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Tourism: Hotels, Theme Parks, Cruise Lines and Sustainability

Between the shores and at the heart of Florida’s tourism industry are theme parks, hotels and cruise lines which welcome millions of families and employ hundreds of thousands of locals.

Companies that operate in these areas have to begin to be mindful of preserving the natural attractions that tourism has thrived on for generations. As these attractions are threatened by unregulated human activities, organizations in the tourism and hospitality industries that prioritize sustainable practices are standing out more than ever. 

Tourists and locals are becoming increasingly eco-conscious within the hospitality industry, and studies from as early as 2017 show that about 20% of consumers would happily pay for the difference, and by 2019, over 70% reported to at least consider these factors when booking vacations. 

Net-zero buildings are also becoming more realistic with biomimicry and sustainable architecture, and these are the adaptations that will be searched for by the end of the decade. 

Theme Parks

While the region is working to recover from the effects of the pandemic in the tourism and hospitality industries, there were still over 85 million visitors in 2020. Many corporations took advantage of these circumstances to renovate with new sustainability goals in mind. 

The Walt Disney Company has allowed public access to their “2030 Environment Goals” plan for the following:

- Reducing direct operational emissions and carbon electricity to zero
- Strategize how to use water and source seafood ethically 
- Eliminate landfill diversion 
- Implementing sustainable manufacturing and recycling practices for textiles and packaging
- Optimizing future designs through water and waste efficiencies

In the company’s words, “business has an integral role to play in the transition to a low-carbon future aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the latest science from the IPCC.” Already obtaining LEED certifications across several of their new projects - ranging from resorts to remote data centers - Disney continues to be a role model for environmentally-friendly innovation in the tourism industry. 

Cruise Lines

South Florida is home to an extensive array of marine life and home to a vibrant culture, which requires a balance between conservationism and socioeconomic development. PortMiami in Miami-Dade County has also taken the tourist hiatus as an opportunity to pursue changes to benefit both. Before the global COVID-19 pandemic, passengers and crews accounted for approximately half of that generated along the United State’s coasts, and associated offshore spending surpassed $1 billion.

PortMiami's Green Ports program represents the mission to maintain its “clean port” designation, and it has earned its Silver Leed Certification for newer structures, as well as interior and exterior rehabilitation projects. With the development of Terminal F and manufacturing new Carnival ships powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), the doorway is opening for continued sustainable practices. Carnival cruise line has also partnered with Shell to take this concept one step further in developing Bio-LNG, or a biofuel that breaks down organic waste, reduces particulate matter emissions, and is almost CO2 neutral.

In March 2021, the county’s Short to Power Pilot Program was created to reduce emissions created by ships that were docked; however, they needed to keep their engines on to provide power to those on board. It plans to involve six prominent cruise companies, including Carnival Corporation, Disney Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean. 

In a press release, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided to allocate $2 million towards the project, which will go a long way toward funding shore power. If successful, PortMiami will be the first seaport in the region to provide this service. 

Plans to upgrade stormwater systems, conducting more thorough and frequent inspections of equipment and infrastructure, and participating in coral reef research and restoration programs will mitigate the effects of this industry within and around the port as tourism begins to pick up again. 


When vacations are planned around cruises or theme parks, the need for accommodations is implied. As of May 2021, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation counted over 450,000 hotels in Florida. In South Florida, there are a lot of old buildings that are being repurposed in an eco-friendly way to follow the growth trend and meet tourists’ needs. 

An example is Miami’s 1 Hotel, which became LEED-certified by recycling construction waste, utilizing natural elements and reclaimed material for its ceilings and rooms, and creating a low-flow plumbing system that reuses water from its cooling tower to water the vegetation on the premises. Their interior design and resource management are entirely eco-friendly and curated with the intention of strengthening the connection between guests and nature. 

Hotels do not have to venture so far from tradition to set green goals, however. Several hotels are making adjustments to their operations by switching to LED lighting, incorporating UV windows, and recycling plastic key cards. Many are also investing in quick-dry linens and towel reuse programs. 

The Florida Green Lodging program is associated with almost 400 hotels like these statewide that adhere to more progressive conservational guidelines. These include waste reduction, water conservation, and increasing energy efficiency. As a result, these properties are given preference when government agencies are booking hotels for wide-scale events and are shown to have higher occupancy rates overall. 
All Universal Orlando resort hotels are members of this program, as well as the Orlando Green Business Certification Program. Rooms have programmable, energy-saving thermostats, along with efficient lighting and plumbing. Each guest has access to “green bags” for wide-range recycling, and all paper products already present in the hotel have already been recycled. Through advanced partnerships like Clean the World and Second Harvest Food Bank, no food or hygiene products go to waste.

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