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Meet Anastasia Mexa, a Travelife Approved Auditor
Each month we feature an interview with a Travelife Approved Auditor. We have around 50 independently contracted auditors based around the world that must undergo an intensive training programme before they can audit with us. To continue carrying out audits for Travelife they must complete annual refresher training and a yearly performance review. Click here to find out more about our requirements for auditors.
Languages: Greek, English, Italian (intermediate), French (intermediate), Spanish (beginner)
Total auditing experience: 16 years
Travelife auditing experience: 1 year
Specialisations: Sustainability, health and safety, food safety and hygiene, ISO standards (9001, 22000, 14001, 45001)
Auditing fields: Accommodation, agriculture, construction, factories, food and beverage, HORECA, banking
Anastasia has worked in the hotel sector for more than 20 years, experiencing first-hand how travel trends and hotel operations have changed over the years, namely the need to adopt more sustainable practices. She says this is particularly true in destinations like Cyprus where tourism is an economic pillar, and therefore something that needs to be preserved for longevity.
After studying labour and human rights in Corfu, Anastasia started her hotel career in 2000 when she moved to Cyprus and worked as a quality coordinator for a 5-star hotel. This led to a greater understanding of the various standards hotels should be meeting across health and safety, quality control and environmental management. She qualified as an internal auditor for various ISO standards in these fields and eventually trained as a lead ISO standards auditor.
“When I saw that Travelife was looking for new auditors I did not hesitate... it was another chance to promote sustainability and to help create a world where every human has access to basic resources, that are managed so they never run out, all whilst helping boost economic wellbeing.”
In 2007 a hotel she was working with became Travelife Certified, changing her entire outlook on sustainability, something she had previously felt related purely to environmental performance. She saw that truly sustainable tourism involves a holistic approach, taking into account other factors such as social and economic impacts, fair labour conditions and human rights.
This led to her becoming a passionate advocate for sustainability certification in the accommodation sector, something that could significantly contribute to the long-term prosperity of tourism in Cyprus, so she began her own consultancy business that would enable her to work with more hotels on helping them implement sustainability standards.
Anastasia completed her Travelife auditor training shortly before the pandemic so was only able to begin auditing solo for Travelife in 2021, however, she has already audited numerous hotels in Cyprus and Greece. She told us she was encouraged by how committed Travelife properties remained to sustainable business practices, despite the challenges they faced due to the pandemic. She told us of several examples such as the hotel that has built a traditional Cypriot kitchen in the hotel where guests can have cooking lessons using herbs grown at the property, helping guests to learn about Cypriot cooking and culture. Another hotel in Greece has vastly reduced water use by studying where shade is provided on their grounds at different times of the day, then planting species accordingly to reduce the need for irrigation.
“It’s never too late to start being a sustainable business and it is not as complicated as you might think – even the simplest and smallest steps will make a difference.”
She says the first step is to identify all areas and practices to be improved, remembering that sustainability is not only energy, water and waste management. Do not forget your people, your stakeholders, labour and human rights, animal welfare and community integration.
The next step is to set your sustainability vision and policy, then integrating this into all of your business planning by setting SMART sustainability goals, with progress being regularly monitored and evaluated.
However, Anastasia believes that commitment and passion are the two most important factors. That means committing to achieving your goals and engaging your staff and other stakeholders, such as guests, so that they become passionate advocates of all your business is trying to achieve.
Her final piece of advice is for businesses to look beyond all the paperwork and consider the Travelife audit process as an opportunity for further improvement, viewing their auditor as a stakeholder who shares the same vision as they do.
Top tips from Anastasia for sustainable living
Adopt the ‘9Rs of circularity’ when it comes to purchasing and waste (refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, refurbish, re-manufacture, re-purpose, recycle, recover).
Choose green destinations and properties for your travels.
Reconsider your dietary needs, don’t let habit, tradition and what’s easily available and affordable, dictate your eating habits.
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