Although Monaco is small, it manages to attract about 5 million day visitors, and hundreds of thousands of overnight and cruise ship visitors. As such, the Principality is well aware of the significance of tourism, as well as the potential environmental damage such a heavy influx of visitors.
The Monaco Tourist and Convention Authority
This official tourist body has made information available for visitors who are seeking to make an eco-friendly trip to Monaco. The MTCA has an Eco-Responsible Tourism department, and their website has a comprehensive section dedicated to ecotourism in Monaco.
The principality is small, and easily walkable, creating a natural forum for low-emission transportation. However, for those who prefer other modes of transportation, there are a number of eco-friendly alternatives present in Monaco.
Visitors can cruise along Monaco's Harbour to and from Port Hercule on an electric shuttle boat. This environmentally friendly boat has been in service since August 2007, and is an efficient way to get across the Harbour, without harming the environment.
Once you get your mind over the not-so-flat terrain of Monaco, cycling really does become one of the best options for transportation in the Principality. Besides, the free bikes available for visitors to borrow are electrically assisted, so navigating those hills won't be too challenging. Visitors can pick up one of the 50 bikes at car parks throughout the Principality.
Taking the bus? Monaco, despite being a lavish and expensive-looking place, is very affordable when it comes to transportation. The Principality wanted to encourage bus transportation, so a single ticket costs only EUR1, and day pass costs EUR3.
Monaco's Oceanographic Museum is part of the Oceanographic Institute, based in Paris, and the group is dedicated to understanding, appreciating, and protecting oceans and the oceanographic environment that surrounds not only Monaco, but the world.
The museum's exhibits include artefacts and treasures from the timeline of oceanographic study, including the first submarine, and skeletons of some of the largest marine animals in the world. There are also approximately 100 aquariums filled with over 700 species of fish, including some of the most colourful and exotic fish in the world.
The building itself is a stunning display of architecture, rising up, almost organically, from the ocean and rock. It sits perched on the water, and this physical connection is mirrored in the dedication of the museum and institute to understanding and ultimately protecting the marine environments through education and research.
Monaco, under the guidance of Prince Rainier III, was one of the first nations in Europe to adopt a more environmentally conscious attitude. Being that Monaco lives on water, the preservation and ethical use of marine environments is crucial to this Principality. As such, Monaco both uses and protects its beautiful blue waters.
Seawater heat pumps were developed to increase alternative energy and decrease petroleum use in Monaco. Currently 17% of Monaco's energy is derived from the sea, which saves the Principality approximately 17,000 tons of petroleum each year.
In addition to using the water as a source of renewable energy, Monaco has protected two separate areas in the Bay of Monaco, in an effort to safeguard the biodiversity that exists there. These two areas host a variety of marine life and habitats, and have been made a priority in Monaco's sustainable efforts.
In a land sometimes perceived as superficial, vain, and all about money, most tourists wouldn't expect to see eco-friendly initiatives, especially in lavish hotels. However, seeing as the Principality has scored in other areas of ecotourism, Monaco is full of surprises, including a Green Key-awarded hotel.
The Green Key, and international designation that recognises successful ecotourism management, was recently awarded to the iconic Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel. This hotel has committed to a long-term eco-friendly action plan, to contribute to the rising prevalence of ecotourism in Monaco.
Recognised initiatives at the Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel include awareness and monitoring projects of water and energy consumption, carbon emissions, paper recycling, the use of certified green products, and the inclusion of guests into the decision-making process. Guests can opt for less frequent housekeeping services, as well as make suggestions to staff and management as to other eco-friendly initiatives that could be implemented.
Small, But Mighty
Monaco may be a small Principality, but its natural location and inherent environmental consciousness have been instrumental in establishing itself as an ecotourism destination. It may be surprising, but ecotourism in Monaco is easy and inspiring. If only all nations were as passionate about their marine ecosystems.