Today’s camping experience is a far cry from the sagging tents and overflowing toilets of yesteryear. Guests increasingly expect great hospitality, convenience, comfort ‘and’ respect for nature. This is embodied in the Eiermann family-run Höhencamping Königskanzel site in the Black Forest – a founding member of the German EcoCamping network since 2002 and now a proud holder of the EU Ecolabel, the official European Union label for environmental excellence.
Not to be confused with the growing luxury camping or ‘glamping’ market, eco-camping is as much about respecting nature as it is about the daily routines of running a tourism business in a sustainable and efficient way.
Already a clear market trend with an annual estimated growth of 14.3%, Covid-19 has no doubt added to eco-tourism’s momentum. According to a recent publication by the United Nations “This crisis is […] an unprecedented opportunity to transform the relationship of tourism with nature, climate and the economy,” something the Eiermanns are taking full advantage of.
For Höhencamping Königskanzel, sustainable tourism means making conscious decisions like local sourcing of food for the restaurant and purchasing as many locally produced products as possible. Here, campers play their part by bringing reusable containers to reduce packaging waste and, of course, separating what’s left. Good signage and clear communication with guests is key.
“The EU Ecolabel is intended to show guests that we strive to operate the campsite in an environmentally-friendly and energy-saving way within the natural environment. This and all our other environmentally-conscious efforts earned us the title of Climate Friendly Company in 2014.”
For many years, a tree-planting programme has encouraged natural vegetation around the campground. The Eiermanns have replaced fibre cement roofing, reinforced the insulation to save energy and took the opportunity to upgrade their old solar flat-plate collectors with new ones. Water for the showers and pool are heated this way, and photovoltaics continue to provide a good portion of their electricity needs.
Just claiming you are eco-friendly is not enough. It is important to build an environmental mindset into all operations, from waste-sorting and water-saving to the way the landscape is managed to support biodiversity. Indeed, displaying the EU Ecolabel is more than a branding exercise for Höhencamping Königskanzel; it is an ethos.
Campgrounds wanting to be awarded with the EU Ecolabel must meet various criteria. An eco-manager makes sure the property meets the independently verified standards. Keeping up-to-date records of energy, heating and water consumption alongside minimising CO2 and waste output are typically also part of the certification process.
While getting the EU Ecolabel certification requires efforts, for the Eiermanns it is a long-term commitment to preserve nature by making sure everyone understands their role in responsible and sustainable tourism, but also in finding ways to improve the comfort for visitors and efficiency of the business. As a result of using their resources in a more sustainable way, the campground is also becoming more cost-efficient to run. That’s a clear win-win.