Why Hospitality Schools Should Teach Biodiversity

20 July, 2021
#Academics

Why Hospitality Schools Should Teach Biodiversity

You don’t need to be a biology major to learn about biodiversity and how to protect it.   

By Sylvana Navarro

Sustainability

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When not traveling for work, we travel to explore, seeking relaxation and inspiration to recharge our batteries. As tourists, we want an environment that is clean and untouched. Nobody wants to go on vacation and lie on the beach next to a pile of garbage. Whether diving in the ocean, climbing a mountain for a glorious view, or heading out on a safari, one of the major reasons we travel is to discover foreign ecosystems and their wildlife.  

Tourism depends heavily on biodiversity, and we seek to ensure that our students are well aware of this. 

mountain view

So, what is biodiversity?  

For a long time, biodiversity has been a discipline reserved for scientists and biologists, but it has become vital for people across industries to cultivate a certain understanding of the subject. It is the study of species and genes and takes particular interest in the importance of their diversity when it comes to a healthy ecosystem. 

While we may think of ecosystems as attractions to be consumed and enjoyed on holiday, they are much more than that. Ecosystems are complex mechanisms that, among other things, ensure clean air and water. They are the delicate balance of natural elements working with and for each other to maintain the natural resources that are the foundation of our economy. This is precisely what makes them underestimated and vulnerable. The over-use and exploitation of our natural resources threaten biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide.  

Underestimated and vulnerable

Tourism has a direct impact on biodiversity. 

For the most part, resorts and hotels negatively impact the natural world. Intensive construction is devastating to local land as it leads to the erosion of soil, pollution increase, and contributes to the reduction of natural ecosystems. Some other of the many destructive factors include CO2 emissions, the production of enormous quantities of waste, increased water and electricity, and deforestation.  

But there is also good news. More and more hoteliers are beginning to understand that they have a key role to play in the protection of the environment and that ultimately, their success depends on its preservation. It is encouraging to see the many ways in which hospitality is changing in order to contribute to the protection of ecosystems. A great example of hotels taking concrete action is that of the eco-friendly hotels in Costa Rica that preserve and protect beaches for turtles to come nest every year as a part of their lifecycle.  

While this example is very location-specific, some actions could be normalized across the industry. The use of environmentally friendly building materials, of vegetable roofs or walls for temperature control, considering local indigenous species when landscaping, or planting domestic gardens with local herbs and vegetables to use in restaurants... all of these things contribute toward making a difference. 

Le Bouveret campus

Leading by example 

When it comes to changing the behavior of society, education plays a key role. At César Ritz Colleges, Le Bouveret Campus, not only do we challenge our students to change their mindset about the role they have as tourists but also as future hoteliers, entrepreneurs, and business owners. You don’t need to be a biology major to learn about biodiversity and how to protect it. Here are some examples of what we do with students and staff on our campus: 

  • planting herbs and vegetables for use in our restaurants 

  • providing nesting aids for hedgehogs, insects, and different bird species 

Our latest addition:  

Eva Meyer, a biologist specialized in birdlife, has recently begun giving a workshop on different bird species. In a two-hour outdoor session, she explains what biodiversity is, why it's important, how it comes into co-existence with tourism, why it's threatened, and how it can be protected. 

Sustainability

We might not have sea turtles on campus but we do have many other species, local to the woodlands, lake, and surrounding Alps. After the bird biodiversity workshop, our students will never look at the sky in the same way. 

Among the array of feathered creatures living in the forests surrounding our campus is the tawny owl, which has just been added to the list of species whose population has declined in recent years. We’ve installed nests for these birds in the neighboring forests, which we show to our students to help them see the small but meaningful ways we can positively impact the wildlife surrounding us. By next spring, we hope to see the first baby owls. 

Sustainability

Through our commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the surrounding area, we instill in our students a sense of the responsibility each of us has toward our planet. Our goal is that upon graduation, these future entrepreneurs will have a multitude of practical ways to live sustainably that they can implement in their careers. Every contribution counts. 

 

Find out more about how we’re implementing sustainable best practices on our campuses here. 

Read about our journey to becoming certified by Green Globe, the highest standard for sustainability worldwide. 

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By Sylvana Navarro

Assistant Dean, Le Bouveret