Sustainability is Key in Hospitality Post COVID-19

by | July 13, 2020

Sustainability in hospitality is a topic that has been debated for decades – as tourism grows in popularity worldwide, hoteliers are tasked with how to ensure their hospitality doesn’t have a negative impact on the environment. The industry has worked hard and made many positive strides over the last decade, especially as consumers become more aware of eco-friendly tourism. However, recently this discussion has been put under great stress as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Hoteliers began to question how much longer they’d be able to maintain sustainable, eco-friendly efforts, especially with pressure to return to single-use plastics for enhanced guest safety.

However, sustainability should shift to the forefront of every hotelier’s minds following the devastation of the pandemic. The University of South Wales has a presentation about sustainability being the key for the industry’s future, stating that a combination of “increased government pressures” and even the influence of tourist awareness boosts the expectation that hotels will assume responsibility and operate sustainably. Sustainability involves a multitude of factors, and in considering all of them you’ll understand the importance maintaining sustainability will have on your business.

Defining Sustainability

On one hand, the term “sustainability” may be a bit difficult to pin down, as it’s a broadly-defined term used in a variety of ways when it comes to the hospitality industry. While it first brings to mind eco-friendly packaging efforts and locally sourced food and supplies, it also refers to energy use, waste reduction, water consumption, and even social elements like workplace environment.

Hoteliers must be aware of each element of sustainability when discussing plans for their own business operations. Sustainability efforts are worthwhile, though they can also influence the operating costs at any given property. Most efforts work to save energy and produce less waste, which lead to an overall drop in operating costs for the property. However, in certain circumstances it would not be surprising to see a small increase in charges – for example, reducing our reliance on outsourced products may be one cause for more expensive operational costs.

The benefit of using locally sourced foods and products combined with energy and waste reduction efforts may outweigh its expense, and many sustainable efforts have publicly financed initiatives to help offset initial costs for hoteliers.

Improving Sustainability at Your Hotel

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The effects following the coronavirus opened the eyes of many hoteliers that the current path they walked was inherently unsustainable. With a heightened dependence on outsourced products and less focus on preventing over-tourism, when the sudden drop in occupancy came in the U.S. in March 2020, profits for many hotels tanked. The model that many had been operating within proved less effective, and moving forward, industry experts speculate a much greater focus will be placed on all aspects of sustainability.

For many hoteliers, sustainability is no longer a choice, but a required element of their business planning for the future. While there may be some concern if travelers are thinking of sustainable travel solutions moving forward, Paolo Trevisan, head of design at Pininfarina of America, feels differently. He said:

“Over the next six to twelve months, consumers will be giving everything a more critical look, from their homes to their vacations. As such, we believe that sustainability –– especially principles of biophilia (access to natural light, green space, etc.) –– will continue to be a topic on the forefront of people’s minds.”

There are a number of ways you can reduce waste and introduce eco-friendly practices throughout your hotel. Some of these solutions are simple, such as installing low-flow shower heads or switching to all-LED lights in your guest rooms. If you’re thinking of making a larger investment, you might consider energy-saving tactics such as installing skylights or eco-friendly water filtration systems in guest rooms. Other larger investments may include making a permanent switch to locally-sourced, organic food products or incorporating fewer disposable products in your hotel rooms (starting with the toiletries). Taking the time to evaluate your property to improve sustainability efforts may surprise you with how costs are reduced in the long run.

Every aspect of a guest’s hotel experience is being called into question as the industry recovers from the coronavirus. Many areas in the United States are still suffering through the worst of its effects, and recovery will vary drastically from state to state. However, sustainability is our shared global responsibility, one that must be kept top of mind as we work through recovery together. When efforts are focused on improving the health of the planet, a more positive guest experience is sure to follow.

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