Should the hospitality industry address sustainability to customers?

1488933I was recently at World Travel Market’s (WTM) Responsible Tourism Day. As editor of Green Hotelier it’s one of our tent pole events in the year; and a chance to learn more about the impressive actions being taken by many around the world to encourage a more responsible tourism with a net positive impact on destinations.

On Sustainability Day at the WTM, the BHA asked me to moderate a panel looking at whether the hospitality industry should be communicating sustainability to customers. With fascinating presentations from Gavin Sanders (General Manager, Radisson Blu Edwardian), Claire Yeates( Director at WaterScan who was representing Whitbread’s initiatives) and Helena Egan (Global Director of Industry relations, TripAdvisor) there was plenty to learn about the hotel industry’s sustainability programmes and how they alert their guests to them.

Earlier in the day Kevin Anderson, Professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester had delivered a stark reminder to delegates that current efforts to reduce carbon footprints would not be enough to prevent a catastrophic outcome for many countries around the world. To mitigate this, we need carbon figures to be heading in reverse, not simply reducing compared to a base level. In real terms, with expansion in the industry, carbon outputs continue to grow.

With this in mind I challenged the panellists over how far they would be prepared to push guests to play their part in reducing their environmental impacts during a hotel stay. Even with hotel groups setting themselves increasingly ambitious targets, there can only be so much they can achieve without awareness and input from guests.

Many of the BHA and ITP members work very hard behind the scenes to ensure they’re reducing their energy, water and waste impacts whilst also making positive contributions to their neighbourhoods. But, understandably, they want to ensure their guests enjoy a relaxed, luxury stay, untroubled by decisions about how high to turn their air con, how long to have their shower, or how to separate their trash.

But there are ways for hotels to more actively engage guests in their sustainability programmes without it feeling like a chore or a guilt trip. As well as back of house action, careful messaging can encourage more responsible behaviour by making it seem natural and normal, without impacting the guest’s positive rating of the stay.

And as younger generations who are more active in environmental activity become the new responsible tourists, there are opportunities for hotels to engage on a whole new level. 1hotels with properties in New York and Miami have trialled a fun approach which invites guests to try to beat a timer in the shower.

I love writing about the amazing and varied ways that hotels around the world are being more responsible and sustainable businesses, but I do believe going forward they will need to invite their guests to do their bit as well. Most are not eager to do this, but with the right messaging and an interactive approach that appeals to a sense of fun, good environmental behaviour can become part of the joy of the hotel experience.




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