Gap between guests needs and how hotels communicate sustainability

Consumers will give better ratings to hotels with high indoor air quality, LEED certification, and programmes in place to improve energy efficiency, conserve water and recycling

These are among the findings of a recent study, conducted by MindClick SGM and Expedia, of 5,000 consumers in early January 2012, that measures awareness, expectations and the impact of hotel sustainability efforts.

The study revealed that consumers applaud “green” efforts, but need to better understand the tangible impact on their travel lives.

Over the past decade, hotels have implemented and promoted sustainability initiatives, including energy efficiency, water conservation and recycling, and sustainable buildings through the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification programme. With operational sustainability awareness levels at 80% among the consumers surveyed, the industry has succeeded in telling at least part of the story.

This means that the concept of hotel sustainability is being factored into hotel purchase consideration. Hotel air quality is a prevailing consumer concern: four in 10 consumers list indoor air quality as highly important in their selection criteria. Hotels that promote higher indoor air quality earn higher favourability ratings among almost two-thirds of consumers surveyed.

At the same time, the study showed that there is a gap between how the industry communicates its sustainability efforts and the areas of sustainability that consumers see as important. On the one hand, emphasis on promoting the operational aspects of sustainability has resulted in high consumer awareness of energy efficiency, water conservation and recycling. On the other hand, in spite of the fact that consumers see air quality as important, only one-third of those surveyed recalled promotion of indoor air quality as part of a hotel’s offering.

Three-quarters of the Expedia consumers surveyed completely agreed that sustainability for hospitality should be defined as: building, furnishing and operating hotels in ways that are “better for the guest, better for the community and better for the planet”.

“By emphasising the direct consumer benefits associated with sustainability, especially related to guest health and well-being, hotels have the opportunity to drive growth,” says MindClick SGM CEO JoAnna Abrams.

She concludes: “Sustainability can be integrated into the design, construction, furnishing and operations in ways that provide guests with a better hotel experience while taking care of the community and our planet. Hotels and brands who figure this out first will have a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

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