The price of hotel sustainability: willing-to-stay and willing-to-pay?
— 20 experts shared their view
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. However, the same travelers seem to have difficulty in finding hotels committed to sustainability or simply are not aware that those hotels even exist (2); a topic discussed by the World Panel on Sustainability in Hospitality earlier this year (3). Beyond WTS, hoteliers are particularly interested in the willingness-to-pay (WTP). Findings from academic research are mixed, but recent studies point out that the willingness to pay a price premium to stay in hotels that have implemented sustainability practices is linked to the level of environmental concerns showed by individuals (4). Because ultimately, the price guests pay to stay at the property remains a major driver or barrier for travel decisions.
How should the industry communicate the added value of sustainability (rather than added cost) that resonates with guests that espouse similar values? How should the industry communicate to other segments which do not share the same values? 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?
Founder & CEO of WE(i) Think
Before worrying about communicating to each guest type, I think that the first thing is to worry about communicating at all and doing it in a meaningful way. People relate to stories, purpose, and vision. The difficulty is to find a way to communicate these aspects when bookings tools are basing the comparison between properties on physical criteria, which is all that is communicated on. Hotels shouldn't be shy to show their "why" and explain their sustainability-related actions.
Too often, this information are lost in the middle of the facilities listing whereas making them more prominent would help travelers identify sustainable properties. The hospitality industry is highly competitive, however, that doesn't mean that hotels should hide their added value to be more likeable to the wider crowd/not upset people who are not into sustainability. I would encourage hotels to embrace their values and what they stand for and communicate about it, show what they do, explain why.