The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for People and Nature, with over 85 member countries [1], is calling for a 30 x 30 target: a global endeavor by governments to safeguard 30% of the land and ocean areas by 2030 [2]. The initiative comes with growing scientific evidence that large sections of the earth must be conserved in a natural state to address both the biodiversity and climate crises [3,4,5].

Hotel development needs space. The geographical environment shapes the selection of a location. A treeless site offers various advantages such as visibility, accessibility and costs efficiencies in surface condition work and construction. A terrain with dense vegetation may result in site planning challenges but also be sought-after by both guests (desire for undisturbed nature) and operators (monetizes pristine environment). When planning, developing and operating a hotel and reporting on the sustainability efforts and outcome, it is about high resolution data focusing on the space the hotel is located at. The energy used, the water pumped, the waste produced and recycled, the employment created and so on are all inherently spatial. In other words, impacts are related to a specific location but with global significance. Nature and biodiversity are also spatial. And the space taken by nature and the resulting ecosystem services are critical to the hospitality sector (See previous Hospitality Net World Panel: The solutions nature provides).

Remote, relatively pristine and accessible destinations enjoy a growing number of visitors, thereby driving further infrastructure development. A conundrum for the hotel sector?

Ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 [6] and the hopes of a Paris-like agreement on biodiversity, let's tackle the following questions:

Should the hotel industry refrain from developing in remote or rich natural areas?

Or should the industry continue to develop its infrastructure in those areas so as to raise funds for protection and preservation work as well as restoration of degraded natural habitats?

As an additional question to consider (optional):

Properties in urban or suburban areas also clearly benefit from ecosystem services. What are examples of best practices in regards to hotels supporting biodiversity protection and restoration?

[1] High Ambition Coalition (2022). HAC Member Countries. https://www.hacfornatureandpeople.org/hac-member-countries
[2] High Ambition Coalition (2022). Why 30x30?. https://www.hacfornatureandpeople.org/why-30x30
[3] Waldron A., et al. (2020). Protecting 30% of the planet for nature:costs, benefits and economic implications. https://www.conservation.cam.ac.uk/files/waldron_report_30_by_30_publish.pdf
[4] IPBES (2019). Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. https://ipbes.net/global-assessment
[5] Dinerstein, E. et al. (2019). A Global Deal For Nature: Guiding principles, milestones, and targets. Science Advances, 5(4). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw2869 [6] UNEP (2022). UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15). https://www.unep.org/events/conference/un-biodiversity-conference-cop-15

Margaret Steiner
Margaret Steiner
Head of Business Development & Communications at Mandaworks
Cassia Patel
Cassia Patel
Program Director of Oceanic Global
Frauke  Fischer
Frauke Fischer
Founder, Agentur Auf!

About two-thirds of the world's oceans and three-quarters of the land area of our planet have been massively impacted by humans. True wilderness exists on only 2% of the planet's land surface. From this, the answer is quite clear. The focus in the development of new hotels and other touristic infrastructure must be on already developed or even degraded sites. These offer a huge potential, not only because they are often easier to reach, but also because guests will appreciate the well-communicated approach of turning destroyed areas back into something like intact nature.

Johanna Wagner
Johanna Wagner
Co-Founder of La Belle EDuC, Founder of Upside Up Hotel Asset and Guest Lecture at ESSEC MSc in Hospitality Management (IMHI)
Celine Vadam
Celine Vadam
Founder & CEO of WE(i) Think
Sarah Habsburg-Lothringen
Sarah Habsburg-Lothringen
BA Hons, PGCE & MSc, Tourism Training Specialist & Business Mentor for Small, Independent Hotels
Marloes Knippenberg
Marloes Knippenberg
CEO of Kerten Hospitality
Bill Bensley
Bill Bensley
Founder of BENSLEY

If the area in question is not under attack from poaching and logging, and doesn't need protection - hands off! Leave it to do what it has been doing perfectly for thousands of years. However if it is deteriorating and or in need of protection, this model of sustainability featuring luxury hospitality is a great alternative. It also helps to persuade local governments to turn away from lucrative options like logging, once it becomes clear that money can be made in eco-tourism, while helping the environment!

Natasha  Montesalvo
Natasha Montesalvo
Principal Consultant – Destination, Strategy and Insight at EarthCheck
Florian Kaefer
Florian Kaefer
PhD, Founder & Editor, Sustainability Leaders Project
Elena  Cavagnaro
Elena Cavagnaro
Professor of Sustainability in Hospitality and Tourism at Stenden University of Applied Sciences

The central question posed to the panel is: should the hotel industry refrain or not from developing in remote or rich natural areas? Although I may be accused to have imbibed too much of the Dutch directedness, my immediate answer would be that it should! Considering the alarming conclusions of the last IPCC report and looking forward to the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 we should face the truth and admit that an industry that has such negative environmental impacts on climate and on biodiversity cannot grow for ever. The only possible exception are those operations that can prove in a science-based way to be restorative, to be able to enter an area environmentally and socially impoverished and regenerate it sustainably.

Jonathon Day
Jonathon Day
Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Willy Legrand
Willy Legrand
Professor of Hospitality Management at the IU International University of Applied Sciences, Germany