The natural stone sector can contribute to sustainability in tourism with its building and decorative materials

Tourists love sites with a recognizable appearance. Here the stone roofs Soglio in Bergell, Switzerland. Photo: kunhnmi / <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/"target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Topics such as resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions were discussed at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin

Sustainability was once again the central topic at the ITB International Tourism Fair (March 04 – 06, 2024), which takes place every two years in Berlin. In particular, the focus was on how the hotel and travel industry can contribute to reducing resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. We took a look at where the natural stone sector can contribute.

At the “Green transformation of the hotel industry“ panel at the trade fair, many small ways were discussed in which hosts could help visitors on their way to a stay with the lowest possible carbon footprint. Small things such as sustainable soaps or less packaging at breakfast were mentioned. One of the experts referred to so-called shower challenges, which display water consumption when showering.

Many hotels already have e-charging stations for guests’ cars, it was said – which brings us to the topic of regional materials, as the German company Bamberger Natursteinwerk has already launched e-charging stations made of local granite (see link below).

A sandstone house in the town of Stein, not far from Nuremberg, Germany.

In general, solid construction with natural stone could be a tried and tested means of giving high-end hotels an environmentally friendly profile: walls made of solid natural stone have a very favorable energy balance, but the building material must come from the local area so that long transport routes do not immediately offset the positive aspects.

But such a choice of material is not only suitable for the exterior walls: the hotel can also create a regional reference in the interior spaces, for example in the case of the tiles for the floors and walls or the worktop in the bathrooms.

At Marmomac 2017, Raffaello Galiotto and Vincenzo Pavan picked up on this theme and invited creative minds to design furnishings made from local stone for the “Territorio & Design“ show.

Under the title “Liquido, Solido, Litico,“ the focus in 2018 was on bathroom décor made from local stone.

Jeremy Sampson, CEO of the Travel Foundation, had uncompromising words about the future of the tourism industry. He presented the study “Envisioning Tourism in 2030 and Beyond“ and outlined the options with which the industry can reduce its ecological footprint.

As a guideline, he said: “We need to let the climate-friendly areas grow – and curb the climate-damaging ones.“

His study propagates a mix of 40 measures with the regulation of air travel at its core. Although it only accounted for two percent of all travel in 2019, it had the highest CO2 emissions.

According to Sampson, a net-zero target can be achieved with far-reaching changes. These included reducing travel distances, stronger growth in earthbound travel, lower growth in air travel, limiting long-haul flights to 2019 levels, and using 100 percent renewable energy in accommodation or for cars, etc.

Compared to such future plans, the self-presentation of this year’s guest country Oman was almost tranquil. The Gulf state presented its concept of an “authentic destination“ instead of mass tourism and hotel castles. This has been achieved through slow growth over the past few years.

For the future: “We are promoting our culture and cultural heritage on the one hand and the diversity of nature that our country has to offer on the other,“ says Haitham Al Ghassani, Director General for Tourism Promotion at the local Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism.

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(03.04.2024, USA: 04.03.2024)