A Sustainable Approach to Hospitality

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns, but as infection rates decrease in several parts of the world, travel has begun to take off again, resulting in many hotels returning to life.

Travel markets have permanently changed, so recovery cannot simply revert 'back to normal.' There are new priorities and needs for leisure and business travelers alike. At the same time, sustainability is a bigger priority than ever, not just when it comes to carbon emissions but in other ways as well. Throughout all dimensions of ESG (environmental, social and governance) hospitality has a unique opportunity to take the lead and embed sustainability into its core practices. Companies that meet their customers' demands for sustainable travel will thrive. Those who fall short risk losing out.

Reorientation of Priorities

The pandemic abruptly shut down travel plans for many business travelers, a critical segment for many hospitality brands. In response to remote working and online meetings, many companies are reconsidering their travel policies.

Furthermore, companies are pressured to reduce their emissions:

  • With smart travel decisions and maximizing travel benefits on every trip, it is unlikely that travel will return to its pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.

  • Politicians and regulators expect it as the global push for a cleaner and green economy grows.

  • Many companies have set a clear reduction target for Scope 3 emissions, which includes travel emissions.

Consumers rethink what matters most in life to a great extent when it comes to the dynamics at play. A study by Ipsos recently found that around half of consumers are reevaluating their priorities because of the pandemic. Although, their priorities include sustainability, consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for brands that align with their values.

The challenge of presenting sustainability as a value to travelers, both for business and leisure, remains. It is clear that the pandemic has significantly affected cash flow, resulting in a major issue. As a sector, we can respond to changing expectations of customers by improving sustainability. 

The Social Impact

Several hotels, such as Marriott International and Hilton have already established ESG plans addressing a wide range of priorities besides carbon emissions. Tourism can play a major economic role in developing countries and fragile natural ecosystems, where impact on local communities can be a critical factor. The damaged destination impacts everyone.

Hoteliers should also engage closely with the communities in which they operate. A key component is the supply chain. By purchasing locally produced goods and services, such as food, companies will reduce carbon emissions and contribute to the local economy. The global travel industry plays a significant role in providing a high standard of wages as well as creating jobs and developing areas that may not otherwise have any.

To achieve true sustainability, businesses must address major social, economic, and environmental challenges while minimizing their environmental impacts. If businesses fail to address today's social issues - such as implementing fair labor standards in their supply chains or appointing more women to senior positions - they risk a rapid loss of clients. Hilton Hotels, recognized by Diversity Inc as one of the top 50 companies for diversity for 2021, plans to increase the number of ethnic minorities in its senior management positions in the United States by 2027.

Including Sustainability in Hospitality

Strategic thinking about sustainability is imperative for hospitality companies, which means understanding why the topic is so important. As hoteliers regain a sense of growth in a rapidly changing industry, they have an unprecedented opportunity to lead the way in sustainability.

With consumers becoming more willing to pay more for sustainability, the hospitality sector can play a role in reducing global warming. Aligning with consumers' priorities and desires is a clear benefit that can be recaptured through reducing carbon emissions.

Learn about how Softtek has partnered with hospitality organizations to optimize their digital journey.”