Green travel is on the rise: this year, the number of travelers who want eco-friendly travel options is projected to grow by 36% compared to 2016. At the same time, travelers interested in ecological travel experiences is projected to grow by 39%.
This trend is not limited to the travel industry. Consumers are switching from meat and unhealthy foods to greener and healthier alternatives. They’re opting to bike to work instead of driving a car and concerns for the environment are on the rise.
As a professional in the hospitality industry, hotel sustainability is an issue you should pay attention to. Making greener choices for your hotel will save you money, but the real benefit is in meeting customer demand.
Intrigued? Read on to learn exactly why hotels should go green and how your hotel can benefit from this.
Who values sustainability?
First things first:
You’ll want to make sure green travel is in your hotel’s best interest. Is it just a niche, a hazy trend, or are customer preferences actually changing?
It might have begun as a smaller niche in the travel industry, but demand for eco traveling is growing among consumers. Undoubtedly, concern for global warming is an important factor. But, other factors play an important role, such as urbanization and differences in how generations perceive the world.
Differences between generations
All generations are interested in eco traveling to some extent.
However, there are differences between how generations value green travel. Both Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) and Generation X (born between 1961-1981) are environmentally conscious (44% of Baby Boomers and 42% of Generation X call themselves ‘environmentalists’). Right now, Baby boomers are the backbone of the travel industry, and Generation X has time and money to spend on traveling. Naturally, those are important consumer groups for your hotel.
Sustainability is set to become an even more important issue when Millennials (born between 1981-2001), the biggest generation, have settled down. Millennials are well informed and they value sustainable consumption. 66% say they are willing to pay more for services by companies that are committed to creating a positive environmental impact.
Changes in consumer preferences
You know all too well how the travel industry has changed after companies like Couchsurfing and AirBnB entered the markets.
These changes go hand in hand with generational shifts and digitalization. Sustainability is a core question for businesses like AirBnB and Couchsurfing. For example, one of Couchsurfing’s core values is “Leave It Better Than You Found It” and AirBnB talks about the importance of sustainability on its website.
The thing is, you can cater to those same customers. With eco-friendly offers, you tap into their preferences.
The world’s cities are growing rapidly and more than 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Sustainable travel offers experiences in nature for city dwellers and, most importantly, in a clean environment.
Not only consumers are interested in more conscious traveling. More and more business travelers opt to keep conferences and meetings in eco-friendly venues. For example, businesses’ environmental policies might mean that they seek out the most environmentally friendly alternative.
According to a survey from 2010, 51% of businesses hold meetings in environmentally friendly locations. JW Marriott Denver says that 75% of businesses ask about green initiatives when they decide on the venue.
How does hotel sustainability benefit your hotel?
Now you have an overview of where the travel industry is heading and how traveler preferences mean you might want to consider going green. But, what direct benefits are there? Let’s find out!
Lower costs for your hotel
Sustainable hospitality requires hotels to reduce their consumption of resources like energy and water. Naturally, this tends to lower costs for hotels. For example, Holiday Inn in Vancouver, Canada, was able to reduce 28% of its energy consumption after installing an energy management system.
Being a market leader
While more and more hotels opt to go green, there’s still time for you to become a market leader in your own hotel niche. For example, if your hotel is located in the countryside, you might be alone in your efforts to create a sustainable experience for your guests.
Not only do you tap into the growing demand for greener alternatives, you also get a competitive advantage. By positioning yourself as the green alternative, your hotel can take advantage of this for years to come.
According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers say that their loyalty to a brand depends on shared values with the business. If you incorporate sustainable values as a core part of your brand, you can use this to win loyal customers who come back for more and refer your hotel to their friends.
Going green can significantly boost brand awareness. Green travel goes hand in hand with various awards and recognitions. And you know who pays attention to those types of awards? Business travelers who have their own environmental policies. By the way, here’s how you can show off your green awards in your hotel media kit.
Corporate Social Responsibility and risk management
Last but not least, you might apply corporate social responsibility (CSR) in day-to-day business. If not, you can still use these principles for your hotel. In fact, you benefit from it- a 2011 study by Harvard Business School showed that businesses with environmental, social, and governance policies outperformed those that didn’t have such policies in the 1990s.
Plus, with CSR you manage risks that can affect your hotel. As a hotel, you want to minimize the risk for things like water pollution. And, if you’re in the hospitality industry for the long run, you’ll want to ensure that the environment that surrounds your hotel is preserved for future generations of travelers.
Conclusion: Why sustainability is so important
That’s it! You now know why hotels should go green.
To recap, hotel sustainability is on the rise thanks to changing customer preferences, demographics, and more. Green travel benefits hotels in several different ways; from saved costs to gaining competitive advantages and risk management.
But, how do you make your hotel go green? And what, exactly, does it mean?
Stay tuned for the next post, where you’ll learn all about how your hotel can cater to green travelers!
Camilla Hallstrom is a freelance writer based in Berlin, Germany. Camilla is a contributor to publications such as The Huffington Post and Elite Daily. Say hi on Twitter: @c_hallstrom.