We're all going on a greener holiday
PUBLISHED: 15:56 11 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:07 20 February 2013
If you are thinking of taking a holiday or short break in Kent this month, don't just check up on sea views and en suites, make sure your accommodation is being run on sustainable lines, too
Lily Wilton runs a B&B at the Bulltown Farmhouse in West Brabourne, near Ashford and thinks Kent is a "wonderful county" and that its countryside plays a big part in its attraction. But she also believes that climate change could really affect the Garden of England and understands the need to act to limit its impact.
"This is one of the reasons why I want to run my B&B in a more sustainable way and why I have become involved with the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS)," she explains. "By doing so, not only am I limiting my carbon emissions, I am also helping anyone who comes to stay with here to limit their carbon emissions, too"
The GTBS was established more than 10 years ago in Scotland, with the aim of mitigating the environmental impact of the country's tourism. It has been such a success there that the scheme has recently been extended to cover the rest of the UK.
Businesses opting to join are assessed by a qualified grading advisor against a rigorous set of criteria, covering a range of areas, such as energy and water efficiency, waste management and biodiversity.
Businesses that meet the required standard receive a Bronze, Silver, or Gold award based on their level of achievement. They are then visited by a qualified environmental auditor once every two years, who is looking for continual performance.
Here in Kent several businesses have been quick to adopt a more sustainable approach and by doing so have gained GTBS accreditation.
"We were already running our farm along higher environmental standards and so it made sense to apply this thinking to the B&B," says Ian Burrows of Alkham Court B&B near Dover, a GTBS Gold-rated business.
"We recycle as much as is possible and have made a greater effort to monitor our water and energy needs. We also try to get our guests to do the same. When people come and stay here, we also suggest ways for them to enjoy themselves without using the car, such as walking along the many wonderful footpaths that surround us or going out using public transport."
While environmental concerns are paramount for anyone deciding to become a more sustainable business, there are compelling financial reasons, too. Becoming a green business can yield potential savings on running costs. How high this is depends upon what alterations are made, with those more extensive in nature - such as installing cavity wall insulation, establishing sources of micro generation or growing produce - yielding the greatest long-term return.
But even if these are beyond a business's reach, smaller changes, such as using energy-efficient light bulbs, reducing water consumption and installing thermostats on radiators, will still provide significant savings.
Ian Burrows thinks that even if you can only afford to make small changes, by doing so you can still have a big impact. "When you look at what we have done, it might not seem a lot but it has made a considerable difference. Our business is much more low impact than it was, just by making a few small changes, you really don't have to go in for the more expensive technologies."
He adds: "What's more, by giving people an enjoyable holiday within a greener environment, you are hopefully ensuring that for years to come they will again choose to holiday in this way and maybe not take that flight abroad. Their experience is really important."
There is also the issue of increased business to take into consideration. According to a recent Mori poll, 80 per cent of both UK and German holiday makers said that it is important that their holiday does not harm the environment.
Impact on business
Gavin Oakley, partner at Walletts Court Country House Hotel at St. Margaret's-at-Cliffe in Dover, feels that becoming part of the GTBS has certainly impacted upon his business.
"We do have guests who have stated that it is important that the hotel is run along green lines," he says. "We also deal with plenty of corporate clients who have sustainability policies that result in them only allowing staff to stay in hotels whose approach to the environment is in tune with theirs.
"Locally, the hotel has a close relationship with Pines Calyx in Dover, which is a fully sustainable centre for conferences, meetings and events. When they host events, many of those attending choose to stay with us because of our green accreditation.
"I know that in surveys people might often say they like green holidays but not actually choose one, but from our experience, the gap between intent and action is narrowing and in the future it is likely that those who adopt a greener business model today will be better placed to capitalise on this growing market."
In comparison to other parts of the country, there has been a strong response to the GTBS among those involved in tourism here in Kent. One key element in any further expansion in the future is demand. If you are thinking of taking a holiday or a short break in the county or know anyone who is, then why not go green?
You can contact the GTBS to locate any businesses that have begun to operate more sustainably. By choosing one of them, not only are you doing something to help the environment, you're also helping to encourage this kind of tourism, which in the long-term is what will get more people involved.
Get in touch
Bulltown Farmhouse B&B
Bulltown Lane, West Brabourne, Ashford, TN25
Tel: 01233 813505
Alkham Court Farmhouse B&B
Meggett Lane, Alkham, Dover, CT15
Tel: 01303 892056
Wallett's Court Country House Hotel
St Margarets at Cliffe, CT15 6EW
Tel: 07841 406070