How can hospitality leaders make a sustainable difference?

Dr Stuart Jauncey, Managing Director of Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, provides insight into how hospitality leaders can make a sustainable difference in the environment

Developing sustainable models of hospitality is crucial as we face the reality of limited resources and rising demand. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the number of overnight international travellers is expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. This global increase in tourism is putting a strain on many of the resources that draw travellers in the first place, including natural attractions and local heritage.

With one in ten jobs worldwide currently supported by travel and tourism, the industry already has a huge influence on the environment, economy and social fabric of communities. Couple this with hospitality’s rapid growth rate, and the need for socially and environmentally responsible practices becomes even more urgent.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association estimates that encouraging guests to reuse towels and linens can enable a 300-room hotel to save up to 200,000 litres of water and 1,300 litres of detergent each year. Many leading hotels have already adopted sustainable measures, with significant results.

For example, Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas eliminated the use of 1.09 million plastic bottles in 2017 by implementing its own water filtration and glass bottling system. In 2018, Virtuoso travel advisors nominated Six Senses Douro Valley as winner of the Sustainable Tourism Leadership award. It also supports social initiatives and works with regional suppliers and hire local staff whenever possible.

Embracing sustainability enables the hospitality industry to deliver a better guest experience. In a survey conducted by Booking.com in 2018, 87% of global travellers said they want to travel sustainably. But 48% said they never, rarely or only sometimes manage to travel sustainably. Hotels that adopt an environmentally and socially responsible approach can therefore address this gap, making guests feel good about their accommodation choice.

Throughout my career in hospitality and education, I have been convinced of the importance of sustainability. In the early 1990s, I worked on a World Travel & Tourism Council project to develop a sustainable accreditation system which led to Green Globe, a set of sustainable tourism standards and certifications now widely used across the world. Not long after, I served as the founding director of the Centre for Environmental Studies in the Hospitality Industry at Oxford Brookes University.

Over the years, I have observed how awareness of sustainability in the industry has grown while working on environmental initiatives such as hospitality glass recycling, Green Cone organic waste digestive systems and the development of sustainable standards for the UK Hotel Grading and Classification System.

Meanwhile, through my research, I have endeavoured to highlight the marketing, financial and employee retention benefits of increased environmental performance.

The industry has woken up to the need for new sustainable solutions – particularly in fast-growing tourism destinations faced with challenging conditions, such as Dubai, where I lived for ten years. With temperatures soaring to the high 40s during the summer, air conditioning and the chilling of swimming pools is essential to provide guests with a comfortable experience.

Hotels in Dubai have responded by developing systems to reduce energy waste and costs. These include the use of solar energy, automated switches to turn off unnecessary air conditioning, and carefully designed buildings to maximise natural air flows and shade.

Soon, the UAE will have its first fully sustainable hotel – InterContinental Hotels Group has partnered with Diamond Developers to create Hotel Indigo Dubai Sustainable City, where 100% of the hotel’s energy needs will be met by solar power.

Many leading hotel companies now recognise the need to engage with sustainability as well as the benefits this brings, including reduced costs, increased guest satisfaction and improved staff retention. But there is still much work to be done.

As education providers, we have a responsibility to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills to create and implement sustainable solutions. This begins with developing awareness of our impact on the environment and continues with critical thinking and innovative problem solving. Teaching students about sustainability not only prepares them to become effective leaders in hospitality, but also provides skills that resonate with their values.

Businesses have a responsibility to give back to the communities that host them, and this is especially true in hospitality – an industry that is based on people and service. Environmentally, economically and socially, hotels have great potential to make a positive impact on their surroundings.

But first, hospitality leaders must see sustainability as a necessity and a guiding principle behind their decisions. Education is key to cultivating this frame of mind, and to transmitting this sense of responsibility to future generations.

 

Dr Stuart Jauncey

Managing Director

Les Roches Global Hospitality Education

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