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Current trends in hotel sustainability

publication date: Feb 26, 2012
author/source: TravelWires
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Current trends in hotel sustainability 


Sustainability in the hospitality industry used to mean supplying the high-end amenities that visitors wanted at the lowest possible cost, regardless of who that meant doing business with. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly like tiny shampoo bottles were falling off the back of trucks, but the majority of hoteliers in our parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably weren’t too worried about the environmental impact of their operations. These days it’s a different story. With more and more consumers looking for environmentally and socially responsible vendors, even when they travel (hence the rise in popularity of eco-tourism), anyone running a one-off resort or a hotel chain needs to understand that sustainability has become an important part of doing business. And those that continue to ignore issues like conservation and fair trade in their industry are likely doomed to failure.

However, the demand for eco-friendliness can be difficult to comply with. For one thing, many businesses don’t quite know where to start. And even when they’ve installed recycling bins and low-flow toilets, they might be scratching their heads as to where to go next. For many the problem is multi-faceted, and the learning curve can be especially steep for international operations. While some countries have strict regulations in place to help industry operate in a less harmful manner, other nations have no (or few) restrictions when it comes to environmental protection. For many businesses this raises a conundrum. Should you follow the rules of the country you’re operating in or strive for the highest possible standards, despite the additional (and unnecessary) cost? While there’s something to be said for giving the people what they want, you can’t afford to let your competitors undercut you simply because you have scruples.

English: The "three pillars" of sust...

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And then, of course, there is the issue of quantifying your efforts. How do you demonstrate to patrons that you are actually running a sustainable business? While you can shoot for any number of environmental certifications (and claim bragging rights once you’ve secured them) most people don’t know what such a seal of approval means in terms of your efforts on behalf of the environment. And if you fail to attain certification of some sort, will tree-hugging tourists even take you seriously? It’s not like they’re going to take the time to look over your water and electric reports to see that you are indeed conserving, or take you at your word that you’ve inspected all of your manufacturers to ensure that there’s nothing hinky going on at their factories (like child labor, for example).

Whether you’re offering beach bungalows in St. Kitts or cozy cottages in St Anton am Arlberg, you’re likely facing similar issues when it comes to the question of sustainability. And since there is no set scale for international businesses to meet benchmarks for eco-friendly operations, you’re pretty much going to have to wing it. But if you really want to green up the works and create the sustainable options that more travelers these days are seeking, your best bet is probably to look into various forms of certification (which do come with set standards) in order to ensure quantifiable results and a seal of approval that consumers can at least see (even if they have no real idea what it means).

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