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Sustainable Travel & Ecotourism in Hong Kong

Hong Kong may be crowded, but it's remarkably clean compared to many other major Asian cities. That said, Hong Kong's most pressing environmental concern is air pollution, which has gotten progressively worse over the years, fueled largely by factories just over the border in mainland China and local vehicular traffic. In fact, pollution is sometimes so bad, that even a cloudless day can't guarantee that views will be good from atop Victoria Peak. The euphemism used in weather reports is "haziness." To learn more about grassroots efforts to improve the air, check out the websites and

In any case, to ensure that you're not contributing to the global problem, try to choose a nonstop flight to Hong Kong, since it generally requires less fuel than an indirect flight that stops and takes off again. Try to fly during the day -- some scientists estimate that nighttime flights are twice as harmful to the environment. And pack light -- each 15 pounds of luggage on a 5,000-mile flight adds up to 50 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted.

In Hong Kong, use public transport where possible -- Hong Kong's trains, trams, buses, and ferries are more energy-efficient forms of transport than taxis. Even better is to walk; you'll produce zero emissions and stay fit and healthy.

Where you stay during your travels can also have a major environmental impact. To determine the green credentials of a property, ask about trash disposal and recycling, water conservation, and energy use; also question if sustainable materials were used in the construction of the property. Luckily, Hong Kong hotels are becoming increasingly environmentally aware. The InterContinental Grand Stanford, for example, has been a pioneer in green management practices; in 2007 it became the first hotel in Hong Kong to install a more efficient and environmentally friendly new hybrid fuel system for hot water and steam that reduces temperatures around the hotel and is equivalent to taking 70 cars a year off the road. The Eaton Hotel not only employs a full-time environmental manager responsible for monitoring environmental and social performance, but also has an in-house green team, recycles everything from plastic bottles and aluminum to office paper, and provides staff community service (it even used old banquet tablecloths to make restaurant place mats). Finally, to do your part, request that your sheets and towels not be changed daily. (Many hotels already have programs like this in place.) Turn off the lights and air-conditioner when you leave your room.

As for dining, try to eat at locally owned and operated restaurants that use produce grown in the area, like Posto Pubblico. This contributes to the local economy and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by supporting restaurants where the food is not flown or trucked in across long distances. You might also want to patronize restaurants that donate leftover food to food pantries, such as Pret A Manger and restaurants in the Eaton Hotel. And when shopping, keep in mind that you'll pay HK10¢ for each plastic bag you need at supermarkets, convenience stores, and health and beauty stores; to cut down on unnecessary plastic and to save a little money, bring your own bag.

Volunteer travel has become increasingly popular among those who want to venture beyond the standard group-tour experience to learn languages, interact with locals, and make a positive difference while on vacation. The Hong Kong YWCA, 1 MacDonnell Rd., Central (tel. 852/3476 1340;, serves as a local clearinghouse for volunteer opportunities under its "News & Events" button. Although directed toward local residents, some of the volunteer opportunities are short term. The website also offers a variety of courses, including classes for Cantonese, Mandarin, and cooking, open to both YWCA members and nonmembers.

Sustainable tourism is conscientious travel. It means being careful with the environments you explore and respecting the communities you visit. To participate in ethical tourism at a local level, your best bet in Hong Kong is in the village of Tai O on Lantau Island.

Resources for Responsible Travel

In addition to the resources for Hong Kong listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel.

  • Responsible Travel ( is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International ( promotes ethical tourism practices and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
  • Carbonfund (, TerraPass (, and Cool Climate ( provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
  • Greenhotels ( recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels ( offers more green accommodation ratings.
  • Volunteer International ( has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit and .

Note : This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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Eco-Tourism in Hong Kong: Sustainable Travel Experiences for the Conscious Explorer

Eco-Tourism in Hong Kong Sustainable Travel Experiences for the Conscious Explorer

Eco-tourism has become increasingly popular as travelers seek more environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to explore the world. Hong Kong, a bustling metropolis known for its towering skyscrapers and vibrant culture, also offers a wide range of eco-tourism experiences for the conscious explorer. This guide will highlight some of the top sustainable travel experiences in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Geopark

The Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, established in 2009, is a unique geological and ecological attraction that spans approximately 50 square kilometers. The Geopark features a diverse range of geological formations, volcanic activities, and coastal ecology that showcase Hong Kong’s rich natural heritage. The park consists of two main regions: the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region and the Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region, which are further divided into eight geo-areas.

  • Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region : This area is home to Hong Kong’s most extensive and well-preserved volcanic rock formations. Key attractions include:

a. High Island : Known for its impressive hexagonal rock columns, High Island offers a spectacular view of the Geopark’s unique volcanic rock formations.

b. Sharp Island : This island features tombolo, a sandbar that connects two islands, and is popular for its unique geological features, such as pineapple bun rock and rhyolite formations.

c. Ninepin Group : A cluster of islands showcasing the largest and most unique hexagonal rock columns in the Geopark.

  • Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region : This region is characterized by sedimentary rock formations that date back over 400 million years. Key attractions include:

a. Tolo Channel : Known for its magnificent coastal cliffs, Tolo Channel offers a glimpse into Hong Kong ‘s geological past through its well-preserved rock strata.

b. Double Haven : A stunning coastal area featuring unique red sedimentary rocks and picturesque landscapes.

c. Plover Cove : This area boasts a diverse range of geological features, including shale and siltstone formations, as well as impressive coastal landforms like sea caves and wave-cut platforms.

d. Tung Ping Chau : The easternmost outpost of Hong Kong , Tung Ping Chau is an island renowned for its distinctive sedimentary rock formations, such as the spectacular “layer cake” rock.

e. Port Island and Ma Shi Chau : These islands are known for their diverse range of sedimentary rocks, including mudstone, siltstone, and sandstone.

To fully experience and appreciate the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, it is recommended to join guided tours or visit the park’s Visitor Centres. These tours and centers offer valuable information on the geological features, ecological importance, and conservation efforts of the Geopark. Additionally, visitors can explore the park’s walking trails, enjoy water activities like kayaking or snorkeling, and participate in educational programs and workshops to further appreciate the beauty and significance of this unique geological treasure.

Conservationists criticise wildlife NGO WWF over redevelopment project at  Hong Kong nature reserve - Hong Kong Free Press HKFP

Mai Po Nature Reserve is a globally important wetland located in the northwestern part of Hong Kong’s New Territories. Covering an area of approximately 1,500 hectares, the reserve is managed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Hong Kong and has been designated as a Ramsar site, a wetland of international importance.

Mai Po Nature Reserve is a crucial habitat for various species of flora and fauna, particularly birds. It is a significant stopover point for migratory birds along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, attracting over 400 bird species, including endangered species like the Black-faced Spoonbill and the Saunders’s Gull. The reserve is also home to diverse ecosystems, including mangroves, mudflats, and fish ponds that support various species of fish, crustaceans, and other wildlife.

Visiting Mai Po Nature Reserve:

To protect the fragile ecosystems within the reserve, access is restricted, and visitors must join guided tours or obtain a permit to enter the reserve. Guided tours are available through WWF Hong Kong and offer a chance to learn about the region’s biodiversity, conservation efforts, and the importance of wetlands for migratory birds.

Activities and attractions at Mai Po Nature Reserve include:

  • Birdwatching : The reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise, especially during the migratory season (October to April). Bring your binoculars and cameras to observe and photograph the diverse bird species that visit the reserve.
  • Nature Walks : Explore the reserve’s boardwalks and observe its unique ecosystems, including mangroves and mudflats. Learn about the plants and animals that thrive in these environments and the conservation efforts in place to protect them.
  • Floating Bird Hide : Visit the floating bird hide for an up-close view of the birds and other wildlife in the reserve, offering a unique perspective on the area’s biodiversity.
  • Education Centre : The Peter Scott Field Studies Centre provides educational resources and workshops on wetland ecology, bird migration, and conservation efforts.
  • Photography Workshops : Join photography workshops to learn techniques for capturing stunning images of the reserve’s landscapes and wildlife.
When visiting Mai Po Nature Reserve, be sure to follow the guidelines to minimize disturbance to wildlife and help preserve the delicate ecosystems. By doing so, you will contribute to the ongoing conservation efforts and ensure the reserve remains a thriving habitat for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

Hong Kong Strawberry Picking: Organic Farms, Sunflower Farms And Strawberry  Farms In Hong Kong

Organic farm visits in Hong Kong offer a unique opportunity to learn about sustainable agriculture, eco-friendly farming practices, and local food production. These farms often provide guided tours, hands-on workshops, and various educational activities that promote a connection with nature and a better understanding of where our food comes from. Here are a few organic farms to consider visiting in Hong Kong:

  • Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden : Located in the New Territories, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden is a conservation and education center that promotes sustainable living and biodiversity. Visitors can explore the farm’s various gardens, enjoy nature walks, and participate in workshops related to organic farming, plant conservation, and sustainable living.
  • Zen Organic Farm : Situated in the northeastern part of the New Territories, Zen Organic Farm focuses on producing a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables. The farm offers guided tours where visitors can learn about organic farming practices, pick seasonal produce, and participate in workshops on topics like composting and healthy cooking.
  • Rainbow Organic Strawberry Farm : Located in Yuen Long, Rainbow Organic Strawberry Farm specializes in growing organic strawberries using eco-friendly and sustainable practices. During the strawberry season (usually December to April), visitors can pick their own strawberries and learn about organic cultivation techniques.
  • Long Ping Organic Farming Cooperative : This cooperative in Yuen Long consists of several local organic farms working together to promote organic agriculture and provide educational opportunities. Visitors can join guided tours of the farms, participate in workshops on organic farming techniques, and purchase fresh, locally grown produce.
  • Go Green Organic Farm : Located in Kam Tin, Go Green Organic Farm is an educational farm that encourages visitors to connect with nature and learn about sustainable agriculture. The farm offers guided tours, hands-on workshops, and various activities related to organic farming and environmental conservation.
When planning your visit to an organic farm in Hong Kong, it’s essential to check the farm’s website or contact them directly to confirm opening hours, availability of guided tours or workshops, and any entrance fees or charges for activities. By visiting these farms and supporting their efforts, you contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future for Hong Kong.

