Greening Your Hotel
First it was Katrina. Now it’s Irene. No these are not American supermodels that stride the walkway on Fashion TV, but supersized hurricanes that struck the United States of America. Perhaps you might not subscribe to the idea of global warming and climate change, but one might wonder how Dubai ever hit 51.4 degrees Celsius.
So supposedly you feel bad about humans polluting the Earth, but at the same time, you’re still an avid traveller. How do you globetrot without the guilt of an oversized carbon footprint? Fret not. Welcome to the world of hotels offering brochures printed with soy ink on recycled paper, 100 percent recycled toilet paper in your hotel bathroom, “low-flow” water savers from your showerhead, eco cleaning products used to clean your room, donation programs, and eco concierges that provide green information and services.
A growing trend in the hospitality industry is to take steps to reduce the environmental impacts of hotels. Laundries in the United States use over 1,500 billion gallons of water per year. Deforestation results in 12-15 million hectares of forest lost each year. Nearly 40 percent of TripAdvisor travelers surveyed are environmentally concerned. By providing these green services, customers feel pleased that they are doing the right thing.
Here are three reasons why a hotel should get on the green bandwagon:
Going green reduces the amount of energy consumed, which means lowering utility bills without compromising the comfort of your staff or guests. The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto invested $25,000 in an energy conservation program to replace leaky steam traps and fix leaks, which resulted in an annual savings of over $200,000. The Holiday Inn on King in Toronto reportedly saved $14,852 a year through the installation of low flow showerheads and faucet aerators.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand building
If a hotel demonstrates that it is giving back to society by adopting greener initiatives, it would reflect well upon it’s customers. This may very well drive customer loyalty as well. However, going green can also help you stand out against the crowd. Very few golf resorts can call themselves eco-friendly hotels, but the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica, has some of the greenest of greens. This resort was recently awarded Green Globe Certification for its continued environmental conservation efforts. The Ritz-Carlton Environmental Action Conservation Team educates all departments in the hotel on environmental practices designed to minimize carbon footprint.
Maslow’s Self Actualization theory
According to Abraham Maslow, human needs range from the most basic physiological needs at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, to self-actualization at the top of his pyramid. He describes self-actualization as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. In this case, the green traveller is well satisfied physiologically and socially on the lower levels of the pyramid, and wants more by seeking to be an active contributor towards the well being of the planet through his travel means and purchases. Good results for hotels are all about understanding human behavior, and making the change appealing.
Let’s take a look at a few cases of green success and another case of what could be labeled as “Greenwashing”.
Joining the World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers programme in 2009, Fairmont committed to reduce operational CO2 emissions from its existing portfolio of hotels by 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2013. Everyone’s an original with Fairmont with it’s guest stories and environmental contributions.
The Kimpton Group’s Earthcare program boasts that all Kimpton hotels now have Green Seal Silver Certifications, and greatly emphasizes green products and practices, as well as local, organic dining. The Kimpton Triton Hotel will even set you up with a zero emission, man-powered pedicab so you can move around the city in style.
On a larger scale, New York is implementing a green heart in its “I Love NY” tourism slogan. The Big Apple is set to shine the spotlight on green travel and tourism including eco certified attractions, green transportation, dining and lodging. Tourists can expect to see the Niagara Falls National Park and the Empire State building in a greener light.
Is the green wave overhyped? Every day, Americans are bombarded with advertising about environmentally friendly goods and services. But how many are genuinely green, and how many are just pretending? Take for example Shell. According to Greenpeace, their latest “Let’s Go” campaign wants people to think that they actually care about a clean energy future. Hotels should beware of falling into this pitfall of deception and genuinely advocate environmental initiatives with substantial measures in place.
Other than embarking on a green programme, hotels should consider implementing social media strategies to complement it as well. Social Media can be a powerful tool to help companies engage in conversations with an environmental theme. Kimpton Hotels has over 37,000 Facebook fans and 15,400 Twitter followers with a good level of engagement.
At the end of the day, price, quality, brand and convenience will continue to drive consumer spending, but sustainability will increasingly be part of the decision-making process. Hotels should foster the development of green tourism and promote its benefits to its guests.
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