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On the Innovation Stage, Fran Hughes, Head of Programmes at the International Tourism Partnership joined Chris Burgess, Head of Sustainability at Considerate Hoteliers, Gary Lohan, Chief Engineer & Sustainability Manager at award-winning boutique hotel One Aldwych, and Charlotte Evans, Group Publishing Director at Conde Nast Johansens on a panel to discuss how transparency in sustainability was good for business.
The well-attended panel discussion kicked off with the golden question, host Chris Burgess asked the panel if the customer really factors sustainability into their buying decision. Charlotte Evans shared the results of recent research conducted by Conde Nast with its readers which indicated that, though price, quality and location naturally came first, respondents ranked sustainability over several other factors, such as there being a celebrity chef at the property. Fran Hughes added that research on the Travelife certification scheme had shown that certified properties received higher repeat bookings and higher satisfaction levels than non-certified properties – maybe an indication that the attention to detail on sustainability, spilled over to attention to detail on the overall guest experience.
But do guests want to know the detail of a hotel’s sustainability initiatives or do they just expect the hotel to get on with it? Gary Lohan felt the guest did not want to be bombarded with information but that the level of expectation was high and a lot of work is done back of house to maintain high standards. Certification was one way the hotel assured its guests and Gary highlighted local food sourcing, reduction of food waste and the hotel’s chlorine-free swimming pool as great achievements in offering a luxury service which is both better for the guest and the environment.
Fran Hughes pointed out that the big brands are expected, and in some cases required by law, to formally report on their activities. The independent sector should consider what information would resonate with the guest, is appropriate to the location the property and consider what means of communication is most appropriate for that message, possibly through greater use of social media. Charlotte agreed that eco-luxury was very ‘on trend’ and a big focus for travellers so this presents an opportunity for properties to consider their messaging.
One way hotels have been able to be more transparent on their sustainability initiatives has been through measuring and reporting their carbon footprint through the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, used by over 21,000 hotels worldwide. Fran countered that, though corporate customers need the factual data, and increasingly hotels – independent and chain – are expected to be able to provide this information, quoting figures in isolation was unlikely to be relevant or of interest to the guest and hotels should rather communicate how they create a sense of people and place and add value to their destination.
The last question – what impact had TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders programme had? All agreed that it was of immense value to allow the guest to access information freely on a hotel’s environmental initiatives on such a large scale. The panel closed after a Q&A session from the audience.
Thanks to Fran Hughes for putting together this article. For more information on those involved in the panel see: International Tourism Partnership, Considerate Hoteliers, One Aldwych and Conde Nast Johansens. Next year the Independent Hotel Show have promised more sessions on sustainability and we're looking forward to being involved so watch this space!