How sustainability is influencing the future of your Hotel8 min read
Sustainability is broadly referred to as the key to a successful business in this century, becoming the main concern for (not only) the travel sector. I’m sure this is not a new term for you, since it is driving the world’s agenda these days. Business leaders everywhere are adopting sustainable practices and aligning them with their operations. But what does sustainability really mean for your hotel? Continue reading to find out.
What exactly is sustainability and what does it mean for the hospitality sector?
Sustainability, in simple terms, means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own in regard to natural, social, and economic resources. Although the term is very broad, it umbrellas four main pillars: Environmental, Economical, Human, and Social. Today, we will focus on environmental sustainability, and the role the hospitality industry has played in it.
Historically, tourism and hospitality industries have majorly impacted the environment through the consumption of energy, water, and consumable goods. Hotels specifically rely on much of the same natural environment that travelers want to visit and consume.
Although hotels and the wider tourism industry rely heavily on the quality of the environment, the relationship is complex. The construction of tourism facilities, including hotels, resorts, restaurants, airports, and marinas, can all have a detrimental impact on the environment. Furthermore, the use of mass transportation (aircraft, cruise ships, etc) and disruptions to local and/or natural attractions caused by visiting tourists can also have negative consequences.
These adverse effects of tourism development and consumption can gradually destroy the environmental resources on which it depends.
As travelers grow more aware and concerned about the environmental impact of their practices, upholding environmental sustainability is essential for businesses to achieve growth, attract new clients, and satisfy customers. Besides reducing adverse effects to the environment and winning the goodwill of guests, when hotels go green they also lower costs. This is a win-win situation.
How important is sustainability for your hotel and what should you do?
According to Skift Research, 83% of global travelers think sustainable travel is vital. In addition, according to Booking’s Sustainability Report 2021, 73% of travelers would be more likely to choose an accommodation if it has implemented sustainability practices. Of those surveyed, 61% said the pandemic made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.
But that’s not all. According to Futtera’s latest study in the US and UK, 88% of consumers want brands to help them improve their environmental and social footprint.
These astonishing numbers highlight how essential it is for hotels to build a strategy around sustainability. As we move towards a more conscious and environmentally aware consumer profile, hotels must be able to adapt, offering the opportunity to travel more sustainably.
Furthermore, the pandemic has heightened environmental awareness and it’s believed to serve as a catalyst for changing some consumption patterns that could impact the environment in the medium and long term. An example of this awareness can be seen in Venice today.
Prior to the pandemic, the Italian city welcomed up to 80,000 visitors per day, according to CNN Reports. Venice’s local newspaper Il Gazzettino also reported that tourists outnumbered Venice’s 50,000 residents by more than 50%. Following the tourism crash of 2020, Italian officials have since announced plans to charge tourists a fee to enter Venice, in an effort to curb the onslaught of visitors and day-trippers into the city. They also banned the entry of large cruise ships entering Venice waters.
Moreover, Google recently launched a number of travel sustainability initiatives for hotels to participate in. From September 2021 onwards, hotels that have met sustainability standards from independent organizations such as Green Key or EarthCheck will have an eco-certified badge next to their name in searches on google.com/travel.
Google will also join Travalyst, a sustainable travel coalition launched in 2019 by Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. Google will help the organization develop a standardized model for calculating and displaying carbon emissions from air travel, which will ultimately lead to the development of similar standards for hotels.
GDS providers are also recognizing the importance of sustainability to their clients. Certain GDS providers like Amadeus now give you the opportunity to add information that proves your hotel is ECO-friendly and committed to reducing its carbon footprint. Hotels can also display specific labels or certificates they may have in relation to travel sustainability practices and initiatives.
So what can your hotel do in the future?
Your hotel is probably covering the basics already by now, implementing practices such as providing recycling facilities, avoiding disposable products, and shopping local, etc. If you’re not even covering the basics, be aware that 53% of travelers, according to the Booking 2021 study, admit they get annoyed if their accommodation prevents them from being sustainable.
