Hoteliers Must Involve Guests In Their Sustainability Journey

Bathtub With Plant Background

Hoteliers need to start integrating sustainability into all aspects of their business models. Statistics show that less than 6,000 out of 800,000 hotels worldwide are recognised as ‘eco’.

As climate change approaches a critical stage, it is vital that hoteliers start engaging in sustainable practices, exclaimed Finn Bolding Thomsen, Deputy CEO of eco-certification program Green Key at a recent I MEET HOTEL sustainability summit, organised by Bidroom.

Involving guests in the journey of becoming sustainable is an essential way hoteliers can make significant progress in this area.

Sustainability in the wake of the pandemic

The covid-19 pandemic has accelerated, rather than distracted from, discussions around the hospitality sector’s impact on the planet. 

In the wake of the pandemic, now is a critical time to rebuild the travel industry sustainably. In the future, hoteliers should expect to see much more government involvement in this regard. 

“Green hospitality is, and will be, more regulated,” said Caroline Da’lin, Commercial VP of Bidroom. 

Understanding the new consumer demand

A new generation of travellers has materially altered consumer demands of the hospitality industry because of the pandemic. Surveys by, Expedia, and Bidroom revealed that the rise of sustainability had become an influencing factor in booking travel. Since March 2020, the term “green hotel” has even quadrupled in search volume on Google.

According to Cláudio Lisboa, Technical Coordinator at The World Tourism Organisation, the top consumer ‘buzzwords’ in travel trends revolve around types of tourism that cannot survive if the industry does not start playing its part in protecting the planet and the people within it.

“We’ve all seen metrics about consumers being ready to pay more for an eco-property or taking this into consideration when booking, so we know the demand has changed, and we need to be ready for it. Considering this change in demand, many businesses have come to understand that walking this path is essential and it does positively impact the bottom line,” commented Da’lin.

However, travellers are still grappling to find the correct information about sustainability initiatives and, as a result, are finding it difficult to know who to trust. 

Communicating sustainable practices

“There is a discrepancy between the wishes and realities for travellers,” said Thomsen. 

Measuring and communicating sustainable practices are vital to resolving this issue, from the booking process to check-out. “Guests want to feel part of the sustainability aim of hotels,” claimed Henric Carlsson, General Manager, Elite Hotels of Sweden.

Currently, measurement remains a challenge for the hotel industry. For example, carbon footprint calculation is considerably harder to measure for accommodation than for air travel, and often customers are unwilling to pay to offset carbon. However, eco-certification labels on online travel agencies have started to help guests make positive choices when travelling. 

There are more than 200 eco-certification labels, most of which are using GSTC Criteria, the global standards for sustainability in travel and tourism. These can provide a credible pathway to more sustainable practices and benefits, usually with third-party assessment, which analyses environmental management, water use, corporate social responsibility, and more. The sustainability journey does not end with certification; this is something that should be repeatedly considered and assessed too. 

Lisboa suggested that some hotels may be uncomfortable putting their eco-practices on show, but guests expect this whether they do it or not. Additionally, communication can have spillover benefits as guests go home from a stay with new ideas of how to do things differently in travel. 

“Showing your guests that you care will be a huge differentiator”, concluded Dal’lin. Her top recommendations for hoteliers are:

  • Be honest and accountable.
  • Ensure your efforts are not just limited to communications and marketing departments but are a true reflection of your commitment to sustainability.
  • Use or work towards established labelling mechanisms in hospitality as there are no global standards yet.