The Secret's Out: Go Mountain Bike Hong Kong - Singletracks Mountain Bike  News

Hong Kong offers a diverse range of hiking and biking trails that allow you to explore its stunning natural landscapes while engaging in eco-friendly activities. These trails provide a mix of challenges and scenic views, suitable for various fitness levels and interests. Here are some popular hiking and biking trails in Hong Kong:

  • Dragon’s Back : One of Hong Kong’s most famous hiking trails , Dragon’s Back, offers panoramic views of the city, coastline, and surrounding islands. The trail is relatively easy and takes around 2-3 hours to complete, making it an excellent choice for both experienced hikers and beginners.
  • MacLehose Trail : Stretching over 100 kilometers, the MacLehose Trail is the longest hiking trail in Hong Kong, traversing the New Territories and offering a diverse range of scenery, including mountains, beaches, and reservoirs. The trail is divided into ten sections, allowing you to choose which parts to explore based on your preferences and abilities.
  • Tai Mo Shan : Tai Mo Shan is the highest peak in Hong Kong, reaching an altitude of 957 meters. The hike to the summit provides breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings. The trail is moderately challenging and takes approximately 3-4 hours to complete.
  • Lantau Trail : The Lantau Trail is a 70-kilometer circular hiking trail on Lantau Island that passes through lush forests, mountain peaks, and cultural sites like the famous Tian Tan Buddha. The trail is divided into 12 sections, allowing hikers to choose the segments that best suit their interests and abilities.
  • Wilson Trail : The Wilson Trail is a 78-kilometer hiking trail that traverses Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories. The trail offers a diverse range of landscapes, including urban parks, mountain peaks, and coastal views, and is divided into ten sections for easier navigation.

Biking Trails:

  • Tai Wai to Tai Mei Tuk : This 20-kilometer biking trail follows a dedicated cycling path along the Shing Mun River and Tolo Harbour, providing a flat and scenic ride suitable for cyclists of all levels.
  • Nam Sang Wai : Nam Sang Wai, located in Yuen Long, is a popular cycling destination known for its picturesque wetlands and birdwatching opportunities. The area offers a network of cycling paths that allow you to explore its natural beauty at a leisurely pace.
  • Plover Cove Reservoir Country Park : This park in the New Territories features a dedicated cycling trail that takes you around the Plover Cove Reservoir, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and water.
  • Tung Chung to Mui Wo : This 15-kilometer cycling route on Lantau Island connects Tung Chung and Mui Wo, taking you past coastal scenery, rural villages, and the lush greenery of Lantau.
Remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles while hiking and biking in Hong Kong to minimize your impact on the environment. By choosing eco-friendly activities like hiking and biking, you can enjoy Hong Kong’s natural beauty while reducing your carbon footprint and supporting local conservation efforts.

Enjoy Some Green Space in Hong Kong | Travel Associates

Green cultural tours in Hong Kong offer an opportunity to explore the city ‘s sustainable initiatives and cultural heritage . These tours showcase how Hong Kong balances economic growth with environmental protection, offering an insight into how the city has evolved into a sustainable urban center. Here are some popular green cultural tours in Hong Kong:

  • Hong Kong Tourism Board Green Tour : The Hong Kong Tourism Board offers a green tour that highlights the city’s green initiatives, such as the Central and Western District Promenade, which features eco-friendly installations and public art, and the T-Park, which is a state-of-the-art waste management facility that converts waste into energy. The tour also includes visits to urban parks and sustainable buildings.
  • Green Hub Heritage and Nature Tour : Green Hub is a converted heritage building that offers eco-tours that showcase the site’s history, nature, and sustainable living. The tour includes a visit to the onsite organic farm, where you can learn about sustainable agriculture practices, as well as a walk through the nearby Tai Po Market, which offers a glimpse into traditional Hong Kong culture.
  • Tai Kwun Heritage and Art Tour : Tai Kwun is a revitalized heritage site that offers a blend of history, art, and culture. The tour includes a visit to the former Central Police Station, which has been transformed into a cultural center featuring art exhibitions, performances, and workshops. The tour also includes a visit to the nearby Hollywood Road, which is famous for its antique shops and traditional craft workshops.
  • Kowloon Cultural Heritage Tour : This tour takes you through the Kowloon Peninsula, exploring its rich cultural heritage, including the Wong Tai Sin Temple, the Chi Lin Nunnery, and the Nan Lian Garden. These sites showcase traditional Chinese architecture, religious practices, and garden design, providing insight into the cultural roots of Hong Kong.
  • Eco-tour of Hong Kong’s Outlying Islands : This tour takes you to Hong Kong’s outlying islands, where you can explore the city’s natural beauty and rural communities. The tour includes visits to the island of Lamma, famous for its seafood restaurants and hiking trails, and Cheung Chau Island, known for its traditional fishing village and scenic landscapes.
Green cultural tours in Hong Kong provide an opportunity to appreciate the city’s commitment to sustainability while experiencing its rich cultural heritage. These tours offer a unique way to connect with the local community and gain a deeper understanding of Hong Kong’s history and future direction.

5 sustainable hotels in Asia for green travellers | Honeycombers

Sustainable accommodations in Hong Kong offer eco-conscious travelers a chance to reduce their carbon footprint and support environmentally responsible practices. These accommodations prioritize energy efficiency, waste reduction, and sustainable living, making them an excellent choice for conscious travelers. Here are some sustainable accommodation options in Hong Kong:

  • The Upper House : The Upper House is a luxury boutique hotel in Admiralty that has been awarded a gold rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The hotel uses energy-efficient lighting, water-saving measures, and eco-friendly amenities. Additionally, the hotel partners with local environmental organizations to support conservation efforts.
  • Ovolo Central : Ovolo Central is a stylish hotel located in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district. The hotel has received numerous sustainability awards for its eco-friendly practices, such as using energy-efficient lighting, providing in-room recycling bins, and offering eco-friendly amenities.
  • L’hotel élan : L’hotel élan is a modern hotel located in Kwun Tong that has been awarded a gold rating for the BEAM Plus certification, a sustainability assessment system. The hotel features energy-efficient lighting and air conditioning, provides eco-friendly amenities, and has implemented a recycling program for guests.
  • Campus Hong Kong : Campus Hong Kong is a co-living space that offers sustainable accommodation options in a community-based environment. The space features a green roof, uses energy-efficient lighting, provides in-room recycling bins, and encourages guests to use refillable water bottles to reduce waste.
  • Mini Hotel : Mini Hotel is a budget-friendly hotel chain with several locations across Hong Kong. The hotel uses energy-efficient lighting, provides eco-friendly amenities, and encourages guests to reduce waste by offering discounts on food and drinks for those who bring their reusable containers.
By choosing sustainable accommodations in Hong Kong, you can contribute to the city’s environmental efforts while enjoying a comfortable and eco-conscious stay. Be sure to research the eco-friendly practices of the accommodations you are considering and choose those that align with your values and priorities.

Ways to Lead a Low Carbon Lifestyle in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has an extensive public transportation network that includes a variety of low-carbon options for eco-conscious travelers. These transportation modes prioritize energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize traffic congestion, making them a sustainable choice for getting around the city. Here are some low-carbon transportation options in Hong Kong:

  • Mass Transit Railway (MTR) : The MTR is the backbone of Hong Kong’s public transportation network, offering an efficient and eco-friendly way to travel around the city. The MTR is powered by electricity, which is generated from natural gas and renewable energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Trams : Hong Kong’s iconic trams are a low-carbon transportation option that has been in operation for over a century. The trams run on electricity and are an affordable and scenic way to explore the city’s streets.
  • Buses : Hong Kong’s bus system is an affordable and eco-friendly way to travel around the city. The city has been gradually introducing electric and hybrid buses to its fleet, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
  • Ferries : Hong Kong’s ferry system provides an enjoyable and sustainable way to travel between Hong Kong Island and its outlying islands. The ferries run on electricity or low-sulfur marine fuel, reducing air pollution.
  • Bicycles : Biking is a healthy and eco-friendly way to explore Hong Kong’s scenic trails and parks. Several bike rental companies offer convenient options for renting bicycles, and many of the city’s parks and trails are bike-friendly.
By choosing low-carbon transportation options in Hong Kong, you can contribute to the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and promote sustainable travel . Additionally, using public transportation can help reduce traffic congestion and the need for private cars, making the city a more pleasant and livable place for all.
By choosing sustainable experiences and adopting eco-friendly practices, you can enjoy the best of Hong Kong while supporting its environmental conservation efforts.

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Tag Cloud

  • Green tourism, also known as nature-based tourism or ecotourism, involves visitation to natural areas. 1 Legend symbol denoting The Hong Kong Government uses the term "green tourism" for tourism activities in natural areas. However, the terms "ecotourism" and "nature-based tourism" are also used interchangeably in overseas places such as Australia. Across the globe, green tourism is a growth sector in the tourism industry. It is estimated that nature-based tourism ventures worldwide are worth US$100 billion (HK$779 billion) per year. 2 Legend symbol denoting See United Nations World Tourism Organization (2017).
  • Hong Kong is a city with numerous natural attractions, including 24 country parks and 22 special areas totalling 44 312 hectares, or 40% of its land mass. 3 Legend symbol denoting See AFCD (2017). In her 2017 Policy Address, the Chief Executive remarked that the Government would promote the development of sustainable green tourism. 4 Legend symbol denoting In her 2018 Policy Address, the Chief Executive added that the Government is enhancing the supporting facilities of key hiking trails and piers with a view to strengthening the development of Hong Kong's green and ecotourism. Indeed, travellers visiting Hong Kong appear increasingly interested in its green destinations. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, in 2018, 11% of overnight visitors from the long-haul market have visited "green treasures" such as country parks, hiking trails and beaches, compared to just 6% in 2015. 5 Legend symbol denoting See Hong Kong Tourism Board (2017 & 2019).
  • This issue of Essentials begins with an overview on the development of green tourism in Hong Kong. This is followed by a discussion on Australia, which formulated its first ecotourism strategy in the 1990s. In recent years, Australia has continued to entrench its edge in green tourism by diversifying its ecotourism products, implementing robust policy frameworks, and ensuring compliance of operators.

Green Tourism in Hong Kong

  • Green tourism or ecotourism is defined as tourism which minimizes the impact on, and supports the long-term maintenance of, natural areas. 6 Legend symbol denoting See IUCN (1996). International bodies such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature 7 Legend symbol denoting IUCN is the world's largest environmental network comprising both government and civil society organizations. Its work includes formulating measures needed to safeguard the natural world, such as species survival and protected areas. In Hong Kong, AFCD is a registered member of IUCN. ("IUCN") and Convention on Biological Diversity 8 Legend symbol denoting The Convention on Biological Diversity was developed by the United Nations Environment Programme and was open for signature in 1992. China is a signatory of the Convention. recognize that sustainable green tourism helps generate revenue, provide economic opportunities, and raise awareness for the conservation of protected areas. Indeed, many overseas places have focused on developing green tourism in light of its economic and environmental benefits. 9 Legend symbol denoting See Convention on Biological Diversity (2017).
  • In Hong Kong, the development of green tourism is one of the implementation goals under the Government's tourism strategy. The Development Blueprint for Hong Kong's Tourism Industry promulgated in October 2017 sets out the initiatives for green tourism, including development of green products and attractions through funding support to the Hong Kong Tourism Board and collaboration with local districts, as well as enhancement of support services such as public piers and kaito transport.
  • More recently in February 2019, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department ("AFCD") launched a public consultation on proposals to enhance the recreation and education potential of country parks. In particular, AFCD sought the public's view on four proposals, namely (a) enhancement of existing facilities; (b) setting up of open museums for appreciation of historic relics; (c) development of tree top adventure; and (d) provision of glamping sites and eco-lodges. The enhancement measures are expected to diversify visitors' experience and meet demands for countryside recreation while maintaining the conservation function of country parks.
  • While the consultation results have yet to be published, some non-governmental organizations have expressed concerns over the environmental impact and mode of operation of the enhancement proposals. In particular, they are concerned that (a) enhancement measures involving additional facilities may strain park capacity and affect the surrounding environment; and (b) contracting out of tourism facilities to private operators may result in over-commercialization and lack of oversight. 10 Legend symbol denoting See長春社(2019) and Save Our Country Parks Alliance (2019). The concern groups have thus urged the Government to conduct further feasibility studies and/or undertake more systemic planning before proceeding with the proposed measures.

