The Abta Travelife auditor tells Ben Ireland how he keeps hotels on their toes in terms of sustainability

A typical day at a to-be-audited hotel involves…
A morning meeting with the hotel’s general manager or the person in charge of sustainability, the ‘Travelife leader’. Throughout the day I visit all relevant areas, from guest rooms to kitchens and pool areas. I also have one-to-one chats with employees. At the end of the day, I regroup with the general manager and heads of department for a debrief. As a sustainability auditor, I assess hotels and accommodation against Travelife’s set of internationally recognised criteria, which range from water management to human rights. I assess how hotels manage their environmental, social and economic impacts.

My daily duties include…
Communicating with businesses that sustainability is not only a great opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment and community but also to save money.

I’ve been in my job for…
Seven years. I got into the field of sustainability while working in Morocco from 2007 to 2012, helping to launch a certification label there. One of the hotels I was working with was a Travelife member and encouraged me to join as an auditor, and I trained in Bangkok.

I became a Travelife auditor because…
I think Travelife is a credible yet affordable certification system for hotels.

What are the main sustainability challenges hotels face?
Sustainability touches everything from environmental management to human rights. It can be hard for a hotel to know where to start, which is why programs like Travelife are so valuable.

Can you give an example of an initiative that a hotel or resort has done to improve their sustainability that others could learn from?
I audited a hotel in Montenegro which has its own farm supplying food to its restaurant. It was promoted really well and is a great way to highlight sustainability credentials while reducing costs.

Companies often talk a good game on sustainability, but are they anywhere near where you would like them to be, and how long might it take to get to a position where mainstream tourism is truly sustainable?
To me, sustainability is mainly a story of intention. If the aim is to look ‘green’ to stay on trend, you will not make much of an impact. It has to come from the heart, with a business focus. I have met many managers who work with their heart and mind, and they are doing it well. Tourism will only be sustainable once hoteliers and guests alike understand how important their impacts are and consistently look for ways to improve.

The most rewarding part of my job is…
Sharing ideas about sustainability to businesses and the wider public.

The most challenging part of my job is…
Convincing management to buy in to sustainability. It makes business sense but can sometimes be a challenge getting attention to demonstrate this.

My favourite destination is…
The Maldives, and I am looking forward to visiting Aruba in September. I love my job and travelling, no matter where it takes me.

The most common thing I am asked is…
‘Is it too late to make changes?’ It’s never too late!

The worst thing that’s happened at work is…
A number of years ago I was conducting an audit and the hotel owner decided they did not agree with sustainability – which led to the cancellation of the audit.

To relax I like to…
Write letters to my eight-year-old son, for when he turns 18.

What one thing would take to a desert island…
I am practical, so it would have to be a manual seawater desalination unit, to make the seawater drinkable.