The hospitality industry is responsible for approximately 1% of all global carbon emissions – and customers are taking note. 68% of consumers view climate change as an emergency and, as a result, the demand for sustainable travel has grown.
Hotels that adopt eco-friendly practices and reduce their carbon footprint are deemed more attractive to 73% of tourists, who are prepared to spend 75% more per night in return.
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But how do you balance the expectations of guests – and what they’re willing to pay – with effective sustainability practices that work towards real change?
Strategies that dominate the conversation
Mostcurrent sustainability efforts focus on reducing water and energy consumption, minimizing food waste, avoiding single-use items, and opting for locally sourced, organic products with recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
What they all have in common is that they can either be used to justify a rate increase, or represent a saving in cost. Here are a few examples:
- Use of green technology, such as solar panels, energy-efficient LED lights, and smart thermostats, to increase efficiency and minimize carbon emissions.
- Sustainable guest transportation, like hybrid or electric vehicles, as it’s supposed to be kinder to the environment and save on long-term fuel and maintenance costs.
- Water consumption control through water-efficient products like water-saving filters or shower heads.
- A shift from single-use plastic to reusable alternatives to offset the 200 gallons of plastic waste per room each month contributing to the 8 million pieces of plastic that enter our oceans daily.
- Use of organic and locally sourced products made with natural ingredients and no harmful chemicals. These eco-friendly products – from cleaning products to fragrances – are safer for guests and have a lower carbon footprint.
- Implementation of recycling programs that help manage waste properly and limit pollution.
- Food waste reduction initiatives,like sourcing food locally and food donation programs, can help minimize the 8% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by wasted food.
The million-dollar question is, how effective are these sustainability practices?
The impact of the strategies implemented so far
In terms of saving money for hotels, these strategies are pretty effective considering that Marriott has lowered their operational costs due to the implementation of these strategies across their portfolio. In 2021, Marriott saved approximately 425 million gallons of water globally by installing smart sensor technology in their managed full-service hotels. In the same year, Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel used AI designed to optimize commercial HVAC systems to reduce energy consumption and, as a result, made electricity savings of around 20%.
However, these strategies alone may not be enough to effectively reduce carbon emissions caused by the hospitality industry. According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, per-room carbon emissions need to be reduced by at least 66% by 2030. This is only possible if hospitality leaders are honest about their sustainability efforts and lead with integrity.
For example, Hilton is one of the first major hotel companies to take innovative and science-based action to address climate change by pledging to reduce their waste by over 50% by 2030. Hilton’s public commitment to reaching that target holds them accountable and encourages other hotel leaders to follow suit.
With limited resources being an issue for many hoteliers post-pandemic, it may be difficult to decide whether or not to invest in sustainability efforts at this time. However, since guests are willing to spend more to stay at a green hotel, investing in sustainability could increase profits by 38% over five years. Making this initial investment allows room for hoteliers to take advantage of new sustainability strategies that arise due to improvements in technology and changing consumer trends.
New opportunities to leverage
Emerging trends and new technologies offer the hospitality industry opportunities to create innovative solutions that address both sustainability and changes in consumer behavior – including the shift to consuming more plant-based foods and non-alcoholic beverages.
Vegan meals can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64% compared to recipes that contain a lot of meat. Think about how you can add more fun and flavorful vegan and vegetarian options to your menu. Guy Reinbold, one of SSP’s Food and Beverage Industry Experts, highlights the importance of costing the items on your menu properly to meet profit margins – an important factor to consider as developing vegan recipes can be more expensive.
With the growing popularity of AI, new opportunities arise for hotels to streamline their processes and digitize paperwork. There are many tools that you can tailor to your hotel’s needs to improve guest experiences and enhance your sustainability efforts. For example, automating checkout processes is convenient for guests, eliminates paper waste, and allows hoteliers to offer value-add upsells.
Hotels that embrace sustainability can gain a competitive edge
With 83% of 25- to 34-year-olds willing to spend more on sustainable travel options, and Gen Z commanding $360 billion in disposable income, it is business smart to tune into what these generations value – and sustainability is high on that list.
This means that hospitality industry leaders are in a unique position to make sustainability a high-priority business goal that factors in the growing buying power of younger generations. In fact, by 2029 Millennials and Gen Zers are predicted to make up 72% of the world’s workforce. In other words, if you invest in sustainability now, you stand the chance to see a return on investment – for both the planet and healthy profits – sooner than competitors who aren’t prioritizing key sustainability issues that resonate with this new generation. So, are you in?