Sustainable Tourism: Hotels in Mexico Work to Eliminate Plastics

Glass drink dispenser and glasses on a table
Meliá Hotels International is replacing plastic water bottles with glass jars and jugs. // Photo by Meliá Hotels International

Consumer interest in sustainable travel has been growing over the past few years, and, in honor of World Environment Day on June 5, many major hotel and resort groups in Mexico announced plans to eliminate single-use plastics. We spoke with top executives to learn more.

“In honor of World Environment Day and following this year’s theme of ‘beating plastic pollution,’ we’ve set a goal of banning the use of single-use plastics by 2020,” Antonia Del Toro, CSR director for Grupo Piñero, the parent company of Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts, tells Travel Agent. “Now, more than ever, we are keenly aware of the problem caused by plastic contamination; furthermore, our guests are also aware of the importance of protecting the environment and choose destinations and travel companies that work to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of where they operate.”

Bahia’s move builds on a number of previous sustainability initiatives that the company has been undertaking since 2016, such as implementing improved waste management systems and designing plans to reduce energy and water consumption.

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Maria Umbert, vice president of communications for Meliá Hotels International, agrees that there has been guest interest in moving away from plastic.

“We had received requests from customers to remove plastic from properties, and have already received positive feedback on the implementation of the new measures,” Umbert says. “We’ve been prepared all properties for the change and have begun the process coinciding with the World Environment Day.”

At Meliá, this means replacing plastic bottles with glass bottles and water jugs, using purified water, as well as replacing plastic cups with reusable polycarbonate ones. The company has also completely removed plastic straws from its hotels and, on request, it will provide guests with straws made with biodegradable material. The company has also removed the plastic bags from all of its rooms, and, at its worldwide corporate offices, it is replacing plastic bottles with water dispensers and canteens for every employee, as well as eliminating plastic bags.

Del Toro says that Bahia is currently evaluating the single-use plastic items that are being utilized and is searching for replacement products.

“This process requires considerable effort and time - not only when ensuring these products are up to industry standards but also when training our employees and raising awareness among our guests,” Del Toro says. “We plan to implement our final tactics gradually over the next two years.”

Bahia has begun the process of removing plastic straws from beverages served at its hotels, and going forward it will only use biodegradable straws in frozen drinks at our properties in Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Mexico. While the company has already replaced disposable plastic cups with reusable polycarbonate cups in Mexico, Del Toro says it is considering alternative options to replace these cups in the future.

Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in Mexico this year, has also been working to eliminate single-use plastics since 2017. The project started following an internal corporate audit that detected all the products containing plastic, with current plans calling for a complete elimination of plastics at the company’s hotels in 2019.

Outside of Mexico, a number of travel companies are also working to eliminate plastics. These include the cruise brands Hurtigruten, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, as well as Alaska Airlines. Hilton has also said that it will eliminate plastics at its properties in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the year.

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