Moving Towards Sustainability:

Future-proofing in the Hospitality Sector



Travelers are increasingly looking for greener options when they travel. Sustainability is no longer a luxury for high-end hotels, it is necessity for all hospitality businesses looking to future-proof.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts a significant increase in the number of global tourists over the next few decades. In 1950, they estimated the market to be around 25 million people, in 2012 it was 1,035 million people, and by 2030 they are predicting 1.8 billion people will be tourists.

Alongside this increase in tourist numbers, the hospitality sector must also strategize to accommodate the changing objectives and preferences of its customers. Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and Generation X (1961 – 1981) are interested in environmental issues, but their lives were shaped in a period of pre-environmental awareness.

The next generation, the Millennials (1981-2001), have a very different attitude to ‘being green’ and social responsibility. Businesses need to adapt to the preferences of these consumers, who will actively choose options that are better for the environment and society. Moreover, they are willing to pay a premium for these options – a 2015 survey conducted by Nielsen showed that 66% of respondents were willing to pay more for products from companies committed to positive action on the environment and social responsibility.

The hospitality industry must be proactive in providing products and services that conform to these demands. We must not forget, the choices that are affecting the decisions of individuals will soon be influencing the booking habits of organizations when they are considering conference locations.

With consumers and the environment demanding greener options, businesses must find ways to be more sustainable. However, they must achieve this in a manner which is profitable.

Taking the right approach to
sustainability will help future-proof
a business against these
legislative changes.

The key to sustainability is embedded sustainable solutions within the business management structure and the fabric of the building. These should begin with making the building’s design as efficient as possible. This not only improves the sustainability of the building, it also makes financial sense. When discussing the development of a new hotel at a Walt Disney site, Scott Woroch from Four Seasons has previously explained how by improving the efficiency of the site they reduced its size by 10% and thereby cut construction costs by approximately $40 million.

Alongside more efficient buildings, there is also a need to reduce energy consumption. The hospitality sector has traditionally been resource-inefficient, but with the introduction of solar panels, energy saving treatments including more efficient lighting and televisions, this is changing.


Benefits of Sustainability

Thinking ‘green’ is no longer a luxury, it makes economic sense. Research from the University of Brighton has shown that energy consumption accounts for between 3% and 6% of operating costs. Reducing this is not only environmentally sensible, it is economically sensible.

The benefits are not only financial. As negative environmental impacts become more apparent, regulatory initiatives will begin to focus more on hotel design and inefficiencies. Taking the right approach to sustainability will help future-proof a business against these legislative changes.

Taking a sustainable approach to hospitality is also beneficial to a hotel’s image. On a corporate level, The FairRidge Group found that 50% of American workers were more inclined to work for ‘green’ businesses and, as with the Millenial consumer, younger workers were actively seeking employment from companies that put environmental and social benefits above profit. Embedding a brand image that aligns with sustainability will not only help companies attract the next generation of consumers, it will also help it find the best employees.

Finally, no industry is more exposed to the eyes of its consumers than hospitality. Customers are keen for ‘green’ experiences but still want their stay to be luxurious.

The dominance of online review sites means businesses need to work smart to provide the level of service the consumer demands but in a sustainable way. Utilizing ‘green’ resources, like energy-efficient lighting, only makes sense if it does not negatively impact the customer experience. Such impacts can have damaging consequences when the consumer negatively reviews the hotel. Research has shown that 74% of customers now write some form of online assessment of their stay at a hotel and 44% of people look at these before booking.

What Can Be Done?

Not every hotel has the luxury of being able to design a new structure that incorporates the latest thinking in sustainability and efficiencies. There is, however, still much that can be done. For example, introducing recycling systems, waste reduction, green cleaning products, linen and towel reuse will help to lower environmental impact. At the same time, alternatively energy sources will help to reduce costs and increase sustainability.

These commitments are not without cost, but companies need to ask if they can afford, in the long term, to ignore the demands of consumers.

Changes will affect all aspects of the business – environmental considerations go alongside social responsibility. The ultimate aim can, however, be positive for the business as a whole. For example, a socially responsible business will attract and keep the best employees, which often equates to long service and greater productivity. Balancing business requirements alongside those for sustainability can be difficult, but it can have major positive effects.

Progressing Sustainability

Global standards exist to help businesses achieve higher levels of sustainability. Undertaking ISO 14001 for environmental management and ISO 50001 for energy management can help without damaging the business.

To assist with this progression towards a sustainable and profitable future, we recommend working with experts who can help a business position its brand as socially responsible, helping to distinguish them from their competitors. Such collaborations can also help decrease operational costs, optimize the management of resources and waste, and mitigate the risk associated with accidents. The ideal partner will also understand the needs of the business while the hotel is attaining its ISO standards and can help with, for example, Federation of Tour Operator guidelines and Global Sustainable Tourism Council accreditation.

Hospitality Experience (HX) Program

Hospitality Experience (HX) has been designed specifically for the hospitality industry to meet a variety of needs and provide solutions to many of the issues you face today. This comprehensive program consists of four separate modules, each focusing on a specific area of concern, including risk, sustainability, corporate social responsibility and quality of service experience.



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