Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry and Consumer Mindset

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Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry and Consumer Mindset| FutureBusiness

The global Hospitality Industry is worth more than $570 billion, encompasses more than 700,000 hotels and resorts and 16.4 million hotel rooms, and is constantly growing. So, it’s no surprise that sustainability presents an enormous challenge to this sector, and the drive to make positive change towards sustainable business models is considered to be a critical development.

The consumer drive towards sustainability, in both products and services, is a cross-industry action, and the Hospitality Industry has been slow to make change. This may be attributed to the difficulty in reducing environmental impact from long-distance travel, reduction of energy in communal areas (especially those which are required to be constantly lit), the ability to reduce wastage (especially in food and other consumer-used goods), and so on. But, despite the difficulties – changes have to be made. Sustainable Tourism is expected to develop at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.4% between 2022 and 2032, with a short-term segment growth of approximately 1/3rd by 2022, topping $1 trillion in value.

Consumer Attitudes

The shift towards sustainable travel continues to grow at a rapid pace, and it affects accommodation and travel as a whole experience. Surveys say that 72% of travellers worldwide believe that sustainable travel is an important matter – and 87.32% believe that sustainable travel is ‘somewhat important’ or ‘very important’ to them personally.

When it comes to selecting accommodation, in 2021, 81% of travellers said they planned to choose sustainable accommodation options, and as of February 2022, 72% are intending to stay ‘at least once’ in an eco-friendly or green accommodation.

Booking.com found in their 2020 Sustainable Travel Report that 53% of consumers wanted to travel more sustainably on future trips, in their 2022 report, they found that 71% of respondents now expressed a desire to travel more sustainably in the coming year. Reportedly, 59% of travellers say that they will spend more if it improves the sustainability of their trip.

You can see that consumer opinion and demand is clear – sustainable hospitality is on the rise and providing for these consumers is no longer optional.

Industry Reaction

In order to bring the industry as a whole up to more acceptable standards for sustainability, a number of initiatives and programs have been created. At the COP26 Climate Conference, the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism was launched to provide a catalyst for increased urgency and accelerate climate action in tourism, by halving emissions by 2030 and reaching Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050.

The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is an initiative designed to accelerate climate action at every level, with particular emphasis on collaborative processes between stakeholders. They have identified five ‘priority’ areas which are:

  • Curbing energy usage
  • Reducing water usage
  • Cutting down food waste
  • Sourcing sustainable materials
  • Cutting single-use plastics

These focus points work in conjunction with the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme framework, and aim to not only reduce non-sustainable operations, but to increase sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in the hospitality sector. UNWTO has seen more than 500 travel-related businesses signing up to share the vision and goal of, “making tourism a driver of positive change.”

Sustainable Travel International Chief Executive, Paloma Zapata believes, “There is a lot of pressure from all sorts of directions, including clients, employees, government regulations, and investors – who want to see their money create more than just economic value.”

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Sustainable Focus

Bigger brands and chains are already aware of their social obligations, and many have already put Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) plans into action, and started achieving results through accreditation schemes.

Smaller luxury hotels, who often have a comparatively high footprint, are finding themselves in a position to innovate, create more sustainable packages and experiences, and adjust their experiential offerings to bring them in line with sustainable goals.

The medium to large hotels, and often family-run venues, are the ones who are struggling to know where to begin – these businesses often operate on tight costs and are restricted in their offerings (especially in highly competitive areas).

In order to address these concerns, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) launched a Hotel Sustainability Basics Initiative which provides a minimum set of criteria that all hotels, no matter how small, can introduce to push for sustainability.

There may be a lot of demand to make changes, and difficulty in getting started – or even knowing where to turn next once your business is taking those first steps. But with so many different driving forces offering support, and a wealth of knowledge, a sustainable future for the hospitality industry is achievable.

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