Development of ecotourism in Australia

  • Australia 's natural environment is a significant part of its appeal as a travel destination. Nature-based tourism attracted some 5.2 million international visitors and 20.1 million domestic overnight visitors in 2016. 11 Legend symbol denoting Tourists engaged in nature-based activities also spent 53% more per trip compared to tourists not engaged in nature-based activities. See Ecotourism Australia (2017) and Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (2017). As at 2017, Australia's protected areas accounted for more than 95 million hectares, or 11% of the country's land mass. 12 Legend symbol denoting See Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (2017).
  • Australia was the first place in the world to promulgate a National Ecotourism Strategy back in 1994. In particular, the Strategy identified a need to facilitate application of ecologically sustainable practices, address the business needs of ecotourism operators, and promote industry self-regulation. The Australian government consequently committed A$10 million (HK$57 million) over four years to support ecotourism development in the areas of business development, infrastructure, regional planning, and industry accreditation. While the national strategy has not been renewed by the federal government since then, 13 Legend symbol denoting Instead, ecotourism and destination planning have been included as part of Australia's national Tourism 2020 strategy. See Tourism Australia (2011). state governments such as Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia have respectively put forward their ecotourism strategies with the formulation of robust policy frameworks to develop their ecotourism product portfolio in national parks. 14 Legend symbol denoting For instance, Victoria promulgated its Nature-Based Tourism Strategy in 2008, South Australia announced its nature-based tourism plan in 2015, and Queensland put forth its Ecotourism Plan in 2016.

Ecotourism policy framework

Implementing ecotourism initiatives to boost visitation

Concluding remarks

  • Green tourism has been gaining popularity around the globe. To ride on this opportunity, Hong Kong has plans to develop sustainable green tourism by enhancing the recreational potential of country parks. Recently, AFCD has sought the public's view over four enhancement proposals covering accommodation, open museums, treetop adventure and supporting facilities. However, some environmental concern groups have expressed concerns over their impact, operation and carrying capacity, and have urged the Government to conduct further detailed assessments and planning.
  • With a longer history of green tourism development, Australia is more experienced in implementing the related strategy and initiatives. State governments such as Queensland have developed robust policy frameworks and management tools to ensure ecotourism is sustainable and aligns with public interest. Apart from stipulating a pre-construction assessment plan, ecotourism operators are required to obtain ecotourism accreditation, and may be subject to preconditions and compliance audits performed by relevant park authorities. In recent years, Australia has continued to diversify its ecotourism products through destination planning and development of low-impact facilities and accommodation, which help contribute to economic development while raising the environmental awareness of visitors.

Prepared by Charlie LAM Research Office Information Services Division Legislative Council Secretariat 24 September 2019

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Penfold Park

Hidden gardens and green spaces in Hong Kong

Escape the urban jungle for a little while at these tranquil locations

Jenny Leung

It's no secret that Hongkongers love exploring the city's countryside – be it a hiking trail  or  an outlying island  – but we're also blessed with plenty of verdant spaces hidden within the metropolis.  From extensive lawns by the waterfront to secret gardens tucked away in commercial districts, keep reading to discover these green spaces where you can get away for a quick bit of mother nature.

RECOMMENDED : Do more exploring and head out to Hong Kong's beautiful country parks .

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Ching Chung Koon

Ching Chung Koon

  • Attractions

A serene oasis located in Tuen Mun, this Taoist temple is surrounded by bonsai trees, an intricate rock garden, pagodas, pavilions, as well as fish ponds, making it one of the most peaceful spots in town. The temple houses many of its former community members' remains, but one of the highlight features of Ching Chung Koon is the lanterns gifted by Beijing’s Forbidden City. Don’t miss the popular annual bonsai festival, which is usually held during April or May, to view spectacular and artistically shaped trees.  

Hutchison Park

Hutchison Park

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Hung Hom is a quiet neighbourhood with numerous hidden gems to be discovered, including Hutchison Park, a Chinese-style garden complete with pavilions, a small lake, children’s playground, and rest areas. The park is basically wrapped within a shield of greenery, making it the perfect spot for some much-needed peace and quiet.

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Jao Tsung-I Academy

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Nestled amongst the leafy hillside of Lai Chi Kok, the Jao Tsung-I Academy is a tranquil historic compound built in honour of professor Jao Tsung-I, a renowned scholar of Chinese culture. The academy was one of the first revitalisation projects that the government took on, turning what was formerly a customs station in the late 19th century, an accommodation for Chinese labourers in early 20th century, and eventually a psychiatric rehabilitation centre, into the museum and heritage lodge it is today. 

Kai Tak Sky Garden

Kai Tak Sky Garden

  • Kowloon City

A nod to Kai Tak Airport, the sky garden is designed with various aviation elements that resemble an aircraft’s body and wings. The sky deck is composed of three elevated plazas – the Garden Plaza, Lawn Plaza, and Fountain Plaza – filled with diverse species of trees and plants. Visitors can enjoy the sweeping views of  Victoria Harbour from any of the garden's three viewing porches, or go around the garden and walk along the Ground Plaza located at the southern part of the sky garden, which features a water play area, an amphitheatre, a multifunction lawn and auditorium that may be utilised for leisure and recreational activities. Click here to find out more about the space.

Kowloon Walled City Park

Kowloon Walled City Park

Once the most densely populated place in Hong Kong, the Kowloon Walled City was a labyrinth of illegally-constructed buildings and a breeding ground for various criminal activities. Hence its nickname, the 'City of Darkness'. The city was eventually torn down in the 1900s and reopened as a Jiangnan garden-style park boasting impressive water features and traditional gardens, with remnants of its dark and exciting history preserved inside the park.

Lee Tung Avenue Rooftop Garden

Lee Tung Avenue Rooftop Garden

With many enjoying Lee Tung Avenue for shopping and dining purposes, the thought of a hidden area of green garden bliss doesn't really cross the mind. However, for those of us looking for a temporary respite from the city, you'll be pleased to know that a hidden rooftop garden sits just above on the podium of level five. The entrance is right next to the Vivienne Tam store, where there is a lift to take you up. The garden is fairly spacious, quiet and quaint, but lovely all the same. Plus pets are allowed up too!

Nan Lian Garden

Nan Lian Garden

  • Wong Tai Sin

Though not quite what you would call 'hidden', this famous Hong kong attraction looks like an illustration taken from the page of a Tang Dynasty artwork. Wander around through calm waters and rocks as you head towards the unmissable red Zi Wu Bridge and stunning gold Pavilion of Absolute Perfection. Just a short walk away from the garden sits the famous Chi Lin Nunnery  and vegetarian restaurants worthy of a visit. 

Nature Discovery Park

Nature Discovery Park

  • Walks and tours
  • Tsim Sha Tsui

Spanning 2,000 sq ft, the Nature Discovery Park is a hidden green haven perched on the 8th floor of the brand new cultural retail shopping centre K11 Musea. Home to a rare and tropical range of biodiversity, as well as an aquarium, the park even has guided tours that allow visitors to immerse themselves in art and nature. Giving everyone a chance to experience nature first hand in workshops such as Urban Farming Experience, ‘Farm-to-Face’ beauty product making, mindful meditation, and a certificate course in German floral design, the natural discovery park makes for a perfect green getaway for all city dwellers.

Tsz Shan Monastery

Tsz Shan Monastery

A beloved pilgrimage site in Hong Kong, the Tsz Shan Monastery is most famously known for its stunning 76-metre-tall white Guan Yin statue that stands high and tall along the hillside. The monastery is also home to traditional temple structures reminiscent of the Tang Dynasty, giving the whole site a sense of serenity where visitors can experience a moment of calm. If you're planning on visiting Tsz Shan Monastery, follow our guide on things to see and do, how to make reservations, dos and don'ts, and more .

Penfold Park

Penfold Park

Located inside the Sha Tin Racecourse and managed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, this beautiful green park is open to the public on non-race days. Penfold Park covers more than 20 acres and features luscious green lawns and man-made lakes that have become home to many of our city’s wild migratory waterbirds such as egrets. Your pets can freely roam around, paddle around the lakes and race other dogs in the area – you know, like the horses. 

Sha Tin Park

Sha Tin Park

While Sha Tin Park isn't exactly hidden, its massive eight-hectare space means that you'll always be able to find a spot away from the crowds. There are more than 400 species of native and exotic plants, creating a tropical oasis for those looking to find some peace from the modern world. You can take a gentle stroll along Shing Mun River, but it can get quite busy during the weekends. For somewhere tranquil, head to the North Gate or Western Hills inside the park where you'll be greeted by beautiful ponds, traditional Chinese-style garden pavilions, a mini waterfall, and plenty of greenery.

Taikoo Park

Taikoo Park

  • Taikoo Shing

Just a stone’s throw away from the Instagram-famous Monster Building is this serene little park. The public park is dotted with sculptures, benches, and water features, making it a haven to escape Quarry Bay’s busy main streets. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot during your lunch break or a cure for office cabin fever, Taikoo Park is your answer. 

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Sprouting new markets: Alternative tour guides showcase green and cultural tourism in Hong Kong

Varsity hong kong

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By Lasley Lui, Laurissa Liu and Valerie Wan

As the slope gets steeper and steeper, the breath-taking sight of Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls comes into sight of Lourdes Peronace, who joins a guided hiking tour in Tai Mo Shan. “It took me just an hour to get here [from the city] and it’s completely different,” says Peronace, who comes from Germany. It is her first expedition in Hong Kong.

Back in her hometown, Hong Kong is portrayed as no more than a metropolitan city. The natural landscape is to her, as to many locals, an unfamiliar scene in Hong Kong.

