Sustainability is no longer a passing trend; it’s a global imperative. The travel industry, in particular, is experiencing a surge in demand for sustainable options. According to the Booking.com 2023 Sustainable Travel Report, three-quarters of global consumers now seek more environmentally friendly travel choices, marking an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
Moreover, nearly half of travelers are willing to pay extra to reduce their carbon footprint while journeying. Despite these growing eco-friendly aspirations, many travelers struggle to find sustainable options, with just over half believing that such choices are limited, and 44 percent uncertain about where to locate them.
Challenges in Sustainable Travel
Today, hotels spend an estimated $8 billion annually on sustainability management, primarily due to cumbersome, fragmented, and predominantly manual processes. These antiquated data collection methods, which rely on tools such as email, Excel, and online surveys, pervade the sustainability data ecosystem. This extends from how hotels transmit their information to third-party green certification bodies and various sales channels to how they gather data from diverse sources like suppliers or various operators within hotel chains.
The result? Hotels are struggling to meet sustainability targets, and global carbon emissions from the hotel sector are projected to rise. According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, hotels must reduce their carbon emissions by 66 percent per room by 2030 and by 90 percent by 2050 to avert further environmental damage. However, without reliable, easily interpretable data, stakeholders lack the means to make significant, positive changes. They cannot benchmark progress, set goals, or effectively communicate successes to customers. Manual data collection, processing, and analysis demand human resources that many hotels lack, and even if available, the staff might not possess the required training.
The business case for technology-backed sustainability management is compelling. Hotels with eco-credentials attract four times more guests compared to those lacking sustainability certifications. Taking into account guests’ willingness to pay more for eco-friendly accommodations, it is estimated that poor sustainability management costs the industry $21 billion, including $13 billion in missed revenue.
Key Elements of Effective Sustainability Management
What does an effective tech-supported sustainability management system look like? First and foremost, it should serve as a central hub for the collection of all sustainability data. This platform should be intuitive, scalable, and equipped with AI capabilities. It should cater to staff at the property level as well as higher-ups responsible for sustainability oversight across the organization.
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Secondly, it should seamlessly integrate with third parties such as regulatory bodies and sales channels through plug-and-play APIs, facilitating the smooth transmission of sustainability data. Platforms like Booking.com, for example, enable consumers searching for hotels to filter accommodations based on their sustainability score, from level 1 to 3+. Specific actions taken by a hotel to earn its sustainability score, such as the elimination of single-use plastics and the installation of electric car charging stations, as well as any certifications earned (e.g., Green Key), should be readily accessible. A hotel that automatically communicates its sustainability data to sales channels, as opposed to sporadic data dumps, can leverage sustainability metrics as a key differentiator and showcase progress over time.
Taking it a step further, an ideal platform should automate sustainability data collection by integrating with tools like smart meters. This approach reduces the risk of human error and provides real-time, transparent insights into energy consumption and waste management. Armed with accurate, real-time data, an AI-enabled platform can offer automatic sustainability improvement suggestions across various parameters, enhancing operations, reducing water consumption, and meeting certification requirements. This, in turn, frees up valuable human resources for more strategic tasks.
Partnering for Sustainability Excellence
Recognizing that in-house development of such technology and expertise is often unsustainable, especially in light of labor shortages, many hotel brands are seeking partners with easy-to-implement solutions to streamline sustainability reporting and enhance efficiency. However, it’s crucial for brands to choose partners with proven experience in sustainability management within the hospitality sector. A partner specializing in the hotel industry is uniquely positioned to understand the industry’s nuances and challenges, enabling them to create tailored solutions that address pain points. This approach empowers brands to implement more ambitious, eco-friendly policies that save money, boost revenue, and enhance their competitive advantage.
In conclusion, sustainability management and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting have evolved beyond mere compliance requirements for companies. They have become essential drivers of business success. As both investors and consumers increasingly demand transparency and accountability from companies, sustainability has become a critical component of overall business strategy. By adopting a proactive stance, companies can leverage sustainability and ESG reporting to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own. Not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Sustainable travel. Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash.