“We often talk of saving the planet, but the truth is that we must do these things to save ourselves.”
The pandemic made it crystal clear that what happens in one part of the world impacts another. Borders have not kept COVID at bay: We are totally interconnected. And it’s now more apparent than ever that our ability to handle this – and future pandemics – will require a more diverse eco-system, so eloquently emphasized by David Attenborough in ‘A Life on Our Planet’.
Tourism is responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions, of which 20% (1% of global emissions) belongs to hotels. That’s not to say that many luxury hotels aren’t already doing their bit…. As far back as the mid 90s, I remember working with the Thai Hotel Association on the Prince of Wales Environmental Initiative, of which IHG was one of the most vocal supporters. But now we need to go way beyond changing linens less frequently and turning off lights more often to something much more meaningful.
Our savvy guests understand what the future needs, and will now be more likely to hold us responsible for our green credentials and activities. Using words like eco, sustainable, natural, organic and environmentally friendly will actually have to mean something. The time for talking is over. Our guests will need to see transparency and accountability in our ‘eco’ claims; they will need to see action, rather than words.
So how green are you, really? If you’re starting from a clean slate, you have an advantage; you can design a sustainable hotel that builds a relationship with the local community while also preserving the natural environment and biodiversity. You can select appropriate materials and plan the operation in ways that reduce the consumption of natural resources and minimize the impact of waste treatment.
If you’re already in operation, my recommendation is to make a REAL commitment to sustainability as part of your business plan. And the time for that is now. Appoint a senior member of your management team to champion your green journey. Go for certification – from Green Globe to EarthCheck – there are plenty of organisations that can guide you.
Whether you start with conserving energy (with a PMS system, solar panels and LED lighting), decreasing waste (implementing a water bottling plant, selecting amenity and cleaning products in packaging that is recyclable or compostable), reducing water (think water-tracking, low-flow toilets, efficient shower heads, encouraging guests to skip the daily linen/towel change), and supporting ‘local’ (purchasing home-grown food produce, promoting local events), this is the time to start the journey, and to make sure guests can see that your brand is about action, not words.