local tourism.  While hospitality operators across the globe are increasingly aware of the bottom line benefits to be gained by conserving and recycling resources, the industry now needs to consider its impact on the wider community.

Highlighting the educational role played by trade associations, the IH&RA presented a preview of its Environmental Teaching Resource Pack for hospitality education centres, developed jointly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in association with the International Association of Hotel School Directors (EUHOFA).  Devised as a practical teaching tool, the resource pack is designed to help educators build an environmental component into hotelschool curricula, to ensure that tomorrow's hospitality professionals acquire the skills and knowledge needed to “think green”.

Another educational tool previewed was IH&RA’s second edition of "Environmental Good Practice in Hotels", a collection of case studies demonstrating examples of environmental best practice initiatives taken by individual operators and hospitality companies around the world.  To be published jointly by IH&RA and UNEP, it builds on the success of the first edition, published in 1997, and features 14 case studies sourced from entries to last year’s IH&RA Environmental Award focusing on water and energy conservation.

Finally, the industry’s efforts to address the wider health and social issues associated with tourism – in particular HIV/AIDS and the commercial sexual exploitation of children - met with a positive response from governments as well as other stakeholders.  Among programmes outlined was the IH&RA’s Workplace Manual on HIV/AIDS aimed at informing and educating the worldwide hospitality industry on the implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Co-produced with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the guide was conceived specifically to address the needs of the hospitality sector, providing practical, step-by-step information for hotels and restaurants of all sizes to develop their own HIV/AIDS policies and awareness programmes.  It also goes beyond the workplace to assess the role the property can play in the local community, providing services and information to guests and customers, educating employees’ families about HIV/AIDS, taking part in community action and donating resources to efforts to slow the spread of the disease.

“AIDS is recognised today not just as a health issue, but as a challenge to business and society, affecting customers, employees, suppliers and the community,” said IH&RA chief executive Ken Hine, co-leader of the industry delegation to CSD.  “The guide encourages hotels and restaurants to respond to this challenge by protecting their workforce and, in so doing, the viability of their businesses.”

The IH&RA’s information campaign “Stop Child Sex Tourism” was also highlighted as a practical step towards combating the commercial sexual exploitation of children.  Launched last year, the campaign aims to raise global hospitality industry awareness of the problem through a leaflet offering hotel and restaurant operators guidelines on training staff to prevent child sex tourism, and working with other partners in the community to stamp it out.

The campaign includes IH&RA endorsement of the Youth Career Development Programme (YCDP), a training scheme run jointly by Singapore-based Pan-Pacific Hotels & Resorts and UNICEF, which helps poor and deprived young people - potential victims of prostitution - by providing them with training opportunities and career prospects within the international hotel sector.

The International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA) is a global network of independent and chain operators, national associations, hospitality suppliers and educational centres in the hotel and restaurant industry in more than 150 countries.  As the voice of the industry it represents, protects, promotes and informs its members to enable them to achieve their objectives.


Caroline Harvey
Tel: (33 1) 44 89 94 07
Also See: Teaching Travellers to Be Activists in Preserving the Places They Visit is a Key to Achieving Sustainable Development in the Tourism Industry / April 1999 
Cultural and Environmental Concerns of Resort Development in Southeast Asia / July 1998 

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