Travel: Green Channel

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The Independent Online
green channel

The green tourism drum found itself rolled out and banged around for one day at the world's largest travel trade exhibition, The World Travel Market, this week. Green Globe, the environmental arm of the World Travel and Tourism Council - made up of the world's top 200 tourism corporations - organised an environmental debate and environmental "clinics" for tourism executives wanting to green up their act. Environmental awareness and community benefits should go hand in hand, they said. But there's obviously a long way to go.

True, Scandic Hotels (represented at the debate, and a member of Green Globe) runs its hotels with environmental management at its core. Forte Hotels is also a member -a founding one, in fact. But it came out in the debate that a proposed five-mile, $368m development in Nungwi, northern Zanzibar, in which Forte Meridien is involved, is set to rock its green credentials. Plans are afoot for a presidential-style hotel, an ocean marina, 200 condominiums, 300 luxury villas, a conference centre, a 27- hole golf course and a country club on one of the world's most exquisite coastline. Local people who live on the peninsula say that they have not been consulted about the development, have not heard of any environmental assessments, and are expecting to be ousted from their homes. Forte Hotels was nominated the world's best hotel chain during WTM week.

Then there were the World Travel Market Environmental Awards, and who should be one of the winners but Aitken Spence Hotel Management. Never heard of them? You would have if you lived in the Dambulla region of Sri Lanka, where they built the Kandalama hotel on a sacred site over a local reservoir, despite the fact that around 50,000 local people protested against it.

Up the escalator to Asia, and there stood Myanmar (the name given to Burma by the military junta), where tourism has been developed by forcing civilians to labour on construction projects and moving millions of people out of their homes to make way for roads and hotels. How was it described in the literature on the stall? Yes, wait for it: "an ecotourist's paradise".

Sue Wheat