Ng Tung Chai Waterfall

Tourism is one of the four pillar industries of Hong Kong economy. In 2018, the Mainland remained the largest visitor market for Hong Kong, accounting for 78 per cent of all visitors to the city. The number of Mainland travellers rose by 14.8 per cent last year, while visitors from other markets only went up by 0.6 per cent. While the city is branded as “Asia’s World City” bearing the title of “Shopping and Eating Paradise”, the gem of the city’s natural and cultural sights is unknown to most visitors.

Starting from 2017, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has highlighted “diverse travel experiences” as one of the targets in their annual work plans. For the year 2019/20 , the board will focus on promoting “living culture, the outdoor, and the arts” in hope of winning over other travel destinations.

Hong Kong natural beauty

Regarding ecotourism, the HKTB proposes to launch the Great Outdoors Hong Kong 2019: Hong Kong Back Garden platform, which aims to promote Hong Kong’s hidden green treasures to visitors from Europe, America, Japan, and Taiwan. The five themes include geological landscapes in Sai Kung, beaches and reservoirs in Southern District, sunset scenery in Ha Pak Nai and Lau Fau Shan, the biodiversity in Fung Yuen and Hok Tau, and the fishing village in Tai O.

Rory Mackay is a hiking tour guide. He founded Wild Hong Kong , a tour operator which offers guided adventures and eco tours. He believes Hong Kong is a unique travel destination with great potentials to develop ecotourism.

Rory Mackay

Around 40 per cent of land in Hong Kong is designated as country parks or special areas with a rich diversity of flora and fauna – and all these are just a doorstep away from urban areas. “The contrast, to have a big city, and right next to the big city, not just like one little country park, but so much terrain with it,” Mackay says. “It’s beautiful…[there is] a variety of things you can do as well.”

The ecotourism market in Hong Kong is still in its infant stage. The biggest challenge for start-up tour operators offering niche travel experience is to “get on the map” and to be known to potential clients, as the industry is highly “review-driven”. Websites and online review platforms like TripAdvisor are important channels for brand building and marketing. Mackay says: “It took about three years before we actually have customers.”

Their eco tours are most popular among Western travellers and young professionals aged between 25 and 35, according to his experience in the trade. Alternative tour operators like his are still growing under the mainstream current.

Hong Kong Stories

Ling Ho, who finds travelling experience in Hong Kong unappealing and uninspiring, founded Ho Ho Go Experience Limited in 2014 to explore the niche market of cultural tourism. She thinks the local tourism industry in Hong Kong is monopolised by a few large travel agencies. Her agency organises tailor-made “life tours” which aims to show tourists the unique history and way of living in Hong Kong. Each of its thematic tours tells stories of Hong Kong’s history.

Tourism temple

To enrich their tours with meaningful stories, the team has to conduct in-depth research and look for local stories. According to Ho, it is difficult to employ and train a guide who fits the job. They need to keep on developing new routes to avoid their ideas being copied by other operators. “Nowadays everyone claims they are offering cultural tours, but the quality is in question,” she says.

Ho, similarly, finds it hard to survive in the market when she just started as a small operator. In an attempt to gain public recognition, the travel agency joined the New Tour Product Development Scheme under the HKTB. Two of their tours were approved in the sixth and seventh rounds of the scheme in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Launched in 2012, the scheme aims to boost Hong Kong’s tourism industry by offering unique and diverse travel experiences to tourists. Funded applications will receive marketing and promotion funding support for developing new tour products, while applicants in the non-funded section will enjoy official promotion of their product on the “Explore Hong Kong Tours” promotion platform under the HKTB. So far, the scheme has approved 39 products and attracted the participation of about 50,000 visitors.

“Our Childhood”, one of the theme-based tours offered by Ho, features historic housing estates, and “Bloggers Playground” depicts the nostalgic neighbourhood in Yau Ma Tei. Both tours are two of the approved products in the non-funded section. “Tourists usually rely on official travel websites for information,” Ho says. “So we try to get ourselves onto the list of the Tourism Board to get more exposure.”

Hong Kong arts stories

Suyin Haynes is a guide for Central Street Art Tour organised by Accidental Art , which organises guided art tours and other art related events. The Central Street Art Tour features street arts by Alex Croft, Cleon Peterson, Fin Dac, Matt Gondek, Cath Love, Elsa Jean de Dieu, Rob Sketcherman and so on. As an expatriate from London, she sees Hong Kong as an unusual city with different layers of culture and wishes to share her “version of Hong Kong” with other visitors.

Suyin Haynes

“With each tour guide you get something different,” she says. The walking tours, in her opinion, are unique experience that formulaic travel routines cannot offer. “It’s not just people that wanna come and take the photo for Instagram,” she says. “It’s people who are actually curious and wanna know a bit more about either Hong Kong or the artists.”

Candy Hou, founder of Accidental Art, is optimistic about the development of local cultural tourism. “I think it will be more and more promising. Tourists nowadays value unique experience more than shopping,” she says.

Unbalanced investment

About 50 per cent of tourists said they were interested in famous tourist spots, but some expressed their willingness to learn about other sides of Hong Kong, according to a report on “Diversifying Hong Kong’s Attractions to Boost Tourism” released by Youth Research Centre in 2016.

In terms of tourism resources, grants are allocated to preserve new historical and cultural landmarks in various districts such as Central and Western District and West Kowloon Cultural District, and to conserve natural scenic beauty like Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. But most resources are given to major tourist attractions. Some recent examples are the expansions of Ocean Park and Disneyland which cost almost HK$20 billion.

Alex Croft Mural

Lawmaker Yiu Si-wing pointed out the problem of unbalanced investment in local tourism resources in a Legislative Council meeting last November.

In the meeting, he cited the lack of concerted efforts of different government departments to conserve antiquities, rural environment, country parks and hiking trails as the examples. “If Hong Kong can make full use of its unique local culture, green tourism, and ecotourism,” he said. “It would really add to our tourism character and effectively divert tourists according to their demands.”

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Varsity hong kong

Varsity is an award-winning magazine created for the tertiary students and faculty of Hong Kong. It is written, edited and designed by students in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Evaluating the environmental sustainability strategies of the housekeeping department: the case of an international hotel chain in Hong Kong, China

Tourism Critiques

ISSN : 2633-1225

Article publication date: 5 May 2021

Issue publication date: 18 June 2021

The purpose of this paper is to use the case of an international luxury hotel chain in Hong Kong to illustrate general environmentally-friendly practices in housekeeping. Six in-depth interviews were conducted with the housekeeping department staff to evaluate the effectiveness of the Hotel’s environmental sustainability practices by analysing their benefits and limitations. Results reveal that all informants acknowledged the environmental sustainability strategies adopted by the Hotel, which can benefit stakeholders. Despite multiple green practices in hotel housekeeping, several strategies may not be as significant as expected with misaligned expectations from the management and the actual practices may create excessive workload for frontline room attendants with a lack of policy enforcement and supportive policies. Therefore, hotels should keep a mutual communication between the management and frontline employees prior to conducting environmentally- and employee-friendly practices. Given the labour-intensive nature of the hotel industry, the housekeeping department should ensure employment equality policy is in place with adequate environmentally friendly support for employees.

  • Environmental sustainability strategies
  • Housekeeping department

Choy, M. , Cheng, J. and Yu, K. (2021), "Evaluating the environmental sustainability strategies of the housekeeping department: the case of an international hotel chain in Hong Kong, China", Tourism Critiques , Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 115-132.

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Monica Choy, Justin Cheng and Karl Yu.

Published in Tourism Critiques: Practice and Theory . Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

1. Introduction

The concept of “environmentally friendly” practices had appeared in several European countries and in the USA since 1980s ( Wong et al. , 1996 ). In 1993, the Green Hotel Association ( GHA, 2005 ) introduced the importance of applying environmentally friendly practices to protect the environment. In the same year, the International Hotels Environment Initiative, now known as the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), was established to regulate and establish standards on hotel environmentally friendliness ( International Tourism Partnership, 2014 ). The concept of sustainable development becomes further specific after the announcement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which outlines detailed action plans to achieve a sustainable future for all people. Sustainable development aims to achieve a balanced economic, social and environmental integration by addressing challenges related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, prosperity and peace and justice through the participation of multiple stakeholders from private sectors, government and civil society ( UN, 2018 ). In this paper, we will see if the housekeeping practice can help keep a sustainable environment while frontline staff are willing and comfortable to keep up with this goal.

A unified definition of “green hotels” remains non-existent; however, this “green” concept is occasionally defined as hotels that are “environmentally responsible” and “environmentally friendly” ( Kim and Han, 2010 ). Another definition states that “green hotels” should use “recycled”, “low-polluting” or “energy-saving” materials ( Chen and Chen, 2012 ). Apart from simply using “green” in hotels, the word “environmental sustainability” is also associated in compliance with corporate social responsibilities (CSR) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ( Raub and Martin-Rios, 2019 ). Hotel CSR policy concentrates on education; skill enhancement; restoration; livelihood support; social problems; support to government policy, environmental protection and conservation; extended support and community development ( Sudhagar and Samuel, 2019 ). SDGs are focussed on fostering economic growth and addressing various social needs, which include delivering decent employment, assuring sustainable production and consumption practices, achieving gender equality and protecting the environment ( UN, 2018 ). The investigated hotel group claims it is following the SDGs for its staff. Studies have revealed that large hotel chain groups are more enthusiastic in adopting green policies than independent operators do, but the compliance level may vary ( Jones and Comfort, 2019 ; Chen, 2019 ; Jarman-Walsh, 2018 ). People may have various descriptions and interpretations on the effort exerted by hotels, but all of them tend to share the same central idea that hotels should help alleviate environmental pressures during their operation ( Casado, 2012 ).

The rapid expansion of advanced transportation has promoted tourism and hotel industry ( Georgescu, 2016 ). The hotel sector represents a significant share of total tourism revenues of over US$550bn in 2017 which was generated by a handful of international hotel chains, such as Marriot, Starwood, Hilton and Hyatt ( Lock, 2019 ). Given the large consumption of water and electricity, the industry is exacerbating environmental damages by using natural reserves and generating a considerable amount of pollution ( Sourvinou and Filimonau, 2018 ), which can pollute the environment ( Mbasera et al. , 2016 ). A report states that an average hotel releases an estimated 160–200 kg of carbon dioxide per square metre of room floor area per year, whereas the water consumption per guest per night is between 170 and 440 litres in a 5-star hotel ( Bohdanowicz, 2005 ). On average, hotels produce 1 kg of waste per guest per night ( International Tourism Partnership, 2014 ). Studies have consistently suggested the hotel industry should implement sustainable business practices ( Jones et al. , 2016 ). In the balance of keeping up with revenues and protecting the environment, hotels can make or break environment sustainability ( Chen, 2019 ; Jarman-Walsh, 2018 ). On one hand, the hotel sector can generate profit and provide decent employment opportunities. On the other hand, they can contribute to building an environmentally-friendly society by reducing the impact of climate change and enhancing social capital ( Pérez-Pineda et al. , 2017 ). Some hotel chains have found ways to remain “green” by reducing energy consumption and waste production ( Mak and Chang, 2019 ; Yoon et al. , 2016 ). For instance, Hyatt has contributed to SGDs through different CSR initiatives. Waste management and recycling strategies are prepared to decrease hotel energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emission, thereby enabling environmental stewardship culture ( Hyatt, 2018 ). Marriott has pledged to become a sustainable hotel chain by minimising carbon and water usage and choosing environmentally responsible suppliers ( Marriott International, 2017 ).

