Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative


Dr. Sonya Graci

Dr. Sonya Graci

A Passion for Sustainable Tourism: Dr. Sonya Graci's story

Sonya's passion for sustainability began in the early 1990s when she began her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Toronto. Having been an avid traveler since she was a child, it was natural for her to apply her passion for sustainability in the tourism industry to her studies.

In the fourth year of her undergraduate degree she worked on developing a green hotels project for the City of Toronto. It was this project that furthered her passion for "greening" hotels. Having worked for the government, she was experienced in developing non-regulatory programs, and the hotel industry was the perfect place to apply her skills for reducing impact on the environment and local communities.

During her Masters degree at the University of Toronto, Sonya worked on developing a green hotels program for the Toronto Olympic bid. She also focused her Masters thesis on greening the hotel industry in Toronto. In her Ph.D. she wrote her thesis on greening of the hotel industry in Sanya, a coastal city in the Chinese province of Hainan. She also worked on developing multi-stakeholder partnerships with the hotel industry in Sanya and conducted several workshops on how to go green. Since her Ph.D. she has worked on greening hotels in many regions of the world.

In 2005, she began Accommodating Green, a boutique consultancy specifically dedicated to greening hotels and sustainable tourism. She also published her first book 'Can Hotels Accommodate Green' in 2009.

Sonya is still very active in greening the tourism industry. She is a co-founder of the Icarus Foundation, Canada's first not-for-profit organization, focused on making Canada an environmentally sustainable and climate friendly tourist destination. She is currently on the Sustainable Hospitality Council, which is made up of experts in hotel greening within North America.

Sonya is an Assistant Professor with the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto, and teaches students about the importance of managing the tourism industry with sustainability as the key focus. She has recently published her second book, Sustainable Tourism in Island Destinations.

Sonya continues to travel the world, working with communities and tourism organizations to integrate sustainability into their operations, and most importantly, into their philosophy.

Jacqueline Kuehnel

Jacqueline Kuehnel

The Slow Road to Sustainability

Jacqueline's sustainable tourism journey developed in an organic, albeit slow way. She started working in the travel industry in 1980, shortly after arriving to Canada from her native Uruguay. Her career began as a sales representative for a Canadian tour operator, and when she left the business in 2004, she was Vice President of Product Development for Signature Vacations Canada (currently owned by TUI Plc).

For twenty six years, Jacqueline traveled through the Americas and the Caribbean, inspecting and contracting thousands of hotels to package with charter flights. In just a quarter of a century, almost all of the destinations experienced some form of mass tourism development, often with little or no long-term environmental impact assessments; sustainability, responsibility and "green", were on the periphery of any meaningful business decision.

The environmental and social impacts of mass tourism were not well documented at the time, but it was not difficult for Jacqueline to see that some of the world's most delicate and pristine areas were being transformed forever - and not always for the better. As a senior travel executive responsible for over 700,000 travelers a year in over 40 destinations, Jacqueline intuitively knew that this pace of development would ultimately become unsustainable. In 2004, changes at Signature Vacations provided Jacqueline with the opportunity to reinvent herself and her role in the travel industry.

JK Consulting Enterprises was born in 2004 and was built in partnership with organizations such as Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, The CarbonNeutral Company, The Caribbean Tourism Organization, InterVISTAS, Vox International and Baxter Travel Media where she chairs the annual Responsible Travel and Tourism Forum. These associations provided the foundation to build knowledge on sustainability, climate change, greening of travel industry suppliers, and other projects.

Jacqueline completed a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Certificate at the University of Toronto, and her MBA Applied Research Project is focused on developing a model for measuring sustainability indicators for tour operators. She is also a sessional lecturer on Tourism at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Toronto and has published research on corporate social responsibility and Canadian tour operators with Dr. Rachel Dodds, associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.

The Green Hotels and Responsible Tourism Initiative provided her with a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and best practices of how travelers and tourism suppliers can help to preserve the places we love to visit.