Rebecca Rothney, founder and chairperson of Pack for a Purpose looks at why and how hotels can engage with travellers on sustainability issues.
In an increasingly competitive market, many travellers are making choices on where they stay based on whether or not an accommodation is giving back to the local community. Positioning your hotel as a sustainable property is a win-win in every way. Doing so brings benefits for your staff, your guests, the community in which you operate, and your brand.
Hotels that want to optimise their success in the 21st century should be focused not just on maximising the repurposing of their resources and minimising waste, but also on making positive connections in the community. Repurposing no longer needed hotel supplies (e.g. linens, paper pads, pens, pencils, etc.) benefits the environment but it’s also a really simple way to help the local community and reduce waste output.
Being a sustainable accommodation helps attract guests who want to give back to the community. And, feeling as though your work is meaningful and that your employer actively helps the community, builds employee loyalty and retention.
Properties who want to be competitive must include sustainability and responsible business practices as an inherent part of their brand. To be most effective, properties must tailor their approach to giving back to the community on an individual basis.
The first step is to use your employees as a resource to identify the needs and projects in the community that could be supported by your hotel, and then finding out which resources those projects need. Linens for example, could be repurposed for homeless shelters, orphanages, or group homes. Pens, pencils, and notepads may be useful to schools. Places working to feed the hungry might benefit from surplus food at banquets, weddings, and other large functions.
Legal counsel must provide input on all issues locally that could affect the way in which your hotel provides support. Once needs have been identified and legal issues addressed, a hotel can then connect with local NGOs and begin a partnership beneficial to the community.
Promoting your partnership on your website and in email confirmations is a way to inform guests. Take it a step further by offering guests the opportunity to get involved. If the NGO you are working with needs supplies beyond the scope of what your hotel can provide, you could invite your guests to participate in the programme by bringing a small amount of these needed supplies when they come to stay.
This allows guests to help the community in a meaningful way by bringing additional resources for the community. If these items can be purchased locally, you could include that information on your website. Once you have involved guests in bringing supplies, you are then accountable for the logistics in delivering the supplies to the projects you support.
There are web-based NGOs that can further promote your brand and your message to your guests. Pack for a Purpose  is one such web-based NGO. Any hotel that is supporting a community project can submit  their property, their community project, and the needs list for the project, and we will create a page for them on the website at no charge.
Why not find out if you can engage guests in the sustainability debate, help them to travel responsibly and help your immediate community at the same time?
Pack for a Purpose has enabled travellers to bring 28.54 tons of needed supplies to hotels and tour companies in less than five years. The organisation has received the Travel+Leisure Global Vision Award in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Observer Ethical Award. In October 2014, Rebecca was honoured as a National Geographic Traveler of the Year. Pack for a Purpose promotes hundreds of hotels across the globe and the community projects they support.