At AIDA, we believe that acting sustainably and creating unforgettable vacation memories go hand in hand. We inform our travel agency partners and our guests about our commitment. We are also continuously expanding our selection of sustainable and attractive excursions. The "AIDA Friends of the Ocean" organization is actively committed to marine and coastal protection.
AIDA biking excursions offer many advantages: They are healthy, environmentally friendly, and give guests a more authentic experience in the destination region. Biking excursions have been a part of our program for a long time, making us a pioneering, trendsetter in the cruise industry.
With our new “fleet” of Segways and pedelecs on AIDA ships that continues to expand, we will be able to offer guests even more opportunities in the future to explore destinations while being environmentally conscious and having a lot of fun.
In 2014, we equipped each ship in the AIDA fleet with 21 pedelecs, and added Segways to the fourth ship. Just like our trusted biking excursions, the guided Segway or pedelec tours offer an exceptionally relaxing experience on two wheels. If you have any questions about our tours, please contact the AIDA biking team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On all AIDA shore excursions it is very important to us that any packaging we bring along or any other waste we generate is disposed of on site in an environmentally friendly way.
If this is not possible, our participants take the garbage back to the ship where it is appropriately separated and recycled or disposed of.
Sustainable shore excursions
Sustainably designed shore excursions do not just allow our guests to enjoy unforgettable experiences; they can also play an important part in economic development, protecting and promoting the environment, preserving cultural heritage, and helping maintain the livelihoods of local populations. We sent a clear signal for sustainable tourism when we signed the UN-WTO Code of Ethics for Tourism in 2012.
AIDA Cruises is one of the cruise industry's pioneers in "sustainable shore excursions" and continues to expand its options. In 2013, we started working with the sustainability initiative Futouris e.V., the State Chancellery of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, and the Leuphana University in Lüneburg to develop standardized criteria for sustainable shore excursions as part of a joint project. The goal was to create a transparent basis for comparing the sustainability of individual shore excursion options and to base the assessment on measurable and scientific criteria.
In early 2014, the Baltic Sea was assessed as being a model region based on the new catalog of criteria. By the end of 2014, the assessment model had been transferred to AIDA shore excursions in all destination regions. At the moment, 138 shore excursions as well as 230 biking and pedelec tours carry the sustainability seal. These excursions also include kayaking tours and fun sports. In the spring of 2014, we tested standup paddleboarding for the first time in the Canary Islands on AIDAblu. Since it was so well received, we will be offering it in the Caribbean in 2015.
All AIDA excursions that meet social, environmental, and cultural criteria are specially marked with a tree symbol. Our guests can thus easily identify which options are particularly sustainable even when they first book their excursions on myAIDA.
The four main criteria for assessing the individual shore excursion options include transport services, the content as well as the main focus of the excursion (e.g. culture, nature, etc.), the dining options, and the local partner agency's commitment to sustainability. The assessment also considers numerous subitems. With respect to the transport component, preventing CO2 emissions is the primary focus. Biking excursions leaving directly from the ship are thus scored higher than using low-emission buses. If the commissioned local agency offsets the CO2 emissions produced by an excursion, then this also positively impacts the assessment. Nature excursions are also scored particularly high on sustainability if, for example, a trained ranger tells the visitors about wildlife conservation and special aspects. Dining options is another main topic. Sustainable excursions are focused on using regional products for local specialties. Complying with minimum standards for the staff of our agencies on site according to the core labor standards of the ILO (International Labor Organization), a specialized agency of the United Nations (UNO), also plays an important role in the catalog of criteria.
On all AIDA shore excursions it is very important to us that any packaging we bring along or any other waste we generate is disposed of on site in an environmentally friendly way. If this is not possible, our participants take the garbage back to the ship where it is appropriately separated and recycled or disposed of.
In March 2015, AIDA and the climate protection organization "atmosfair" joined forces to start a climate protection program that sets standards in the cruise industry. The program is focused on initiatives such as a direct reduction in CO2 ship emissions and voluntary CO2 compensation for cruises.
All AIDA guests can voluntarily book the CO2 compensation of their cruises at www.aida.de under MyAIDA. By 2020, we would like to see 20 percent of AIDA guests using CO2 compensation to make a voluntary contribution to climate protection.
Through atmosfair climate protection projects, AIDA is also compensating CO2 emissions from all employee business travel by plane or rental car.
The proceeds will go toward a biomass power plant in northern India, which produces green electricity from crop residues for 40,000 households, saves 30,000 tons of CO2 annually, and contributes to the region’s development by offering new job opportunities and income sources for farmers.
AIDA Cruises also aims to work with atmosfair in a joint pilot project to test the opportunities of utilizing LNG (liquefied natural gas) to power cruise ships in the future, which would completely eliminate CO2 emissions by using power to gas methods and wind or solar power. If successful, this could be the beginning of CO2-free cruises. AIDA Cruises promotes and supports the introduction of uniform standards and specifications for using LNG in the shipping industry.
