There is a big potential for the hotel industry to rethink business models and services aiming to reduce the consumption and increase the sustainability of the hotel experience. A new research project shows that sustainability in the sector is more than saved kilowatt hours – it is as much about the combined care for the environment and for the guest.
The hotel industry is often associated with large energy consumption, food waste, carbon emissions and lots of chemicals for washing and cleaning, but many Danish hotels encounter an increasing number of hotel and conference guests that request more sustainable solutions from their accommodations.
A research project “Green change of the hotel industry” has been initiated to explore the value guests experience while staying at more sustainable hotels. At the same time the project is investigating whether guests can be engaged in the environmental efforts of the hotels, and thereby get new experiences with sustainability habits to bring back home.
HORESTA (Danish Association for the Hotel and Restaurant Industry), Aarhus University and the Alexandra Institute, together with the hotel chain, Guldsmeden Hotels, and the hotel, Green Solution House are documenting the positive effects of being an environmentally friendly hotel - both externally towards the guests and internally towards the employees.
The results from the research project show that care for the guests, communication at eye level and involvement of employees in the green transition are just some of the areas the hotels must focus on in order to succeed with the green transition. If it is done with personality, credibility and conviction, the project shows that sustainability and the green touch are parameters where a hotel can differentiate itself positively.
The extent of travels, international conferences and overnight stays have increased significantly and will continue to rise. This development helps to increase profits, create more jobs and new business opportunities for the hotel industry. The development has, however, a downside. ”More domestic and foreign hotel guests and tourists can provide increased environmental impact, unless it is done in a smarter way. It is therefore important that just the hotel industry develops and improves its services in direction of more green solutions and alternatives”, says Mikal Holt Jensen, Green Key National Operator and Environmental Manager at HORESTA.
At the hotel chain, Guldsmeden Hotels, the green path has been quite a natural way to go, tells PR and communications manager Kirsten Aggersborg: “We are in an industry that is not exactly known for being green leaders, and for that reason we think that we should have extra focus on this issue. Therefore, our whole concept is built on sustainability and the idea that we are doing more good than harm in relation to our environment. We feel that we can stand up for all the choices we make, even in relation to biodegradable garbage bags, the purchase of recycled furniture, offering almost 100% organic food, etc. When you operate a hotel it means at the end of the day many garbage bags, a lot of furniture and many croissants.” Kirsten Aggersborg explains that Guldsmeden Hotels have joined the research project to know more about the value that their environmental efforts give: “We can already see that the actions we do are perceived very positively by the visitors and provides them with the knowledge that we care for them as well as for the environment. We can see that our ideas work, and it is deeply motivating”, she says while underlining that it is an ambition for the hotel chain to bring the new knowledge to others in the hotel industry.
The results from the research project also show that the management must take the lead in the green transition, as this commitment is crucial to pave the way for the green initiatives. Once the environmental thought and line are imbedded among the employees, they will naturally take the next steps. The motivation of the employees in relation to the involvement and ownership in the environmental solutions is a key requirement for successful green transition. At the same time, the sustainable initiatives which are initiated must not be finger pointing towards the guests, but should instead be seen as an environmental care that the hotels are showing their guests. The director of the Green Solution House and partner in the project, Trine Richter, also strongly agree with this point: “At our location, guests are not met with demanding signs about turning off the light or using fewer towels. It all runs behind the scenes so our guests are not bothered with facts about wastewater and carbon quotas - unless they ask. Because in that case we will be happy to tell about all our sustainable initiatives”, says Trine Richter. Green Solutions House has special rooms showing use of energy for particularly interested guests. And there are actually a number of very guests at the hotel interested in environmental issues!
Source: Alexandra Instituttet A/S