Travelers are increasingly aligning their journeys with their values - sustainability being foremost[1] - with a desire for a transformative or regenerative experience. The now-mainstreamed initiatives of hotels - from water-saving schemes to extensive recycling programmes - though commendable, only scratch the surface of the potential role they play in promoting a meaningful guest experience. Is there an unfulfilled potential to enhance meaningful guest experiences[2] that the hospitality industry is missing?

Environmental stewardship and social responsibility have steadily moved from being optional features to integral guest expectations. Research suggests that if facilitated, an environmentally conscious stay can encourage loyalty among guests towards an entire range of eco-friendly hotels[3]. Given this, can the hospitality sector really go beyond the established norms to engage guests on a much deeper, meaningful level? And in a 'double materiality approach', can the sector re-imagine and choreograph a transformative guest experience that leaves a lasting, positive impression on the environment and society?

Amidst rapidly evolving sustainable regulations, certifications, and standards, hospitality professionals must elevate their strategies. It is critical to rethink the purpose behind hotel sustainability practices and strategies through an ecosystems and people well-being lens[4] and consider how to tackle local and global challenges such as public health, poverty, education, energy, social equity, water, and quality of life proactively, that affect direct or indirectly to hotel operations and business stakeholders. The hospitality industry bears the potential to lead transformative change.

Here are two critical inquiries we present before industry experts:

  1. What is a meaningful guest experience for you?
  2. Do you have examples of best practices in regards to sustainable hospitality and meaningful guest experiences?

References

[1] Booking.com (2023). Sustainable Travel Report 2023. https://globalnews.booking.com/download/31767dc7-3d6a-4108-9900-ab5d11e0a808/booking.com-sustainable-travel-report2023.pdf

[2] Kuokkanen, H. and Catrett, J., 2023. Ethically meaningful customer experiences: satisfying an evolving desire for purpose through CSR. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 31(6), pp.1464-1481.

[3] Merli, R., Preziosi, M., Acampora, A. and Ali, F., 2019. Why should hotels go green? Insights from guests experience in green hotels. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 81, pp.169-179.

[4] Hashmi, Z.G. and Muff, K., 2017. Evolving towards truly sustainable hotels through a "well-being" lens: the S-WELL sustainability grid. In Sustainability in Hospitality (pp. 117-135). Routledge.

Glenn Mandziuk
Glenn Mandziuk
CEO, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance

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Sarah Habsburg-Lothringen
Sarah Habsburg-Lothringen
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Arjan van Rheede
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Henri  Kuokkanen
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