Notwithstanding the shared responsibilities of all stakeholders, business sectors have a critical role in contributing to environmental sustainability ( Jones and Comfort, 2019 ). The hospitality industry was urged to adopt environmental sustainability strategies in their daily operations, which include setting priorities, developing and implementing green practices that are consistent with the developed SDGs and striving for balance among economic growth, environment protection and social welfare improvement ( Jones et al. , 2016 ). However, a gap exists between the suggested global-level sustainable development blueprints (e.g. MDGs and SDGs) and the actual implementation at the organisational level because of the difference in sociocultural, economic, legal, workforce and customer demographics in each market ( Raub and Martin-Rios, 2019 ). Consequently, individual hotels tend to adopt selected sustainability strategies, which advocate easy-to-implement green initiatives that satisfy the needs and expectations in the local context ( Akenji and Bengtsson, 2014 ). Findings from extant studies have revealed implementation failure usually arising from companies who fail in identifying localisation issues and addressing vulnerable areas where require considerable support ( Allen et al. , 2019 ; Scott, 2018 ).

What environmental sustainability strategies are adopted in the housekeeping department of the sample Hotel?

How do employees perceive the benefits of environmental sustainability strategies in housekeeping?

What are the barriers that can reduce the effectiveness of environmental sustainability strategies in housekeeping?

How beneficial are the housekeeping green practices in contributing to the Hotel’s environmental sustainability strategies and the hotel industry in Hong Kong from the employees’ perspective? How can the implementation of environmental sustainability strategies be improved?

2. Literature review

Sustainability refers to the mode of development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” ( WCED, 1987 ). The concept of sustainability concretises when the three elemental pillars ( UN, 2005 ), namely, economic development, social development and environmental protection, can extend the planet’s protection to include all countries, governments, private organisations and individuals ( UN, 2018 ). Sustainability has been applied to numerous industries including hospitality ( Mak and Chang, 2019 ). The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (2005) define sustainable tourism as the “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. One of the main objectives of sustainable tourism is to “make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development” ( United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2005 ). As a key stakeholder in the tourism industry, hotels have adopted the same concept of sustainable tourism ( Kim et al. , 2012 ).

Hotels, as the major producer of commercial waste, are compelled to this environmental issue ( Kasim et al. , 2018 ). Green practices may be one of the most effective policies to increase the hotel’s monetary and environmental status. Managers of environmentally-friendly hotels are eager to “go green” to save energy and money ( Singh, 2015 ). The US Green Building Council (2021) revealed that the hotel industry in the USA spends $4bn per year on energy. Reducing energy consumption by 10% can improve the average daily room rate for up to $1.35 ( Energystar, 2021 ). The hotel housekeeping department is responsible for keeping the property clean and comfortable while producing significant environmental risks and liabilities in their operation. Their crucial role in achieving sustainable development was often overlooked ( O'Neill, 2018 ). Implementing sustainable practices in housekeeping can exhibit a notable impact on waste reduction. A study on hotels in Hong Kong revealed that up to 15% of energy and water can be conserved by implementing effective green practices in the housekeeping department ( Deng and Burnett , 2002a, 2002b ). Eaton Hong Kong, which is under Langham Hospitality Group, has successfully helped reduce waste production and won the green hotel prize awarded by Green Hotelier of 2015, Asia Pacific ( Green Hotelier, 2015 ). Eaton has been the first hotel in Hong Kong to install their own water bottling system and introduce refillable amenities, which can save a total of 850,000 pieces of plastic waste each year ( Eaton Hong Kong, 2015 ).

Apart from their environmental benefits, applying green programmes in hotel housekeeping can also provide economic benefits and employment opportunities. Despite absence of validated secondary data on the total number of employees working in the housekeeping department in Hong Kong, hospitality sector provides substantial employment opportunities (i.e. 38,800) for frontline employee in the first quarter of 2020 ( Census and Statistics Department, 2020a ). Green programmes may create more decent work for workers to make a living. As stated in the sample Hotel group’s website, they offer their colleagues competitive wages, health care, retirement savings and performance-based incentives, while also offering industry-leading perks to eligible staff, including complimentary hotel stays, which should be considered “decent work” and “sustainable” as defined by the UN in their SDG framework. On the economic side, green programmes may help save natural as well as economic resources for our planet. For example, clean water accounts for 10% of the utility fee in numerous hotels, which was twice the amount of water that the hotel has consumed, because half of the total fee is paid for the disposal of waste water ( Tuppen, 2013 ). Saving water as a housekeeping practice can decrease the amount of water used, thereby decreasing the price paid for disposing wastewater in the process. Reducing the frequency of a full-service room cleaning can decrease the money spent on detergents and electricity, while increasing the life of linens ( Heney, 2009 ).

Apart from hotels in Hong Kong, hotels in other countries have also implemented green concepts; for example, the ITP is promoting the hotel industry can be a force for good and make a positive contribution to the UN’s SDGs and to the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) ( The International Tourism Partnership (ITP), 2017 ). A hotel in Hawaii has committed to protecting the environment by merely using botanical cleansers and disinfectants in housekeeping. Thus, switching from synthetic chemicals to natural detergents can reduce the occurrence of allergies, headaches and dry, chapped hands among housekeeping staff and simultaneously helps in protecting offshore coral reefs by preventing the intensification of water pollution ( The Fairmont Orchid, 2004 ; Graci and Dodds, 2008 ). Studies have shown that green cleaners posed no harm to the environment because they do not contain or release harmful substances such as volatile organic compounds into the air when being used ( Zabiegala, 2006 ). In addition, green cleansers lack irritants, abrasives and toxicity, whilst being highly biodegradable in the environment compared with synthetic cleaners ( Fukey and Issac, 2014 ).

Guests’ perception of health and safety exhibit a significantly positive influence on their purchase intention in green hotels ( Jiang and Kim, 2015 ). Environmental protection has been promoted because customers recognise that business activities can cause serious damage to the environment ( Han et al. , 2018 ). Customers believe that they are a part of the “green programme” ( Sánchez-Ollero et al. , 2014 ) and feel a sense of satisfaction and strong “emotional benefits” for leaving a sustainable planet to the next generation ( Kuminoff et al. , 2010 ; Robinot and Giannelloni, 2010 ). The study revealed that customers can obtain “status-enhancing benefits” and tend to believe that they may leave a good impression to others by choosing green hotels ( Jiang and Kim, 2015 ). Thus, acknowledging guests for their environmental efforts ( Suki and Suki, 2015 ) and enhancing customers’ sustainability mindset ( Chen and Chen, 2012 ) are powerful forces for promoting sustainable hotel service provision and consumption.

Good intentions may not consistently be translated into desirable outcomes and occasionally become detrimental. Housekeeping staff expects a feasible and cost-effective green policy and practices but experiences extra burden such as sorting out rubbish to different recyclable items ( Wan et al. , 2017 ). In 2014, a group of 200 protesters in Toronto appealed to end the “Make A Green Choice” programme launched by an international hotel chain in 2009. The programme encouraged guests to forego housekeeping in exchange of a $5 voucher or loyalty points in the interest of “conserving water, energy and other resources”. The programme claimed to create environmental benefits, in which a one-night participation could save 49.2 gallons of water and sufficient natural gas to produce heat for a 400-square-foot room for 4 h ( Sheraton Baltimore Washington Airport Hotel, 2017 ). However, this programme resulted in a burden amongst room attendants because the rooms that were not cleaned for several days required additional time and effort to tidy afterwards ( Mojtehedzadeh, 2014 ). The malpractice amongst housekeepers can also harm the effectiveness of green strategies. A common practice that towels on the floor or in the bathtub should be laundered, whilst others left hanging should be kept for reuse ( Heney, 2009 ). A hotel in New Orleans applied this towel reuse policy. However, the housekeeping staff changed all towels and linens daily even the guests participated in the environmental protection programme ( Eilperin, 2010 ). This example has illustrated that environmental training and communication can influence the employees’ ecological behaviour in compliance with the hotel’s green policy ( Chou, 2014 ; Sourvinou and Filimonau, 2018 ). The success of green practices was significantly related to employee participation and engagement ( Kim and Choy, 2011 ). Green organisational climates, management support, employees’ environmental knowledge, environmental awareness and environmental concern can influence the employees’ willingness to adopt environmental management practices ( Zientara and Zamojska, 2018 ; Chan et al. , 2014 ). The lack of willingness to change long-established work routines and to monitor the actual purpose of the green initiatives can also diminish the room attendants’ intention to execute sustainability practices ( Iraldo et al. , 2017 ).

Sustainable policy in a hotel is definitely related to gender equality and reduced inequalities in a society ( The International Tourism Partnership (ITP), 2017 ). Females are considered to be easier affected by environmental and economic changes and, therefore, should be given an equal opportunity to develop their career with a decent work environment. Traditionally, housekeeping has been viewed as “household related” and females should be taking up more responsibilities ( Thébaud et al. , 2019 ). There are more women than men working in operation positions in the housekeeping department in Hong Kong ( Employees Training Board,2016 / 2017 ) but only a minority of working females can be promoted to senior positions in the hotel industry ( Segovia-Perez et al. , 2019 ). Sustainable practices may buffer the negative effects of the deteriorating service quality ( Van Rheede and Dekker, 2016 ). Several guests still express negative impressions of green hotel products and experiences ( Robinot and Giannelloni, 2010 ). For instance, several green hotel initiatives such as refillable soap and shampoo dispensers, low-flow showerheads and linen reuse are considered as unfavourable amongst the guests because they perceive these practices as unsanitary, uncomfortable or an inconvenience during their stay. Results showed that although guests often appreciate hotels that contribute to protect the environment, they are generally unwilling to sacrifice their living standards and comfort levels ( Baloglu and Jones, 2015 ).

3. Methodology

the current environmental sustainability strategies in housekeeping;

employees’ perception of the benefits and hurdles in executing green practices;

benefits of housekeeping green practices in contribution to the Hotel’s environmental sustainability strategies and the hotel industry in Hong Kong; and

recommendations on the implementation of environmental sustainability strategies.