Although numerous organizations, governmental programs/laws/incentives, and sustainability certificates facilitate the implementation of sustainable practices, hotels can always go the extra mile independently. Your hotel can get inspiration from what other hotels are doing to support environmental sustainability. Below are some examples;
- Memmo Hotel Baleeira, Portugal: Achieved EarthCheck Benchmarking Certification, used to measure key environmental indicators including energy and water consumption; total waste production, and community commitment.
- Hotel Okura Amsterdam, Netherlands: Offers Green Globe certified facilities, saving energy and water resources, reducing operational costs, and positively contributing to local communities and their environment.
- Hotel Punta Islita, Costa Rica: Already won several sustainability awards due to their focus on wildlife conservation, reforestation, and local employment.
- Hi Hotel, France: Uses eco-friendly cleaning products, recycled paper, organic food, vegetal shampoo, and shower gels without packaging
- Jumeirah Vittaveli, Maldives: This resort has the ‘Eco Pure’ system, which treats seawater to create fresh drinking water, bottling it in recycled glass bottles and consequently saving around 50,000 plastic bottles a year.
- Crowne Plaza, Denmark: Boasts the largest building with an integrated solar panel park in Northern Europe and the first-ever groundwater-based cooling and heating system in Denmark
- Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji: It has an education program to teach younger guests about nature and its value.
The fact that you have read this article up until this point indicates you are really looking for ways to implement and improve sustainable practices in your hotel. So bear in mind as you take steps to improve sustainability, it’s imperative to get the word out to your environmentally conscious guests.
Hotel Sustainability Practices should be Communicated
We already know how increasingly important sustainability is to your guests and consequently your business growth. However, if you don’t show what you are doing to support the local environment, you’re losing clients who prioritize sustainability. In fact, 49% of guests surveyed by Booking in 2021 still believe that there aren’t enough sustainable accommodation options available, so clearly you have the chance to take a step forward and conquer new clients.
Although 3 out of 4 accommodation providers say they have implemented at least some kind of sustainability practices at their property, only one-third actively communicate about their efforts proactively to potential guests.
Your website, social media, and email marketing should be platforms to inform and promote to your guests what is important to them. As you can see, this is clearly one of them.
Does your hotel website have a sustainability or corporate responsibility page, informing your clients about what you are doing?
Have you won sustainability certificates, stamps, or awards and published them on your hotel website? If not, it’s a good time to start doing so. You can also ask your clients for their input. This way, you can better connect and engage with them in the sustainability effort, as some hotels are doing:
Are you promoting your hotel’s sustainability initiatives on social media?
Social media is very popular with environmentally-conscious consumers. There are plenty of social communities you can reach with specific hashtags. Some examples include #greenhotels and #ecohotels. These hashtags circulate your hotel’s sustainability story with target audiences.
Email marketing is another key tool that you are probably already using to share your news
You probably just share your latest promotions or upcoming events. But since sustainability is a topic customers are evidently passionate about, why don’t you use this tool to communicate information that resonates with their environmental sustainability interests, and at the same time, surprise them with fresh and different content?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Last but not least, you can (and should!) incorporate your sustainability business practices into your hotel’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts to gain visibility in Google search results. Do your research, see which keywords are trending with guests. Whether it’s ‘green hotels’, ‘ecotourism’, or ‘sustainable hotels’ etc, your hotel can leverage these keywords and build content around what your environmentally conscious guests are searching for and want to read about.
We are at a crucial and unprecedented moment in the hotel sector and the wider tourism industry. Guests’ awareness of the environmental impact of their trips is at an all-time high, and your hotel should address these concerns by implementing and communicating sustainable practices and initiatives. As research suggests, more and more customers are willing to reward businesses they deem sustainable. Not only does sustainability equate with profitability, but also with good business sense overall.
As we slowly start to travel and explore the world again, all of us have a unique opportunity to transform our behaviors and actions.
There are hundreds of sustainability practices you can implement in your hotel. It’s pivotal to take these steps and embrace these initiatives. It will not only help your hotel save money by being more energy-efficient, help preserve the destination and local community and bring people closer together but also differentiate your hotel from the competition and attract more guests.
Get inspired, treat sustainability as a holistic approach, from your operations to your product choices, to your guests, local communities, and even your providers. And don’t forget, communicate what you’re doing, people want to hear about it.