A tour of the accomodations at the Skotel, the "School Hotel" of the Hotel School, the Hague is a low-CO2 method to see a sampling of the best accomodations available at hotels around the world. Each guest room has been donated by a leading hotel company, which is credited on a plaque at the door. It is a gallery of the all-too-familiar recipe for bed, bath and furnishings differentiated mainly by color, pattern and choice of wall hanging. But one room stands out. An exception that should be the rule. Looking like a set from Peter Pan, the furnishings evoke nature in a manner which makes the guest hesitant to flip on even the low emissions which might be caused by the bedside CFL-lamp which is conspicuous by the lack of electronic gadgets occupying the space. The name on the plaque outside this room: Center Parcs. Follow your curiosity, this one room in the hotel room hall of fame is the introduction to a company which is a leader in the eco-travel and recreation field.It is difficult to define what criteria must be met by a company claiming territory in the fast growing eco-tourism market. The pages of TreeHugger reflect the breadth of this question: is ecological tourism about the Yurt experience or is eco simply in the the details?
Center Parcs seems to offer a main-stream example of solid commitment to the environment in the hospitality services branch. The company is Netherlands based, with hotels and holiday villages in Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium. The Center Parc brand also applies to accomodations in the UK, owned and operated by UK based Center Parcs Limited. The environmental policies and commitments of Center Parcs are backed up by independent certifications to the International Standards Organization (ISO) 14001 standard*. According to Center Parcs, they are the only organization in the recreational sector to hold this certification.
Other indicators of the Center Parcs commitment to the environment can be found in a brochure on Nature and Environment. The include some interesting facts, such as:
- No chemicals are used for pest control at any site;
- Water management innovations at various sites include heating of pool water by waste heat, recycling of water park waters using reverse osmosis and use of solar panels to heating launderette water;
- the nature environment which is preserved or created for the enjoyment of human guests has been adopted as a stopping point for migrating birds; and
- techniques for natural water purity maintenance are successful enough to support even water-quality sensitive species like a growing family of otters.
* ISO14001 requires that a company assess all potential environmental impacts and demonstrate active management to prevent negative impacts. It is intended to give consumers and customers a trusted proof of a company's performance. Because ISO14001 emphasizes continuous improvement rather than minimum requirements, some naysayers depreciate the value of this certification, but it is currently the most widely used standard of good business practices.