Using the participants’ mother tongue in a qualitative interview is advantageous for obtaining rich responses by minimising language barriers and developing a good rapport ( Welch and Piekkari, 2006 ). All interviews were recorded and transcribed after an informed consent was obtained. All respondents were told that their participation was completely voluntary and they could withdraw from the interview at any time. Moreover, the respondents were assured that the collected data would be kept strictly confidential and reported anonymously. Subsequently, a content analysis on the data obtained was conducted.

4. Findings and discussion

4.1 respondents’ profile.

Six interviews with three room attendants, two supervisors and one assistant manager in the housekeeping department of a research organisation (referred to as “Hotel” in the subsequent mentions in this study) were conducted. The number of male and female respondents was evenly distributed. Their age ranged from 25 to 55, and they have worked for the Hotel between one and six years on average. Most of them completed a secondary or postsecondary education, whereas only one received a tertiary education ( Table 1 ).

Of the 25 workers in the housekeeping department, we had interviews with six, including three males and three females. However, given the general situation in Hong Kong, the majority (20 out of 25) working in the housekeeping department are women in their 40 s ( Census and Statistics Department, 2020b ). There may be various factors for women working in the housekeeping department. The level of salary can be one factor not attractive enough to young males to work for housekeeping ( Baum et al. , 2020 ). However, according to the website of the Hotel, it stated that gender is not a point of consideration in recruitment and the Hotel will only consider employees’ work ability when considering their promotion. We did not specifically ask questions about gender difference in the interviews, but believed the imbalance of female to male ratio in the housekeeping department may be because of various social factors ( Segovia-Perez et al. , 2019 ; Nimri, et al. , 2020 ). With the implementation of SDGs strategies in hotels, it is believed that a more decent environment can be created for women to work.

4.2 Environmental sustainability strategies in housekeeping

4.2.1 reusing and recycling..

All interviewees cited “reuse and recycling” for their first answer in the interview given that the practice was simple and clear. The “three treasures” refer to “shampoo, conditioner and shower gel” bottles which are placed together in the bathroom. Informants were taught to collect reusable amenities in the guestroom and place them in the corresponding collection boxes for reuse if leftovers remain. The Hotel has collaborated with a distilled water brand to provide “light plastic bottles” that can be twisted easily to save space for recycling. The plastic bottles are collected by a recycling company daily. The assistant manager mentioned that a bed linen reuse programme was implemented, in which ripped or stained linen are turned into condemned cloth for cleaning. Ripped pillowcases are reused as excellent dusters for cleaning glasses and mirrors without scratching them. Consistent with previous studies, our findings showed that reusing and recycling material is a widely used practice for green hotels that implement CSR practices ( Sudhagar and Samuel, 2019 ; Chen and Chen, 2012 ).

4.2.2 Integration of environmental considerations in daily operations.

The Hotel integrates environmentally-friendly practices to their operational procedures. The assistant manager mentioned that under the bed linen reuse programme, the bed linen for guests is merely changed during the 1st, 4th and 7th day of their stay, unless the guests place a “Bed Linen Refresh Card” on the bedside to ask for a bed sheet replacement. To enhance energy efficiency, the electricity in the guestrooms can only be turned with a key card inserted into the card slot at the door. The light will be automatically off in five seconds if the key card is removed when guests leave the guestroom. A dual-flush toilet with “full flushing” and “half flushing” buttons is installed. Other environmentally-friendly practices include using a high-power destaining powder and energy-saving equipment. A highly soluble destain powder can dissolve naturally without heavy brushing and rinsing with plenty of water to remove the stain. Energy-saving vacuum machines were also adopted. The Hotel has exerted an effort to update their equipment for improved green practices and efficient use for the employees. These findings are consistent with previous studies, which indicate that hotel chains are prepared to implement practices that reduce energy consumption in their daily operations ( Mak and Chang, 2019 ; Yoon et al. , 2016 ; Casado, 2012 ).

4.3 Benefits of environmentally-friendly strategies in housekeeping

All informants have agreed that housekeeping green practices can contribute to the company’s environmental management programme and generate various benefits for the environment, hotels, housekeeping staff and guests.

4.3.1 Benefit for the environment waste reduction and water and energy conservation..

All room attendants have agreed that the “three treasures” can help reduce waste given that they typically clean about 20 rooms per day. The assistant manager stated that 600 rooms are available in the Hotel, with an average of 80% occupancy rate. Therefore, a total of 1,000 wasted empty bottles were produced daily. The staff members could realise the waste volume generated in the hotel industry, and they have agreed that the “reuse and recycle” practices can help reduce the number of waste, which is beneficial to the hotel industry and its stakeholders. Furthermore, green hotel practices can help reduce the water consumption, thereby benefitting the environment. The supervisor and assistant manager mentioned that water conservation strategies include the use of environmentally-friendly destain powders and the bed linen reuse programme, as well as the use of electronic key cards and dual flush toilets in guestrooms. Results confirm that environmental knowledge, awareness and concern are the key motivational sources for the employees’ ecological behaviour ( Zientara and Zamojska, 2018 ; Chan et al. , 2014 ). From the implemented practices, we found the housekeeping green practices has strived and contributed to attainment of hotel’s environmental sustainability strategies by reducing energy, water consumption and waste generation. Benefits for hotels money saving.

The assistant manager claimed that replacing bed linens less frequently can help save laundry fees given that this chore is one of the largest expenses in the housekeeping department. The laundry company charges the Hotel based on the weight of linen. By reducing the replacement of bed linens, the Hotel can save money, water and energy. The bed linen reuse programme can help reduce the money spent on laundry fees and extend the life cycle of bed linens. This view is consistent with Heney (2009) , who claimed that green practices in housekeeping can provide economic benefit to the hotels. Similar to previous hotel-related studies ( Wan et al. , 2017 ), our findings also indicate that installing water-conserving fixtures, including the dual-flushing systems for toilets in guestrooms, is a common practice for green hotels, thereby decreasing water utility bills. Increasing work efficiency

The assistant manager stated that an insufficient supply of amenities during peak season is evident, given that stocks of amenities merely arrive twice a week. Thus, unused and unopened amenities should be kept. In addition, the newly purchased vacuum machines exhibit better suction power than other types of vacuum machine, which helps save the time and effort in cleaning, increase room availability and create a decent work environment. With less effort to clean the carpet, females are beneficial for their less strong physical strength and the practice of using more powerful vacuum machines thus creates greater gender equality and provides reduced inequalities. The results have demonstrated two things. Firstly, sustainability commitment and business performance are interrelated and interdependent ( Jones and Comfort, 2019 ). Secondly, green practices may be one of the most effective policies to improve the monetary and environmental status of a hotel ( Singh, 2015 ). Benefits for employees.

The provision of green cleaners and detergents was appreciated by all respondents because these cleaners are safer and less harmful to the environment compared with synthetic ones. These findings are consistent with the findings of Fukey and Issac (2014) . Our findings indicate that room attendants approve the bed linen reuse programme because they must only “tidy up” the bed instead of adding another chore of changing the bed linens in every room, except for the guests who have requested for a replacement. Room attendants can save their effort and time in a room given that they must only focus on cleaning the bathroom, which create a more decent work environment with same economic returns. The use of destain powder and the bed linen reuse programme can significantly reduce the workload by decreasing physical work, which is consistent with Chan et al. (2014) , who argued that employees are indispensable in implementing environmental programmes. Operational inconvenience and additional workloads can undermine the successful execution of hotel green practices ( Linneberg et al. , 2019 ). Benefits for guests.

During the interview, the assistant manager mentioned that several guests wrote a message which noted their appreciation of the environmental effort spent by the Hotel. Moreover, the guests were pleased to be part of this effort. For instance, they were given a sense of pleasure and satisfaction as they participate in green practices. This finding is similar to the finding of Sánchez-Ollero et al. (2014) . However, the results contradicted a study in mainland China, which indicated that the green initiatives are insignificant for customer satisfaction ( Lee et al. , 2018 ). Our findings have contradicted previous studies, which indicated that hotel green practices induce a high risk of unpleasant customer experience ( Robinot and Giannelloni, 2010 ). The findings indicated that the customer satisfaction level towards the hotel’s green initiatives may vary in terms of sociocultural backgrounds and cultural values ( Raub and Martin-Rios, 2019 ).

4.4 Barriers lowering the effectiveness of environmentally friendly strategies in housekeeping

4.4.1 heavy workload amongst frontline room attendants..

Owing to the high physical demand and heavy workload, room attendants are more prone to face stress and job burnout than other staff members ( Chiang and Liu, 2017 ; Kensbock et al. , 2017 ). Sorting the “three-treasures” and bringing them back to the collection point downstairs require extra effort especially in peak seasons with hundreds of rooms to clean every day. Room attendants must carry unused amenities around on a small trolley during their work hours. Manpower shortages and heavy workloads are the major barriers to implementing green management in the hotel industry ( Wan et al. , 2017 ).

4.4.2 Lack of enforcement.

The supervisor and the assistant manager likewise claimed that closely monitoring the room attendants’ job performance would be difficult. They stated that several room attendants would throw away toilet supplies. Thus, the “three treasures” practice is merely voluntary and recycling is considered as an “extra duty”, particularly during peak seasons. The supervisory staff members are busy with inspecting the rooms for cleanliness and conducting administrative duties. Thus, they do conduct the first-hand execution of the green policy and cannot take close control whilst room attendants perform their duties, which make the policy “empty” in implementation to a certain extent. This result was supported by Iraldo et al. (2017) , who suggested that an effective sustainability monitoring system is essential to improve the green practice implementation in hotels.

4.4.3 Defective supportive policy.

Room attendant A stated that the cleaning power of the destain powder was not as ideal as the management mentioned given that it takes about 20 min to soak. Room attendant C mentioned that only one bottle of destain powder is provided for each floor, whereas the management instructed to put it back immediately to the pantry after every single use to prevent the bottle from spilling and getting wet. Thus, no room attendant would waste plenty of time on travelling back and forth to get the destain powder. Although new vacuuming machines are available, several room attendants prefer to use the old vacuum machines without excessive suction power, particularly for the carpets in the guestrooms, which require extra strength and effort to be swept. The aforementioned examples have shown actual work environment may become the barriers to effectively implement environmental sustainability strategies. The supportive measures in the green practices are not as employee-friendly as expected, thereby significantly lowering the effectiveness of the green strategies used by the Hotel. Our results are consistent with previous studies, which claimed that resistance to change can reduce the employees’ intention to implement green practices ( Iraldo et al. , 2017 ). This finding is consistent with the findings of extant studies, which indicated that support and commitment from the top management to provide the necessary tools and proper equipment are the key success factors of sustainability management effort ( Mak and Chang, 2019 ).

