How to take a holistic approach to hotel sustainability

Talking about hotel sustainability is the order of the day. But at BusinessTravelConnection we have found an article that goes a little further and analyzes this policy from a comprehensive way in hotel management. For this reason, we want to share this article by Chelsea Wong, Horwath HTL Asia Pacifi consultant and published in Hotel Management. See original source in English .

To this day, no one can deny the importance of sustainability, both in our daily lives and in the business world. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism refers to having “a full awareness of the current and future impact of tourism in economic, social and environmental terms, in order to meet the needs of visitors, industries, nature and local communities.

Ultimately, hotel sustainability aims to align its systems and operations with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, set to keep global warming below 2°C and ideally 1.5°C.

Tourism needs sustainability

In fact, hotels (and the tourism industry in general) and the environment have an interdependent relationship. Undoubtedly, hotels put pressure on the environment and use natural resources to their advantage. In turn, the industry also relies on the same natural environment—unspoiled landscapes, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, coral reefs, and fresh air—to attract its customers. Therefore, hotel sustainability is not a choice, but a necessity, or we could damage the very foundation on which hospitality is built.

As the concept of sustainability has evolved over the last decade, hoteliers have begun to realize that being sustainable does not necessarily mean an extra burden, but rather a positive return in tangible and intangible terms. Sustainable management benefits hotels with lower operating costs, increased profitability and efficiency, as well as brand loyalty and talent retention.

The price of supplies (electricity, water, gas…) is usually the second highest cost for a hotel, after labor. Sustainable initiatives help improve profit margins through savings on these supplies. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimated that green buildings are at least 20% more efficient in the use of resources and therefore generate lower costs.

We often have the misconception that investment and payback periods need to be long in order to build a sustainable property, which was largely true in the past. However, with continued advances in sustainable development and technologies, green building owners report their ROI improved by 19.2% on average for retrofits and 9.9% on average for new projects.

Travelers and employees are committed to hotel sustainability

Sustainability is also crucial in the decision-making process for hotel guests and employees. According to’s recent Sustainable Travel Report, 83% of global travelers think sustainable travel is essential; while 61% affirm that the pandemic has changed them, because now they want to travel in a more sustainable way.

A recent Horwath HTL Hospitality Trends study also showed that post-pandemic guests are even more aware of sustainability. In fact, 63% of guests accept higher prices at eco-certified hotels and restaurants.

Guests are also aware and willing to pay more for meals in exchange for socially sustainable wages for service staff. Similarly, a survey by the Governance and Accountability Institute notes that 40% of millennial respondents chose their employer based on performance and investment in sustainable policies. In addition, 70% of them are more willing to choose and stay in a company with sustainability policies.

It comes as no surprise that most hotels, whether chains or independents, have implemented some form of sustainable practices due to growing environmental concerns.

What measures can I adopt in my hotel?

The number and variety of hotel sustainability measures that can be adopted is vast. The most important message here is that hotels need to take a holistic approach, from design and development to day-to-day operations, choice of products and suppliers, interaction with guests and staff, as well as with the local community and the environment. The pandemic has heightened environmental awareness and as global tourism recovers, it is time for hotels to fully understand the tangible and intangible benefits of sustainability and reflect on their sustainable initiatives.

And it is that the positive impact of hotel sustainability goes beyond the accommodation itself, as it motivates and inspires guests to the point that they are more aware when they return home. Therefore, the ROI for the planet goes beyond any type of measurement.

1. Improved energy and water efficiency

Common methods used in energy management and water conservation include tracking energy and water, switching to energy efficient appliances and LED bulbs, reducing water pressure in showers, using flush toilets, low flow or double flush, the installation of water leak detection systems and the minimization of water use in washing clothes.

Accor’s Plant for the Planet scheme , within its hotel sustainability policies, is funded through halving savings on laundry when guests staying multiple nights choose to reuse their towels.

Hilton also introduced a high-tech system called the Connected Room that allows guests to personalize and control every aspect of their stay from their smartphones. In this way, hotels can better manage energy consumption when guests are not physically in their rooms, such as turning off lights, televisions, heating, and air conditioning.

2. Renewable energy

With the rising price of electricity around the world and unstable power supply in some emerging countries, more and more hotels are looking for renewable energy sources. In addition to being cleaner, the International Renewable Energy Agency’s cost study shows that most renewable energy sources are now cheaper than fossil fuels.

For example, the ITC Rajputana hotel in India, certified Platinum in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design in hotel sustainability, invested in a rooftop solar panel project. The $100,000 project has a capacity of 100 peak kilowatts and significantly reduces the hotel’s carbon emissions.

Annual savings are $25,000 and therefore have a payback period of four years. Additionally, the cost of installing and maintaining renewable energy is decreasing, to the point that some renewable energy providers install for free and charge based on energy savings.

For example, the Soneva Fushi, located on a remote island in the Maldives in the Baa Atoll, used to rely exclusively on diesel generators for electricity. In 2016, it partnered with solar panel manufacturer Yingli to install a solar photovoltaic system for which Yingli provided the solar panels for free and only charged the resort 60 percent of the price it would cost to produce it with diesel generators.

3. Better Waste Management

Hotel operations used to generate a lot of unnecessary waste, including paper (receipts, brochures, menus, daily reports), single-use plastics like straws and plastic water bottles, and food waste.

An increasing number of hotels are going paperless and using various technologies such as electronic receipts, digital menus and in-room tablets to offer promotions and other information.

In Horwath HTL’s “Asia Pacific Sustainability Trends 2021” study, nearly 50 percent of hotels in the region have phased out single-use plastics. More than 80 percent of respondents have plans to eliminate single-use plastics in guest rooms, food and beverage machines, restaurants and buffets, and other guest areas. In Europe, this important measure in favor of hotel sustainability is already legislated .

In addition, recycling is also an effective way to reduce food waste. In Germany, a study ensures that 45 percent of food waste in the hotel industry is generated in buffets. Therefore, one way to reduce food waste is to switch to semi-buffet or a la carte orders. Hotels must also actively monitor where food waste is coming from.

4. Choice of products

Sourcing food from local and sustainable suppliers not only helps the local community, but also ensures that the ingredients are fresher and less carbon is spent on transportation.

Local produce and spices are also crucial in creating authentic cuisines for guests. In terms of menu design, increasing vegetarian options can help the environment while also catering to the growing vegetarian and vegan population. Green products, such as sustainable toiletries, organic cleaning products and bedding, do less harm to the environment and help improve guest satisfaction.

In short, and as Chelsea Wong rightly states throughout this article , hotel sustainability is not about isolated measures, but must be conceived as a transversal policy that affects the entire management of our hotel.

Courtesy images: Harry Cunningham on Unsplash , Wasa Crispbread on Unsplash , Shutterstock

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