In Monaco, Sustainable Tourism Isn't Just A Buzz Phrase

By Jamie Nonis

Estelle Antognelli, the head of the corporate social responsibility department at the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority, discusses the principality's sustainability goals and the actions it has already taken to meet them

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Cover  The Salle Garnier, home of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo (Photo: Getty Images)

It seems rather paradoxical, doesn’t it? The notion of sustainable tourism, when the very act of travelling entails incurring a greater carbon footprint.

Sitting on the French Riviera with the Mediterranean Sea at its doorstep, Monaco has long been regarded as a playground for the rich and famous to holiday in Western Europe.

Now with revenge travel in full swing following two years of travel restrictions, it’s more important than ever to preserve fragile ecosystems that will again be at risk of overconsumption and overtourism. And in the case of Monaco, bridging the gap between luxury and responsible tourism is a priority. 

Read more: Have A Green Holiday In Monaco—One Of The World's Leading Sustainable Travel Destinations

Under the stewardship of HSH Prince Albert II, the principality has been working to align itself with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in its commitment toward transitioning its tourism sector to becoming more environmentally conscious.

A few years ago, the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority established a department dedicated to sustainable tourism to further cement its environmental policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent (from its 1990 levels) by 2030.

Monaco has also declared an objective to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

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Greenery can be found on many rooftops of buildings in Monaco (Photo: Getty Images)
Above  Greenery can be found on many rooftops of buildings in Monaco (Photo: Getty Images)

The onus of achieving these greener objectives doesn’t lie on the government alone, says Estelle Antognelli, head of the corporate social responsibility department at the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority, who has been tasked with leading this movement.

“Sustainable development is everyone's business at all levels,” she says. “It requires the cooperation of all actors, whether public or private. Everyone has a role to play.”

To this end, Antognelli recommends tourist destinations work in a concerted effort with local agencies and visitors. “The destination must put in place all the solutions necessary to respect local development, the protection of the environment, and the preservation of resources so that the visitor has the means to adopt practices to reduce their impact or have a positive impact on the destination.”

She also cautions that this is a continuous process that must be constantly reviewed and adjusted where needed. “It is necessary to know the obstacles as well as the strong points of the destination in order to define areas for improvement and act accordingly.”

Read more: How to Be a Sustainable Traveller in 2022? It’s Easier Than You Think

In 2021, the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority published a white paper on responsible tourism outlining areas for improvement and actions to be taken by the principality, in line with its energy transition objectives and sustainable development goals set by the UN.

Five major strategic axes were defined as part of a three-year action plan to enable Monaco to maintain its sustainable positioning: train and raise awareness, communicate and improve visibility, reduce impact, develop tourism for all and by all, and measure.

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Estelle Antognelli, the head of responsible tourism at the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority (Photo: Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority)
Above  Estelle Antognelli, the head of responsible tourism at the Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority (Photo: Monaco Government Tourist and Convention Authority)

Some of the initiatives organised to raise awareness include events and campaigns to fight against food waste and highlight the importance of protecting biodiversity.

In 2018, the agency launched the “Green is the New Glam” campaign to promote Monaco as a destination that is as environmentally conscious as it is glamorous.

To date, 88 percent of its hotels, including the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel, are green-certified, and 97 percent of them are signatories of its National Energy Transition Pact, which details its commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The hotels in Monaco have also set up internal “green teams” dedicated to propelling the sustainable development of their properties.

Read more: Potato Head Founder Ronald Akili Talks Sustainability, Hope and Pride of Place

Within Antognelli’s own sustainable tourism department, “Monaco Green Days” are organised to raise awareness and encourage more green tourism options in the principality among visitors and locals alike.

With talk of sustainability, there is, invariably, the question of greenwashing. So, how can other countries and destinations sidestep this potential quagmire?

“Greenwashing can be avoided by implementing concrete actions, measured through the creation of indicators. Certifications can also be a pledge of confidence provided that is recognised and approved by external auditors,” Antognelli says.

That said, what is important beyond certification, she adds, are the actions that establishments put in place to obtain them. And this goes back to the fifth strategic axis of measuring the outcome.

By measuring and quantifying its sustainable development, a destination can track and assess its progress, encourage participation by stakeholders, evaluate the tradeoffs of sustainability, achieve and anticipate new requirements, overcome obstacles, reward good work, and communicate benefits and goals. With this, it has a better statistical compass to navigate its way to a greener future.

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