The year 2020 left a deep mark on a broad sweep of industries as supply chains were disrupted, demand plummeted and government mandates limited accessibility to products and services.
Among the industries most affected was hospitality. Occupancy, ADR and RevPAR rapidly declined. As COVID-19 restrictions lifted, however, these performance indicators have now returned to 2019 averages industry-wide. Since hoteliers have managed to regain their footing, they are starting to turn their attention toward a new critical effort: sustainability.
With each passing month, more and more guests are concerned about environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives when choosing their destination for hotel and lodging. Since February 2021, search terms like “green hotel,” “eco-hotel” and “environmental hotel” have increased exponentially. Guests have demonstrated their interest in traveling more responsibly, which opens the door for the hospitality industry to align their portfolio with customer demand. Beyond just setting targets and claiming values, successful companies will commit to changing their operations and strategy to lighten their footprint.
To effectively get started on this effort, it is important to first understand the user experience of potential guests. Environmentally conscious customers will evaluate hotels beginning at the time of booking. Therefore, publishing clear information about sustainability programs, policies and other efforts on all revenue channels is imperative. Booking channels and corporate business travelers have also begun requiring certain ESG efforts to be reported. Moving into this new era for sustainability requires transparency, so the more depth and breadth in reporting and communications, the better.
In addition to communicating your ESG initiatives online, consistent on-site communication is key to retaining guests who are keenly aware of the environmental impact of their stay. Strategies for on-site engagement begin in common areas—such as your lobby, dining and rest areas:
- Training your team members on how to relay your sustainability story to guests
- Reminding guests of ESG initiatives using digital QR codes in dining and living rooms
- Displaying sorting guidelines for trash, recycling, and compostables above waste bins in your dining areas
In-room initiatives are also imperative for waste and energy reduction. If one of your ESG goals is to reduce the amount of waste your hotel produces, look to:
- Eliminate unnecessary single-use items in the room, such as trash bags, toiletries and plastic coffee packs
- Provide and clearly label bins for landfill, recycling and composting
- Initiate conversations with your vendors on transitioning to compostable packaging
- Empower your guests to reuse by offering complimentary reusable bottles at your front desk
If your hotel ESG targets include energy savings and return on investment (ROI), you might consider:
- Encouraging guests to reuse their towels and linens before laundering
- Replacing all lights throughout guestrooms, hallways, public areas and storage rooms with LED bulbs
- Installing motion sensor HVAC controls or room key master switches
- Upgrading to more energy-efficient chillers, boilers and heat pumps
Guest travel and transportation also offer an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. With the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), many of your guests might anticipate the availability of charging stations on-site, whether it be for their own personal or rented EV. Similar to WiFi, EV charging stations are becoming a standard amenity for hotels. By not offering this service and taking advantage of vast available funding, you could lose out on guests and opportunities to future-proof your business.
To effectively implement all these solutions and enlist your guests in your sustainability journey, comprehensive energy, water and waste data are needed. This data can empower your organization to track progress and measure ROI from specific programs, as well as craft an accurate and transparent sustainability story. ESG requires marketing, operations and managerial support, all of which rely upon data to make decisions. By intentionally adopting measures toward reducing energy, water and waste and regularly assessing progress, you can redefine your business as a pioneer in sustainability.
Christian Dettman, CHA serves as a client relationship manager for the hospitality industry within APTIM‘s Compliance and Permitting Division, assisting commercial and state and local clients to identify and implement innovative strategies and solutions on a variety of environmental compliance issues and sustainability goals.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.