Animal welfare and wildlife conservation
The AIDA team is convinced of the merits of acting sustainably. It is precisely this conviction that we want to pass on to our guests. For example: for animal welfare reasons, we do not offer dolphinarium visits or elephant rides because the animals in most of these facilities are not housed under proper conditions. We have accordingly decided not to support these institutions. However as an exception, we do support a few select theme parks that are actively committed to species conservation and promoting the protection of animals through their educational and research work. These parks provide the animals with living conditions that exceed the minimum defined standards for animal welfare. AIDA is a member of the Futouris e.V. initiative, which aims to work together with environmental organizations and researchers to review and improve how animal welfare standards are defined and adhered to. AIDA Cruises recommends that guests who are interested in whales and dolphins observe them in the wild, for example on a whale watching tour. We support soft tourism and are continuing to expand our range of shore excursions. This is also why for many years we have been offering our guests excursions where they can see whales, dolphins, and other marine life in their natural habitats. We work with select providers who make sure that tourists will not disturb the animals. We want our guests to have the opportunity to consciously experience the many different facets of sustainability – in everyday life on board and on shore excursions, or during our informational events on culture and the environment. With our program – through what we offer and what we don’t – we want to inspire our guests to travel with greater awareness.
Training our travel agent partners
In addition to the actual vacation experience, the eco-friendliness of a planned trip is becoming a key booking factor for more and more people. AIDA Cruises thus provides our travel agency partners with transparent information about our commitment to the environment. We are also available to speak with them and answer any questions they have in order to thoroughly advise their customers. In 2014, sustainability was a key point on the agenda at about 253 evening events for travel agencies and about 204 trade fairs. We have also firmly integrated environmental protection into our office and field staff teams. In November 2014, we began the EXPIdition program, a multipart series of training workshops for travel agency employees, which included an online test with questions about the environment.
AIDA Friends of the Ocean e.V. (AIDA Freunde der Meere e.V.)
As a cruise company, conserving a pristine environment and maintaining clean oceans is a matter of principle for us. They are part of an unforgettable vacation experience that we also want to be able to offer our guests in the future. Many employees as well as guests support our efforts to protect this sensitive ecosystem and want to actively contribute to preserving it. But how and where can they get involved?
At the suggestion of AIDA employees, a committed team lead by Dr. Monika Griefahn, Chief Sustainability Officer at AIDA Cruises, decided to tackle this very question. The result: On March 12, 2013, the founding meeting for the AIDA Friends of the Ocean ("AIDA Freunde der Meere e.V.") was held on board AIDAstella.
AIDA Friends of the Ocean operates as a non-profit and is managed separately from AIDA. The organization has set the goal of using various projects to promote the concept of environmental and marine conservation at both the national and international level. According to information from the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP), each year around 6.4 million tons of trash are dumped into the world’s oceans. According to Germany's Federal Environmental Agency there was 100 to 150 million tons of trash in the oceans in 2013 and plastics made up 60 percent of it. About 70 percent of the trash settles on the ocean floor. AIDA Friends of the Ocean wants to do something to stop this. It cannot stand idly by and watch as more and more animals perish and the vital habitats of birds, fish, and other living creatures are destroyed.
The organization is focused on raising awareness of the threat posed to the ocean's fragile ecosystems and educating the public on appropriate initiatives to protect the maritime environment. AIDA Friends of the Ocean wants to get as many people as possible excited about the fascinating world of the ocean and thus increase conservation efforts and the willingness to protect our oceans and coastal landscapes over the long term. This should particularly be done through practical nature protection projects, but also through educational and PR work.
In 2014, special attention was given to the issue of “plastic waste and microplastics in the ocean”. In September 2014, AIDA Friends of the Ocean participated in International Coastal Cleanup Day with tremendous success and held coastal cleanup activities in Hamburg and Warnemünde. Furthermore, AIDA Friends of the Ocean worked with the Tourism Center of Rostock & Warnemünde and the Mecklenburg Association of Baltic Sea Resorts e.V. in order to distribute over 3,000 beach ashtrays in and around the Baltic Sea resort areas of Warnemünde. The objective was to raise environmental awareness of tourists and locals, and make it easier to properly dispose of cigarettes at the beach.
Another important focus for AIDA Friends of the Ocean is its committed opposition to using microplastics. What many of us don't know: many toothpastes, exfoliating shower gels, and other everyday products contain small “plastic pearls” that are supposed to enhance the cleaning action. You can particularly tell if a product has microplastics when polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are listed as ingredients on the packaging. These micropastics travel from bathroom drains right into our water sources, and the particles are not biodegradable. They endanger not only the environment, but also birds and fish which mistake them for plankton and then perish in misery. With the consumption of fish, microplastics also enter our food chain thereby endangering human health as well. AIDA Friends of the Ocean wants to raise awareness about the impact of microplastics and encourage consumers to make conscious product decisions. All cleaning and cosmetic products on board AIDA ships are naturally free of microplastics.
The AIDA Friends of the Ocean organization is open to anybody who wants to be actively involved in protecting our oceans. Donations and memberships will help the organization continue to grow and promote its projects. We warmly welcome new members who wish to actively contribute their ideas and work on projects.
More information about AIDA Friends of the Ocean, membership applications, and contact details can be found at www.aida-freunde-der-meere.de.