Sustainability: How is the Hotel Industry adopting it?
It comes as no surprise that the word “sustainability” is currently a driving force for almost every industry in the world. With the global impact that COVID-19 has had, many industrialists, individuals, companies, hospitality consultants and governments have realized that to recover from the pandemic, going back to “normal” as we once knew it will just not suffice. To recover and thrive in this new-age world that seems to have become somewhat fragile after 2-3 years of a “global-shutdown” , sustainable practices are the way to go.
Initiatives that are more conscious towards the environment, energy resources, cultures and economies will have to be adopted.
The industry that seems to have suffered the most during the pandemic was the Hospitality and Tourism industry, with over 100 million jobs being at risk (UNWTO). With the slow yet steady recovery and ease in travel restrictions, the industry is still a long way from flourishing. However, an extremely visible change that has been noticed is that people of this planet are now becoming more conscious about the depletion of the Earth’s resources. Collectively, our industry is proactively taking steps to reduce their Carbon footprint. In simple terms, Carbon footprint is a quantitative description of the number of green-house gasses that have been emitted through one’s actions.
Almost every tourism activity contributes towards carbon footprint; air travel, road travel, air-conditioning systems, transport of produce/materials, construction, food waste, etc. The list may never end but unfortunately our resources will. In order to preserve the natural resources and ensure that future travelers and destinations do not suffer because of past and present mis-use of the reserves, it has been observed that tourists prefer those hotels and destinations that have adopted sustainability practices that safeguard the environmental resources and have a positive social impact towards the local communities.
To maintain the ecological balance, not only tourists but also the hospitality industry itself has to introduce and implement initiatives that will shrink the carbon footprint significantly. The latest concept is of “Green Hotels” where the hotels make an active effort to be more environmentally responsible through efficient use of energy, water and materials while still providing great services. A number of hotels like ITC, among other hotels in India, have started to adopt the concept of “green hotels” because they feel a sense of duty towards the environment. Another motivation to continue being sustainable is the cost-effectiveness that these initiatives have in the long-run. Over time, the reduced use of energy and water along with recycling of waste will lower the hotel’s expenses (=Profits). This poses as an advantage to not only being responsible towards the ecosystem but attracting more guests (=Occupancy). In 2022, all the top hotel management companies in India have been recommending the hotels to adopt sustainable practices across the departments.
Hospitality giants such as IHCL have also contributed towards sustainability by curating a framework known as PAATHYA, that aims towards making changes which will positively impact the environment, preserve heritage, promote sustainable growth and value chain transformation. This was launched in early 2022 and aims at eradicating single use plastics at all their hotels and introducing on-site waste management systems while sourcing at least 50% renewable energy and 50% raw materials from local businesses. They seem to not only focus on preservation of natural resources but also local businesses that have suffered due to the rise in imports. A global hospitality brand like Hilton, has collaborated with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to reduce their impact on the environment by implementing a water stewardship strategy that focuses on sustainable seafood efforts and use of renewable energy.
Similar collaborations are also being executed by large-scale to small-scale hotels with the help of hospitality consultants in India. We, at ProMiller, advise the independent hotels to accommodate small changes to reduce their carbon footprint. From avoiding the use of single-use plastics to simply switching to energy saving light bulbs, independent and boutique hotels can effortlessly jump on the bandwagon of sustainability. Since the energy consumption for these hotels are at a fraction of the big hotel chains, the impact is also in proportion. Furthermore, the exclusive luxury brands like SUJAN in India, have adopted efforts like Farm-to-Table dining, wildlife protection measures, use of solar power and employment of locals to contribute towards reducing their hotel’s impact on the energy resources and aid in community building. These small steps are not only mitigating the negative impact on the ecosystem but are essential for future preservation of it at holistic level. Even the best of the consultants from the growing hotel management and consulting sphere in India echo the slogan of sustainability- which may look different for different hotels.
With a global shift in tourist behavior and several governments implementing sustainability programs, it is only expected for the hotels and hospitality providers to join the promising trend of sustainability.
Several organizations are now providing assistance and motivation to hotels by introducing certifications for transforming them into Green Hotels from the stage of construction till they become fully operational. HVS, a global hospitality consultancy firm has the 'ECOTEL Certification' whereas The Confederation of Indian Industry and the Godrej Green Business Centre provides the certification of 'The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)'. Both of these certifications guide the hotel teams to build an environmentally-conscious project and furthermore implement sustainability practices through training and designing appropriate management systems. Many hotel management companies in India are learning from the big players and ado
pting similar practices after customizing them to suit the socio-economical conditions of hotels.
On the other hand- as a traveler, we need to make an intentional effort to choose hotels and modes of travel that are mindful of the balance. Since we are as responsible to create a sustainable hospitality and tourism future as the hospitality providers. Only through mutual cooperation and consideration will sustainability be achieved to ensure that in the years to come, we have an ecosystem which continues to support our desire to travel and explore this beautiful planet.
Written by Vylaica S.