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?
We find that many hotel websites hide away their sustainability initiatives and 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. We also know that since the disruptive times during the past eighteen months, consumers are now more concerned about social issues such as diversity and inclusion. This provides an opportunity to hotels to highlight their contribution to the lives of the community which hosts them as well about staff inclusion and diversity policies. 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. Hotels that have a strong sustainability strategy should declare it proudly and use it as a competitive advantage.
When it comes to less eco-conscious travelers, the hospitality industry can play an educational role in order to preserve and improve the nature, culture and heritage of the locations it promotes. Guests are looking for exposure to different environments and cultures. They are also looking for life-enhancing experiences and offering sustainable choices tick all these boxes. Guests can feel that they are part of protecting the destinations they wish to visit.
Sustainability may be seen by some as purely a cost-reduction strategy although it will incur some investment in capital costs as well as staff training. The most compelling reason to implement a sustainability strategy is that the devastating effects of climate change are being experienced increasingly all over the world and the tourism industry is in danger of destroying its own life-blood: its destinations.Related article by Nelly