4.5 Usefulness of housekeeping green practices in contributing to industry’s environmental sustainability strategies and recommendations for improvement

All interviewees have agreed that the environmental strategies applied in housekeeping can help reduce the waste of the hotel industry in general. In addition, the respondents have suggested that improvements can be implemented in the following areas:

4.5.1 Improvement on supportive policy.

Casado (2012) supported that the environmental sustainability philosophy must be integrated into the company’s activities at all levels. For instance, room attendant B suggested that recycling boxes should be collected from the office daily by housemen, who support the housekeeping department staff. Two room attendants also hoped that the recycling boxes should be placed on every floor, instead of placing them in the office. They prioritised convenience for executing green practices, which can be correlated with their heavy workload and hasty working environment ( Sarosi, 2017 ). Certain hotels have implemented the same green initiatives, in which recycle bins are placed on every floor landing for housekeepers to use ( Brown Palace, 2019 ).

4.5.2 Enhancing communication.

All supervisors have agreed that they should be obliged to establish a communication bridge between the management and the frontline employees. Thus, they should be proactive in reflecting the current operational issues, such as relaying the ruling opinion on the new vacuum machines to the department head to solve the problem and implement improvements. Moreover, supervisors should be further proactive in understanding the needs of room attendants, whilst enhancing the communication with the top management to help them set out employee-friendly decisions. Chou (2014) found that personal environmental norms exhibited a stronger effect on employees’ green behaviour than other variables. Furthermore, the senior management should further emphasise green engagement to implement environmental policies, and the human resources management should provide environmental education among employees ( Sudhagar and Samuel, 2019 ; Sourvinou and Filimonau, 2018 ).

4.5.3 Recruitment and understaffing.

Before COVID-19 outbreak, existing hotels have been facing manpower constraints because of an overall decline of the young population’s entrance into the workforce with the aging population, as mentioned during the Hotel Management Asia Summit (2018) that was held on 27 September 2018 in Hong Kong. A serious manpower shortage has occurred in numerous positions, including room attendant, room service butler and floor attendant positions ( VTC, 2018 ). The pro-democracy movement and cumulated impact of the pandemic have caused career discontinuity and underemployment across all tourism-related industry sectors at all levels abruptly to release labour force to other industries ( Yau, 2020 ). Hong Kong’s double whammy of social unrest and the pandemic demonstrated precarious employment of tourism industry practitioners ( Choy and Kamoche, 2020 ). The low income hospitality frontline, young and women workers are among one of the most vulnerable groups at risk of being made redundant or become a victim of underemployment partly because of their limited education and skill level ( Baum et al. , 2020 ) and perennial gender inequalities problem for women in the hospitality industry ( Santero-Sanchez et al. , 2015 ). While tourism and hospitality employees are struggling for alternative employment and some tourism organisations are trying to keep a tether to their manpower pool in wake of COVID-19, it is anticipated that there would be fierce competition for new bloods and those who opt for (or not) staying with their original sector/industry ( Baum et al. , 2020 ). Green practices have created “extra work” and used “additional time” without extra pay that affect employee decision to stay or leave with tourism-related organisations on one hand ( Choy and Kamoche, 2020 ). This may not be a sustainable practice as the SDG framework aims to create a decent work environment and economic growth for the workers on the other hand ( UN, 2015 ).

Supervisor B mentioned that understaffing is an evident issue in the Hotel. For instance, several staff members from the human resources department were called to help with housekeeping during peak seasons. This phenomenon could be the reason why some room attendants were uncooperative with environmental strategies. The supervisor believed that for the long-term benefits of the Hotel, housemen or “green assistants” are employed. Apart from creating more employment opportunities and economic values for all people, this is a better solution than raising the employees’ salary given that the green programme should not be a responsibility of a specific position. Gender stereotypes remain prevalent in the hotel industry, in which millions of women work as room attendants and clean a total of 15.5 million hotel rooms worldwide ( Sarosi, 2017 ). Therefore, the hotel industry should take steps to ensure a decent work environment for all, including women ( UN, 2018 ).

4.5.4 Expand the scope of green practice.

Supervisor A suggested that additional reuse strategies should be used. For example, laundry bags can be reused, particularly when a supply shortage exists. The toilet paper can be retained until the next guest stay provided that the thickness of paper should be greater than 3 cm to facilitate easy usage. The collected “three treasures” can be reused for removing the stench and slight stains of furniture or for use by employees in staff toilets and canteen. The assistant manager also suggested that amenities can be kept for the next stay if the plastic cover remains intact without being opened or getting wet.

4.5.5 Raising employees’ environmental awareness.

Studies reveal that environmental awareness can enhance the employee’s intention to implement green practices ( Chan et al. , 2014 ) and the SDG framework. Supervisor A stated that the Hotel should raise the environmental awareness amongst employees before commanding them to adopt environmental practices. Thus, the employees must be daily reminded about environmental information during the morning briefing. Moreover, inviting staff to join outdoor green activities and letting them feel “green” and enjoy the nature, which is encouraged by the Hotel, is an impressive approach. Thus, the environmentally-friendly concept can be assimilated among themselves. O'Neill (2018) proposed the same idea that having eco-friendly products and processes are not sufficient if employees do not practice them. Each staff member’s beliefs with regard to environmentally-friendly practices are the most significant. Hotels should offer training courses for their staff to conserve resources, which may be wasted otherwise ( Sourvinou and Filimonau, 2018 ; Chou, 2014 ).

5. Conclusion

Multiple environmentally-friendly strategies are applied in the housekeeping department of the sample Hotel. Firstly, the reuse and recycle policy is implemented. Several housekeeping staff members recycle the toilet amenities and plastic water drinking bottles. Secondly, the Hotel develops its own linen reuse programme for the guests and the staff. Thirdly, green concepts including the SDG strategies proposed by UNs for the enhancement of hardware and equipment should be introduced in the housekeeping department. These practices include the use of electronic key cards, low-flush toilets, destain powders and new vacuum machines. Green practices have brought various benefits to the Hotel in particular and the hotel industry in general based on various perspectives. These practices can help protect the environment by reducing waste generation and water and energy consumption. Furthermore, they can reduce the expenses of the Hotel and increase the efficiency of cleaning rooms. From the employees’ perspective, environmentally-friendly strategies can protect their health and significantly save their physical strength that was spent on cleaning. However, barriers that limits the effectiveness and thus reduces the benefits of green practices remain. For instance, the heavy workload of frontline employees is a reason why environmentally-friendly strategies cannot be successfully practiced. In addition, management issues, including the lack of enforcement and incomprehensible support policy, are also responsible for the ineffectiveness of the implementation of green practices.

All informants have agreed that housekeeping green practices contribute to the environmental sustainability strategies of sample Hotel as well as the hotel industry in Hong Kong at large. Multiple suggestions to address the limitations of green practices are provided by the frontline and the top management employees. Frontline employees believe that they would be further motivated if green practices provide convenience and rewards. Supervisors state that the management should start from the basics such as improving communication, creating decent jobs and raising the environmental awareness amongst employees. Green hotel initiatives should be operationally practical and sustainable to benefit the entire tourism industry. This study reveals the actual working environment in the housekeeping department of a hotel and the staff’s perception towards environmental sustainability strategies. In this study, one of the most significant findings reported that a difference has consistently existed between expected outcomes and actual results. Communication and mutual understanding between the top management and the frontline employees are the foundations that yield efficient housekeeping practices in hotels. Environmental sustainability is a continuous journey that requires on-going improvement in micro and macro levels within the hotel industry. In this study, we focussed on reviewing the implementation barriers and actual practices in the housekeeping department of a hotel, without examining other departments in the hotel industry. Green practices should be adopted for the whole tourism industry but not just the hotels themselves. How the green practices can be promoted to the entire tourism is worth for further studies.

Profile of respondents

*Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

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Further reading

Alarcón , D.M. and Cole , S. ( 2018 ), “ No sustainability for tourism without gender equality ”, Journal of Sustainable Tourism , Vol. 27 No. 7 , pp. 903 - 919 .

Paraskevas , A. and Brookes , M. ( 2018 ), “ Human trafficking in hotels: an ‘invisible’ threat for a vulnerable industry ”, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management , Vol. 30 No. 3 , pp. 1996 - 2014 .

Corresponding author

About the authors.

Dr Monica Choy is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Management and Hospitality at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong. Prior to embarking on her career in education, she acquired extensive business experience in the tourism and commercial sectors. She studied in China, Australia and Japan, and holds a BCom from the Curtin University of Technology, an MBA degree from the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales, an MSc in Hotel and Tourism Management from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a DBA from the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research interests include tourism management and human resources management issues. She has published various articles in journals, such as current issues in tourism.

Justin Cheng is a Former Instructor of the Division of Continuing Professional Education in Hong Kong Institute of Education (now The Hong Kong Education University). He has taught few courses on the use of English language. He also acted as an Editor for a number of books and journals in an international publishing house. Justin holds a master’s degree in Communication and New Media from City University of Hong Kong and a bachelor’s degree in Contemporary English Language from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Karl Yu holds a bachelor's degree in Hotel Operations Management from the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong, and is now an Industry Practitioner of an international hotel chain in Hong Kong.

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green tourism hong kong

3 new eco tours in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is now offering green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong . HKTB is encouraging visitors to take a closer look at Hong Kong’s lesser-known natural treasures with a range of new green tours , launched under HKTB’s Great Outdoors campaign .

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Sai Kung Geopark.

HKTB is offering five tours , each run by qualified eco-tour guides. The tours will operate under a trial period until the end of June 2018.


Andrew Clark, HKTB Regional Director – Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, said the introduction of these new activities will enhance Hong Kong’s tourism product and provide visitors with the opportunity to learn more about Hong Kong’s local geology and ecology .

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Yi O Farm Tour.

“The HKTB initiated scheme will provide funding support for local travel operators to assist them in developing new green tour products , whilst also encouraging visitors to explore the enchanting landscapes beyond Hong Kong ,” Mr Clark said.


1 lai chi wo hiking tour.

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Lai Chi Wo Tour.

Dating back over 400 years, Lai Chi Wo was once among the most affluent villages in the Northeastern New Territories . The houses and the feng shui woods behind the village remain well preserved.

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Lai Chi Wo Tour.

The guided tour leads you to the largest bed of Coastal Heritiera (Heritiera Littoralis) in Hong Kong and the White-flower Derris which forms a ‘natural swing’ along the mangroves. Following the coastline, you will see the impressive reddish landscape caused by 400 million years of rock oxidation . The tour runs for eight hours and starts at HK$1,000 per person including lunch.


2 Geopark Hiking Tour

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Sai Kung Geopark.

