Industry Update
Opinion Article 4 August 2021

Wayaj, Inc.'s CEO Shares her Opinion on the Price of Hotel Sustainability: Willing-To-Stay And Willing-To-Pay?

By Nelly Gedeon, Founder and CEO of Wayaj, Inc.

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How should the industry communicate the added value of sustainability (rather than added cost) that resonates with guests that espouse similar values?

Many hotel websites hide away their sustainability initiatives so that they are not easy to find. It is almost as if they are embarrassed to declare that they are playing their part in saving the planet for future generations – why should this be seen as a disadvantage? Eco-conscious guests are probably making sustainable choices in their own lives and will be more than receptive to hotels that are actively reducing carbon emissions and creating a healthier environment for their guests by making more sustainable choices. This is why it is important that hotels share more information with guests before, during and after their stay using their various marketing channels, including social media, guest room kits, TV channels etc. For example, guests could be invited to participate in a community initiative like a beach clean up. Or they could be introduced to some of the hotel’s sustainability initiatives such as no single use plastic and encouraging them to take part by refilling water bottles rather than buying new ones.

We also know that since the disruptive times during the pandemic with other focuses like the Black Lives Matter campaign consumers are now more concerned about social issues such as diversity and inclusion. This offers hotels that are engaged with their local communities to highlight their contribution to the lives of the community which hosts them. They should also communicate their staff inclusion and diversity policies by sharing stories of staff members and their achievements.

Brand reputation has never been more important for guest attraction and retention and just like hotels share news on rates and special offers, they should be sharing their sustainable highlights. One word of warning though - a hotel must make sure that the news they share is part of a well-thought out sustainability strategy and not just greenwashing. Hotels that have a strong sustainability strategy should declare it proudly and use it as a competitive advantage.

How should the industry communicate to other segments which do not share the same values?

Travel and tourism offer other industries a direct look into the importance of sustainability. Tourism is often dependent on the very resources it degrades. Putting certain balances in place is not only important for the environment, but for all of the people, ecosystems, and industries that depend on it. In other industries, these impacts don’t usually occur so closely and are easier to ignore or brush off.

Sustainable choices can easily be linked to enhanced guest experience and comfort. Talk about the feel good factor of sustainability so that it becomes one of the advantages of choosing a more eco conscious hotel. For example, if a hotel has its own organic vegetable garden and sources local food produce, this is a benefit for the guest. They will enjoy the freshest, local cuisine – a definite draw for any visitor. Offering organic toiletries will be seen as a luxury for guests despite the fact that organic agriculture is better for the environment and biodiversity. If a hotel has a heat exchanger for natural cooling, this is a benefit over noisy, unhealthy air conditioning. Promoting the beauty, wildlife or local heritage of a location and the desire to protect it for guests and locals to enjoy is good practice. Educate guests about sustainability by making it part of the experiences on offer like beach clean ups or learning about solar power. Children in particular are always eager to learn about new things, particularly as they will be learning about climate change at school. Most guests will be reading about sustainability and experiencing climate change in some way in their own lives as well as in their work environment. Inspire them to learn more and help them with ideas that they can take home with them. Vacations today are much more about learning and trying new experiences so make sustainability part of that narrative.

How do we transform the perception that sustainability measures are simply a cost-reduction strategy rather than valuable and essential practices in this day and age?

Sustainability may be seen as some by a cost-reduction strategy but it will incur some investment in capital costs as well as staff training. The other compelling reason to implement a sustainability strategy is that the devastating effects of climate change are being experienced increasingly all over the world. We have just seen high temperatures causing huge fires in the US and heavy rain causing severe flooding with loss of life in Northern Europe and China. We all have a responsibility (governments, businesses, not-for-profits and citizens) to change our behavior and act now to save the planet for future generations.

Furthermore, investment in sustainability will also generate increased revenues and attract guests of the future. Other industries that are further in their sustainability journeys are already seeing that profits for purpose-led brands are far greater (Unilever sees a 6x profit for brands with purpose). Consumers are looking for brands that are authentic, caring and responsible.

Staff engagement and participation are also essential for the success of any sustainability strategy, and the hospitality industry, which is a large employer, has the opportunity to lead the way in diversity and inclusion. There is also research to show that the employees of the future want to work for organisations that are responsible and fair. Inspiring staff to be part of creating change for a better future should be rewarding for management and staff alike.

Lastly, the tourism industry is in the business of selling destinations. So it makes undisputed sense to preserve and improve the nature, culture and heritage of the locations which the industry promotes. Otherwise, the industry will be destroying its own life blood.

Related Viewpoint

The price of hotel sustainability: willing-to-stay and willing-to-pay?

A recently published large-scale survey points out that the vast majority of travelers are keen on staying at hotel properties that engage in sustainability (1). Willingness-to-stay (WTS) is important to the extent in which hotels can capitalize on their sustainability endeavors through transparent communication.
Nelly's view

Nelly Gedeon

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    Wayaj is a sustainable travel platform designed to provide tools and information to help travelers and travel operators make better choices in the fight against the climate emergency. Founded in 2017, it currently lists more than 500 eco-friendly hotels worldwide.

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