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  • Writer's pictureTamanna Mohapatra

Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 19, 2018

Part one of this blog talks about the hospitality industry and the urgent need to embrace sustainability as part of an overall business strategy:

Summers are for family trips and vacations! A few of you maybe flipping through this piece as you wait for your flight to take off or as you complete your summer journey. I am no different when it comes to fulfilling this summer fantasy (almost a necessity now a days with our hectic lives). I love traveling, so does pretty much every other person I know, including those of us who believe in sustainability and try to live a (more?) sustainable lifestyle. But I am always on the lookout for how sustainability is incorporated into our daily lives. And so, when I found myself checked in to a  very humble but nice hotel in the outskirts of Seattle, WA, I was surprised to note that they offered a lot of perks to their guests except some basic ones such as recycling. And this was in Seattle-a place famous for not only being green but being a deep shade of green! I noticed this again when I traveled to Virginia and stayed at a hotel that was part of the Marriott chain. I was pretty sure I had read something about Marriott embracing green habits. Earlier surprise turned into confusion! That’s when I decided I would research sustainability in the hospitality industry and get a current state of the industry. Here are my findings in a  two piece blog post on the both the necessity and state of sustainability.

Sustainability planning and development does not just mean “saving the earth” and “going green”, it has numerous business benefits as well. Applying sustainable business strategies is a means of driving innovation and positive change, particularly in highly competitive industries such as this one. Additionally the concern about the negative impacts of hotels continually grows[1]. The McKinsey definition of Sustainable Development talks[2] to a business strategy that drives long-term corporate growth and profitability by mandating the inclusion of environmental and social issues in the business model. This concept purports to generate a maximum increase in company, consumer, and employee value by embracing opportunities and managing risks derived from environmental and social developments. In the context of this industry, here’s how it plays out:

The changing customer: Customers are now considering sustainable vacations as a feasible alternative. According to a 2011 Telegraph article[3], sustainability in the travel industry has progressed from a truly niche consideration to an industry-wide priority. However, being green is not just about saving the environment or attracting a certain customer niche; it is also about business viability, both short-term (saving money) and long-term (making money).

A changing industry: In 2012, the number of global tourists reached over one billion[4]. Travel industry players have both the responsibility and opportunity to make the travel experience sustainable. Offering sustainable services and products will both increase sustainability awareness as well as expand a hotel’s market share and presence. This industry is very dependent on natural resources and thus planning to safeguard these natural resources needs to be a part of any business strategy.

State of the world: Tourism presently accounts for 5%5 of global emissions–1% of which is from the accommodation sector. To help counter climate change, mitigating climate-related risks may very soon become a compliance necessity as well. Hotels have thousands of suppliers across the globe; it is imperative to know beforehand which of these suppliers are in locations considered high risk. Focusing on sustainability at an enterprise level will allow planning for a mitigation strategy. The air and water pollution in China for example, has recently received a lot of attention. It is possible that very soon, new regulations may be adopted to address China’s growing pollution. All players will need to address this and other pressing issues, especially as they continue to add hotels and resorts to their portfolio.


[1] Advances in Hospitality and Leisure, Sputnik et al, 2002 [2] [3] [4] [5]

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