The hospitality industry strives to provide a convenient and comfortable stay for each guest. In today’s world, where travelers are demanding more eco-friendly lodging (without sacrificing comfort or quality), the industry must turn to increased sustainability and efficient resource management as a differentiator while reducing operating costs.
What challenges are hoteliers facing today?
According to the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, tourism contributes about 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is expected to grow by 130 percent by 2035. Studies have also shown that in order for the global hotel industry to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, it must reduce emissions per room, per year, by 66 percent by 2030 (compared to 2010 baseline).
Although the number of properties continuously fluctuates, there are approximately 187,000 hospitality properties worldwide, which adds up to significant resource use. Since guest rooms are independently controlled, hotels also face the unique challenge of having limited control over energy and water use (and savings). And to ensure a good guest experience, decisions are often decentralized and made at a property level rather than a central corporate level. Because of their distinct and globally-distributed portfolios, hoteliers also face a challenge collecting consistent, complete data for resource management and benchmarking.
Hotel sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’ trend or add-on to the guest experience. It must be a priority, woven into the entire network of operations.
What hospitality trends support the sustainability transformation?
- Travel sites are helping travelers identify properties as being eco-friendly, and word-of-mouth spreads quickly through social media. Generation Y and X are expected to represent more than 50 percent of all global travelers by 2025, and about 97 percent post about their trips on social media.
- The sharing economy—where anyone can market their property as a rental through sites like Airbnb and VRBO—is making the hospitality industry more competitive than ever and driving lower profits. This necessitates reducing overall operating costs.
- Travelers are seeking hotels that align to their lifestyles even while traveling, so many chains offer larger bathrooms, smaller rooms and spaces to work. Upscale locations may have spas, yoga rooms, jacuzzies and more. As space types evolve, hotels have the opportunity to design facilities that use less energy, water and waste.
- The World Travel and Tourism Council issued new guidance on energy sustainability and governance reporting and highlighted sustainability as a top priority for the sector. Leading hoteliers are making bold commitments including emissions and waste reduction goals. In order to meet these aggressive goals, hoteliers must develop a robust, achievable sustainability roadmap.
What should hoteliers be thinking about?
Some of the following actions can help retailers address current trends and external pressures while maximizing savings and resource efficiency.
- Understand resource cost & consumption. Ensure there are robust processes in place to gather and manage cost and consumption data, from analyzing invoices to conducting on-site audits. Benchmarking historical consumption and costs bring visibility to how sites use resources and enables organizations to prioritize spend to ensure the greatest ROI.
- Use sustainability as a competitive advantage. To remain competitive, hotels must adopt business models that integrate sustainable practices. Such practices will enable hospitality to reduce costs, comply with regulations, increase employee retention, enhance customer loyalty and improve risk management
- Put smart devices to work. With little control over guest behavior, consider devices that help control energy and water use. Install low-flow water heads, sink aerators, occupancy sensors, lighting retrofits and smart heating controls to ensure automatic resource reductions.
- Disclose Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) metrics. Investors, consumers and regulators are demanding more transparency into sustainable business practices. Assess the most material risks, such as water efficiency and conservation standards, water stress, and the effect of storms (hurricanes, flooding) on water supply. Also consider increased regulations on water and waste, carbon taxes or cap-and-trade schemes, and new efficiency standards.
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