Meet the Auditor

Suzanne Sotnick, an experienced Travelife auditor, tells us about the new Travelife checklist and training
Suzanne Sotnick has carried out audits on behalf of Travelife for several years and recently updated her training to audit against the new checklist.

Life as a Travelife auditor
I believe that sustainability is important in tourism. Prior to working with Travelife I saw several tourist destinations become obsolete. I now firmly believe that if suppliers help themselves by subscribing to Travelife and adopting sustainable practices, this helps tourist destinations to remain viable in the long-term Ė this applies to all kind of destinations, not only sun, sea and sand resorts.

I greatly enjoy working in developing countries which have unstable economies as those destinations naturally adopt sustainability measures by necessity and not through obligation. I also enjoy chatting to hotel employees in order to assess their commitment to sustainability. I frequently find enthusiastic hotel team members and this creates a very happy working environment.

New auditor training
I recently attended the Travelife training in Florence, Italy, to learn about auditing against the new criteria. The group included Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, English and Spanish nationals, although everyone spoke excellent English Ė a prerequisite of working as a Travelife auditor.

The Florence seminar was beneficial on many levels, firstly, Chris Thomsonís expert training made the training sessions serious but enjoyable. Whilst I am accustomed to working alone, the training session created great bonding and was a good chance to catch up with the Travelife team.

Our group also visited a hotel in the outskirts of Florence to put our newly learned auditing skills into practice. The hotel had an array of evidence of the hotelís participation in local social and environmental activities, including newspaper articles displayed on the restaurant wall and a selection of leaflets in reception highlighting interesting places to visit.

The new checklist
The new checklist is more robust than the previous one and from the auditorís perspective requires more in-depth research in order to find areas of compliance. In my opinion one of the most interesting new themes to appear on the checklist is animal welfare.

The audit is far more challenging and it can take longer to verify practices at the hotel; however, if the hotel has the necessary paperwork ready for inspection, to hand and in one place, this can cut the time taken to carry out the audit considerably. One of the main improvements to the checklist is the necessity of conducting formal meetings with randomly selected employees. This provides a great insight on staff welfare and employee satisfaction. Other great improvements are that the energy questions are now far more specific as hoteliers are required to calculate all types of energy.

Once hoteliers have completely familiarized themselves with the new Travelife checklist, I think it is easier for them to prepare in advance and tailor the hotel monitoring documentation accordingly to the Travelife requirements. Questions are more specific and explanatory in the way that each section explains, step by step, what is required of them. From the checklist, hoteliers are able to identify who should be charged with carrying out and monitoring what is required of each department.

Lesson learnt through an audit
During my time as an auditor I have had some interesting experiences, but my latest escapade was being trapped in a walk-in industrial freezer. To check that the refrigerator and freezer lighting automatically switched off when the doors were closed I entered a freezer and it was closed behind me. I was able to confirm the lights switched off automatically. However, I was trapped inside the freezer as I couldnít locate the emergency opening button in the dark. Thankfully my banging on the freezer door was answered by staff opening the door for me. However it was a useful learning point, and whilst we all saw the funny side the hotelier has now given flashlights to all chefs who access the walk-in freezers. Brrrrrr Ė it was cold!!

In our next Newsletter you can read about a typical audit day in Suzannes life.