The long and sinuous coastline at Sai Kung is a natural geological gallery, featuring spectacular landforms and rock formations shaped by volcanic activity 140 million years ago, as well as waves and weathering. The guided tour takes you through magnificent hexagonal columnar joints, a natural tombolo at Sharp Island and an inland water dam wall at High Island Reservoir . The tour runs for eight hours and starts at HK$1,000 per person including lunch.

3 Geopark Boat Tour Sai Kung Islands

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Sai Kung Geopark.

Sai Kung boasts the longest stretch of coastline and the most outlying islands in Hong Kong , with unique scenery and extraordinary rugged profiles. The tour guides you through Hong Kong’s rich geo-diversity which includes magnificent sea stacks, breathtaking tubular rock columns and sea caves, typical coastal terrain, the rare acidic hexagonal volcanic rock columns of High Island , and rhyolite on Sharp Island . The tour runs for three hours and starts at HK$975 per person.

Additional Green Eco-Friendly Tours coming soon in Hong Kong:

1 lantau south .

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Yi O Farm Tours.

Lantau Island is rich in ecological resources . Due to its geographic limitations, Tai O, an area on the island , was much slower to urbanise, and to this day retains a wealth of eco-cultural treasures, including stilt houses, salt field relics and Chinese White Dolphins which live in the waters surrounding the area. Visitors can experience farming at the nearby village of Yi O , where terraced rice paddies can still be found. The tour runs for six hours and starts at HK$450 per person.

2 Rock Academy Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Sai Kung Geopark.

There is evidence of volcanic activity in Hong Kong dating back 140 million years. In Sai Kung, there is a caldera , which is the result of a volcanic eruption. This guided tour will take you through interesting geological formations to explore aged rocks specimens , minerals, fossils and evidence of tidal influences.

HKTB offers green eco-friendly tours in Hong Kong. Sai Kung Geopark.

You will get a chance to walk over a naturally occurring 250-metre long tombolo on Sharp Island to reach Kiu Tau , before paying a visit to the Volcano Discovery Centre at Sai Kung Pier and Lions Nature Education Centre in Tsiu Hang . The tour runs for five hours and starts at HK$450 per person.

green tourism hong kong


  • Jul 21, 2022

GREEN Conference 2022: Setting a Roadmap for Green Recovery of the Hospitality and Tourism Sectors

GREEN Conference 2022

Hong Kong, 21 July 2022 For four days from 5 to 8 July, GREEN Hospitality brought together 400 people representing hospitality businesses, start-ups, academia, civil society, the public, and the government, with the aim of facilitating cross-sector collaboration co-creating innovative solutions for the green recovery of the hospitality and tourism sectors in Hong Kong.

green tourism hong kong

In her opening keynote, Lucia Loposova , Executive Director of GREEN Hospitality, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an estimated 65 million job losses in the travel and tourism sector worldwide. With the sector accounting for one in every 10 jobs around the world, as well as 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it plays a critical role as the catalyst for sustainability. And that is why we are here at GREEN Conference 2022 today: To explore and establish meaningful collaborations and partnerships that can move the needle towards the Hospitality Agenda 2030.”

The Conference is part of GREEN Hospitality’s Green Recovery for the Tourism and Hospitality Industries in Hong Kong Through Technology & Innovation project, with grant support from the Innovation and Technology Fund.

Held in person at Eaton Club Central and live-streamed online, GREEN Conference 2022 was a much-needed in-person event to turn ideas into actions, and jumpstart the green recovery of the hospitality and tourism sectors in Hong Kong.

green tourism hong kong

Said Christine Loh , Chief Development Strategist, Institute for the Environment at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology: “Hong Kong needs to rethink what are the kinds of unique experiences travellers can’t get elsewhere – forget ‘eat and shop till you drop’ – make sustainability unforgettable. Government and the hospitality industry must cooperate to create the transformation by by 2030, and GREEN Hospitality can help to facilitate that process.”

green tourism hong kong

In validation of GREEN Hospitality’s Zero-waste to Landfill for the F&B Industry project, Theresa Wu , Principal Environmental Protection Officer (Community Relations), Environmental Protection Department, said in her keynote speech on the last day of the Conference: “I’m glad to know that GREEN Hospitality is taking the lead in driving sustainability efforts, especially in relation to waste reduction and recycling in preparation for the implementation of the MSW Charging Scheme.”

The high-level panel discussions and interactive and informational workshops throughout the four-day Conference were designed around topical themes pertinent to the hospitality and tourism sectors: Food Technology, Employment and Empowerment, Textile Innovation, Sustainable Tourism and Events, Green Building and Net Zero, Waste Management and Circularity .

green tourism hong kong

Involving 50 subject matter experts representing 27 sectors, the seven panel discussions and 15 case study sharing shed light on the various sustainability challenges and the innovative solutions that could expedite green recovery for Hong Kong.

green tourism hong kong

To quote Carmen Ng , Director of Sustainability, Langham Hospitality Group , on decarbonisation: “You just need to start. Langham Hospitality Group launched our ten-year sustainability strategy in 2019, with a goal to reduce carbon intensity by 50% by 2030. While hotels are not required to conduct energy audits, we ordered it to be done for our Hong Kong properties this year. Once we have the audit results, we will better understand how to reduce their carbon emissions. We all must do this together to get on the decarbonisation journey.”

In addition to accelerating action and collaboration, equally important to goal-setting and solution-implementation is to “Keep it simple. Grow infrastructure. Develop habits,” advised Helga Vanthournout , Consultant at ADM Capital Foundation and Eat Without Waste , during her presentation on solutions to a circular economy for plastics.

This was echoed by André Russ , Vice President of Sales & Business Development at EarthCheck : “True sustainability is achieved when a business or a destination focuses on doing ordinary things well, which requires adopting an outcome-driven approach to measuring, monitoring, and managing resource consumption.”

green tourism hong kong

Paramount to advancing sustainability is entrepreneurship and innovation, as Adrian Chung , General Manager of Proof & Company , demonstrated through his company’s closed-loop spirits distribution system, ecoSPIRITS .

green tourism hong kong

But great innovations can only succeed in market penetration with the buy-in and sustained support of clients who are willing to take a leap of faith and bear the extra cost, such as The Pontiac , one of Asia’s 50 Best Bars and one of the F&B partners of GREEN Hospitality’s Zero-waste to Landfill for the F&B Industry project. Said Jennifer Queen, Bar Director: “We wanted to join the pilot programme to show that if we can do it, everyone else can do it too. We are okay to be vulnerable and transparent, in order to learn and move forward.”

green tourism hong kong

On the corporate level, the key to gaining significant ground in the sustainability journey lies in employee empowerment, which can lead to value alignment with the company. Said Mabel Sieh , Director of Corporate Social Responsibility, Audience Growth, South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. : “Every employee, at some point in their life, is going to ask themselves, ‘What is my purpose in life?’ And every leader can help them answer this question. This is how you can empower your employees.”

Beyond the panel discussions, GREEN Conference 2022 also featured forward-thinking FoodTech startups and their innovative food solutions, as well as trailblazing organisations and individuals in sustainability, who conducted educational and interactive workshops on supply chain transparency, food waste reduction through fermentation, SDG strategies, and water conservation.

“The Conference itself showcases that broad collaboration and knowledge exchange are the crucial first steps to driving a green recovery for the hospitality and tourism sectors in Hong Kong,” said Luciane Zanella , Manager of Partnerships & Projects at GREEN Hospitality. “At GREEN, we are happy to be able to draw upon our rich experience in sharing knowledge, creating alliances and finding solutions to deliver this sustainable event to fast-track sustainability in Hong Kong.”

If you would like to revisit GREEN Conference 2022, check out the image gallery of highlights here .

Impact Numbers at a Glance

250 delegates attended in person

50 speakers and moderators

15 sponsors and partners

12 tasting session partners

27 sectors represented

7 panel discussions

4 workshops

150 people reached via live-streaming


GREEN Conference 2022 could not have come to such a fruitful conclusion without our Sponsors and Partners. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to:

Our Sponsors

Funding Organisation: The Innovation and Technology Commission

Venue Sponsor: Eaton Club

Event Sponsor: Invest Hong Kong

Our Content Partners

The Mills Fabrica

The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel Limited (“HKRITA”)

The Hong Kong Green Building Council Limited

ADM Capital Foundation

Eat Without Waste

Our Community Partners

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

The European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong

The British Consulate-General in Hong Kong

Foundation for Shared Impact

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More green tourism facilities needed, says Holden Chow

The DAB lawmaker said mainland tourist were fond of Hong Kong scenery but that more facilities, like catering, were needed. Photo: Shutterstock

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Encyclopedia of Tourism pp 1–2 Cite as

Green Tourism

  • Pedro Pintassilgo 3  
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The concept of green tourism has evolved over time and is presently used with different meanings. The original one, spread during the 1980s, stands for small-scale tourism which involves visiting natural areas while minimizing environmental impacts. In this line, green tourism has been used interchangeably with such concepts as ecotourism, nature tourism, and rural tourism (Sung-kwon et al. 2003 ). Businesses have generally adopted a broader meaning for green tourism: any tourism activity operating in an environmentally friendly manner.

Recently, international organizations have defined the notion in line with the concept of sustainable tourism, which also considers other dimensions than environmental protection. In fact, for the World Tourism Organization, green tourism consists of “tourism activities that can be maintained, or sustained, indefinitely in their social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts” (UNWTO 2012 : 1). For the United Nations Environment Programme, green...

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Line, Nathaniel, Lydia Hanks, and Li Miao. 2017. Image matters: Incentivizing green tourism behavior. Journal of Travel Research 57 (3): 296–309.

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Pintassilgo, Pedro, Patrícia Pinto, Andreia Costa, António Matias, and Maria Helena Guimarães. 2021. Environmental attitudes and behaviour of birdwatchers: A missing link. Tourism Recreation Research .

Sung-kwon, Hong, Seong-il Kim, and Jae-hyun Kim. 2003. Implications of potential green tourism development. Annals of Tourism Research 30: 323–341.

United Nations Environment Programme. 2011. Towards a green economy: Pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication . Geneva: United Nations Environment Programme.

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UNWTO. 2012. Tourism in the green economy: Background report . Madrid: World Tourism Organization.

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Faculty of Economics and Center for Advanced Studies in Management and Economics (CEFAGE), University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal

Pedro Pintassilgo

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Correspondence to Pedro Pintassilgo .

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School of Hospitality Leadership, University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie, WI, USA

Jafar Jafari

School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Honggen Xiao

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Makerere University Business School, Kampala, Uganda

Peter U. C. Dieke PhD

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Pintassilgo, P. (2022). Green Tourism. In: Jafari, J., Xiao, H. (eds) Encyclopedia of Tourism. Springer, Cham.

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Received : 18 May 2021

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Published : 08 December 2022

Publisher Name : Springer, Cham

Print ISBN : 978-3-319-01669-6

Online ISBN : 978-3-319-01669-6

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