Public Affairs

CSU Sustains Hospitality and Tourism in California

July 8, 2011
By Erik Fallis

California is the number one state for tourism in the nation.  While Disneyland, Hollywood and the Golden Gate bridge certainly do their part, much of the tourism has less to do with human creations and more to do with the state's natural gifts: a mild climate, hundreds of miles of coastline, soaring mountain peaks, lush forests, fertile valleys and vast deserts.  California is a poster child for diverse climates and ecosystems.

So, how do we maintain the environment that creates this powerful draw while serving some 300 million visitors annually?  The California State University has a prominent role in addressing this question.  Below are a few examples of how CSU campuses have taken the lead on sustainable tourism.

Getting the word out

Many people are gravitating toward destinations that promise sustainable tourism.  The California Travel and Tourism Commission is addressing that demand through a sustainable tourism program that will help maintain California's prominence in the field.  The question posed by the commission is: How do accommodations, attractions and destinations that are legitimately moving toward sustainable best practices market their efforts?  The answer to that question by Cal Poly SLO Recreation, Parks, & Tourism Administration faculty members William Hendricks and Jerusha Greenwood, with students Dani Correll and Tyson Stockton, resulted in an online "Sustainable Tourism Marketing Handbook."

The bottom line

Business students recently served as consultants, advising the Waterfront Beach Resort on ways the hotel could be more sustainable. Photo courtesy of Waterfront Beach Resort.As the economy faltered, many companies had to pull back on expenditures.  For some, this included putting sustainability in the back seat to other priorities.  At the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort in Huntington Beach, a team of senior business administration majors at CSU Fullerton were able to demonstrate ways to be sustainable and enhance business operations.  With many of the recommendations now in place, the benefits will be assessed over the next several years.

Mechelle N. Best, an assistant professor of Recreation and Tourism Management at CSU Northridge, has also trained undergraduate and graduate students to conduct environmental management assessments.  The assessments establish current baseline performance for water and energy use, evaluate the extent to which environmental best practices are incorporated, identify the environmental aspects most effectively and least effectively addressed by the property, and recommend improvements in environmental performance.

We all have to eat

Inevitably, travelers will get hungry.  Bringing food to the table and then dealing with the leftovers is a huge commitment of resources.  Food's carbon footprint emerges through truck-miles traveled, fossil fuel based fertilizers, processing and refrigeration.  The recently established College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) Center for Sustainability at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo will take on issues of food in restaurants, hospitality, tourism and events by offering sustainability assessments and conducting nutrient cycling projects such as composting. 

The Sun never sets

About two years ago, the business sustainability manager for the British Standards Institution addressed CSU Chico students on a new standard for sustainable events.  That lesson resonated, as demonstrated in the sixth "This Way to Sustainability" Conference.  The student-run conference was a perfect opportunity to learn practices for running sustainable events and being wise about resources in facility management.  The entire conference had a vibe that reflected the unique campus and community – an approach that could be described as the Chico way.

CSU faculty also cross borders and oceans to share sustainability expertise.  Melanie Spielman, chair of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism at CSU East Bay, and Bijan Gillani, a professor of educational technology, are working with Utalii College in Nairobi, Kenya.  Their goal is to utilize e-learning and other technologies to teach workers and managers at tourist locations in and around wildlife reserves techniques that enhance sustainable practices.

Meeting the demand

Many CSU campuses are located near major entertainment venues.  At CSU Dominguez Hills, the venue is on the campus.  The Home Depot Center is a unique 125-acre combination of four sports facilities for soccer, tennis, track, field, and in-door Olympic cycling.  It also features the CSUDH baseball field.  The center does it part for the environment by recycling, minimizing water use and purchasing sustainable products.  Yet, it goes one-step further by linking energy consumption to the need of the California power grid and reducing use during peak demand.  All of these sustainable practices help inform future leaders of major sporting venues who are part of the CSUDH Sports Entertainment & Hospitality Management program.