Green Tourism: An Investment Worth Making

— Written By Maude Dinan

From quality customer service to comforting amenities, the tourism industry is moving in the past few decades towards including another dimension to the travelling experience: sustainability. This responsible approach to the high growth rate of the tourism industry is not only necessary for the health of our planet, but something travelers increasingly seek out to fulfill their experience. Importantly, these practices are profitable to the businesses implementing them.

Drone view of property's solar panels

View of solar panels on one of the Rhea Hospitality properties. Photo courtesy of D. Crossman.

Deanna and Colin Crossman of Rhea Hospitality exemplify how green practices not only support responsible tourism, but are also profitable. Owning the King’s Daughters Inn in Durham and the Mayton Inn, the Verandah, and Tonic Remedies in Cary, the Crossman’s conquer the incredible feat of marrying luxury, history, and sustainability. Their historic properties have been retrofitted with state of the art green technology complemented with native plant gardens and meals comprised of local goods. One feature, their total energy management system, can be found in every room, detecting visitor occupation with an infrared sensor to ensure the power shuts off when no one is there. They have also implemented practices for water conservation. For example, they filter water from the laundry operations to flush the toilets and have rain cisterns beneath the surface of their properties that collect water from the roof to use for irrigation and outdoor watering.

Using green technologies not only supports responsible tourism and a healthy environment, they also prove exceptionally profitable–a reality contrary to popular belief. Though these amenities appear costly at the forefront, the Crossman’s made their return of investment within only three to five years of implementation. Rates of return vary across investments, such as energy and reclaimed water. However, they garner rates anywhere from 30 to 100%–a payback common among businesses with green operations. Additionally, these practices entice customers who gravitate towards green, responsible operations.

10-20 thousand gallon rain cistern

10-20 thousand gallon cisterns beneath the properties collect rain water for re-use. Photo courtesy of D. Crossman.

NC GreenTravel Initiative—the only green tourism certification in North Carolina—focuses on stimulating the development of green tourism initiatives throughout the state. NC GreenTravel provides custom applications for the various tourism industry sectors, such as B&B’s, breweries, and museums, to name a few. Applicants accumulate points for every practice they facilitate, like LED lighting, low-flow faucets, pervious concrete pavers, and rain gardens. Applications are reviewed and awarded based on scores, granting 50 to 150 Dogwood flowers (North Carolina’s state flower)–a recognition synonymous to the five-star rating system. NC GreenTravel also assists in developing businesses’ environmental policy to establish the businesses’ green mission, while creating transparency for the public.

Encouraging all businesses to evolve towards green operations, NC GreenTravel’s recognition process is completely free and non-regulatory. Their team will even fill out businesses’ applications if they lack the time–a factor common in the hustle of tourism businesses. If you’d like to learn more about improving your businesses’ greenness or explore how other NC destinations operate, sign up for NC GreenTravel’s listserv or contact them directly.

Cover photo: Room at the Mayton Inn (Cary, NC) using a total energy management system. Power will shut off when visitors have left the room. Photo courtesy of D. Crossman.