What is sustainable hospitality? It is the application of sustainable practices in hospitality and hotel operations in compliance with environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.
Many tourists, travelers and holiday makers in 2023 are now adding sustainability to their list of requirements when booking accommodation.
Nowadays, many travelers are looking at what sustainability practices different establishments have in place before booking them. Do they run a full recycling operation or are they reducing their waste? Are they stimulating the local economy, purchasing local, offering jobs and training to the locals? Are they embracing renewable energy?
These are the questions many travellers are, or are beginning to ask when booking accommodation worldwide.
Now you may think, how will these bookers find the answers to these questions? Booking.com released statistics that 83% of the travelers that they surveyed want to travel more sustainably but 41% indicated that they didn’t know how to find these sustainable properties. Booking.com has recognized this and in 2021 introduced their Travel Sustainable programme. If a property is recognized with the Travel Sustainable badge it will be displayed on the property’s page in search results and they can easily find the property through the Travel Sustainable search filter.
The programme allows all properties listed on Booking.com to include the sustainability practices their property have in place, this is then assessed by a criteria model. The more practices implemented by the property the more likely the property is to be recognized with Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable badge, which, in turn has started to encourage properties to begin implementing and improving the sustainable practices they follow.
By implementing and upholding sustainability practices in your establishment you are not only aiding the environment, local economy/community and future generations, but also improving the overall brand image of your establishment. Consumers are easily influenced, if they find out your property does not take the necessary steps to eliminate or significantly reduce its negative impact on the environment, this could potentially affect their perception of your brand. Another interesting point to look at is that much more of the younger generation (millennials and Gen Z’s) are finding themselves becoming much more conscious consumers and adopting green practices, wanting to improve the state of the earth and environment for themselves and for future generations. By implementing and following sustainable practices at your establishment, you will not only find yourself attracting these youths to stay at your establishment but also the possibility of hiring the talent of these younger generations who share the same values as your establishment.
There are costs involved when implementing a sustainability strategy in your establishments, these costs will vary from establishment to establishment based on the practices you wish to introduce. In the long run however, certain practices may actually decrease operational costs. As an example, by cutting down on single use plastics such as plastic straws, cups and cutlery, your property will save money on supplies as well as on waste/rubbish removal. By implementing energy and water saving practices, consumption will be reduced allowing you to save on electricity and water bills.
Another challenge faced is that hoteliers may worry that by implementing sustainable practices that they might impact guest experience. If establishments carefully plan and implement these practices, with correct guidelines and protocol, there should be no effect on guest experience. It is also key to show the guests the benefits of the sustainability practices. It should become an engaging experience with the guest, inform them why the practices are in place, advertise these practices on your social media pages or in press releases. The more the guest engages and understands why the practices are in place the less likely their guest experience will be affected.
One property in South Africa which has implemented sustainability practices is, Schulphoek House in Hermanus. The 5-star property has gone ahead and taken their green practices to the next level. The roof of the property is a solar farm, taking them completely off the grid, and they make use of no geysers on site. The heating of all water is controlled by the solar panels installed. They make use of hydronic air conditioning, a practice that involves either hot or cold water being circulated to every room via a ring main, air is then heated or cooled through a radiator and circulated to the room by means of a fan. All rainwater is collected and fed into the hot water reticulation system and is used in the garden, saving in excess of 500 000 litres of water per annum. These are just a few of the practices they have implemented in their sustainability strategy that are helping make a difference, not only for themselves but for the bigger picture.
Properties don’t have to go to the extent of implementing the practices mentioned above, there are many small practices that can be adopted and implemented to help make even the smallest of a difference.
Below you can find small practices your establishment can implement into your sustainability strategy:
- Cut Back/Eliminate single use plastics
- Develop recycling programmes
- Support local producers and vendors
- Create a paperless environment
- Choose cleaning products that have a minimal impact on the environment
- Encourage guests to be involved in the process so that they can take an active role and be encouraged to make sustainable choices within the hotel and within the local environment by choosing local tour operators, and investing in locally-produced goods
The issue of sustainability has been a rising topic in the last few years and has been rapidly growing in importance. Today’s hoteliers and hospitality organizations need to take a step back and not only look at their establishment, but the bigger picture as a whole. Implementation of sustainable practices needs to be prioritized to build a culture of social, environmental and economic responsibility and to create overall sustainable hospitality.