Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative

How To Increase Your Bottom Line By Going Green

Prev Table of Contents Next

Best Practices

Several hotels around the world have implemented creative cost saving initiatives to reduce their impact on the environment. The following are best practice examples from various hotels of differing sizes, ownership and location.

A. Energy

Tracking utility bills can help properties monitor the effectiveness of their energy conservation initiatives. By installing energy-efficient technologies such as appliances, lighting and heating/cooling systems, hotels can produce cost savings on their monthly utilities bills.

For example, the Fairmont Dallas has installed tinted windows and digital thermostats in their guest rooms to reduce the consumption of energy resulting in $50,000 savings in electricity costs annually (Fairmont, 2008).

The Otani in Japan installed a new air conditioning and kitchen system, through which it achieved a 14% savings in energy and a 30% carbon emissions reduction. (Ernst and Young, 2008).

The Willard Intercontinental located in Washington D.C. is now running on 100% wind energy power resulting in a 12% decline in energy consumption over the past five years (Willard InterContinental Hotel Washington D.C., 2009). The hotel also offers hybrid cars to their guests.

B. Water

Around the globe, water tables are falling, underground aquifers are being depleted, lakes are shrinking and wetlands are drying up. Water conservation is necessary in all areas of the world. It is estimated that up to 50% of the water that families used could be saved by implementing simple conservation methods. The savings in energy and sewage treatment costs would all add up. Several hotels have implemented water saving initiatives.

For example, the Willard Intercontinental in Washington D.C. has implemented water-free urinals resulting in savings of 95,000 gallons of water in 2005 (Willard InterContinental Hotel Washington D.C., 2009). Environmentally friendly solutions are also used in the laundry which results in saving tons of chemicals from entering the water system.

The Fairmont Royal York in Toronto saves 476,000 liters of water per day by having an installed water softener that reduces water use for laundry. Previously, the ice machines and freezer units at the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary, Alberta would discharge the water used to cool the compressors. This water is now redirected, reducing the hotels water consumption by 30 percent. The heat energy from these units is also reclaimed to heat the domestic hot water and pool water (Graci and Dodds, 2009).

The Otani in Japan constructed a water recycling plant, which produces 1,000 tons of recycled water daily from kitchen sewage to be utilized in gardens or staff lavatories (Ernst and Young, 2008).

The first eco-friendly resort, the Maho Bay Camp in St. John was opened in 1976 and utilizes low flush composting toilets, spring action faucets and showers, rain water catchments and solar heated water to conserve natural resources and minimize the footprint that the hotel and visitors leave on the island (Ernst and Young, 2008).

C. Waste

The hotel industry can reduce the amount of waste produced by implementing and following a waste management system that is modeled around the concepts of reduce, reuse and recycle (Greenhotelier, 2004). Approximately 54 percent of a hotel's solid waste can either be recycled or reused (Alexander 2002). A study by Bohdanowicz (2005) identified that "a large proportion (50-60 percent) of the waste materials in an accommodation facility can be recycled or reused."

For example, it has been discovered that the average quantity of unsorted waste materials for Radisson SAS hotels was reported as 3.1 kilograms per guest night in 2002. On the other hand, Scandic Hotels, which has an extensive waste management program, reported an average of 0.515 kilograms of unsorted waste per guest per night (Bohdanowicz 2005:190).

The Westin San Francisco Airport Hotel introduced a recycling program that promotes the recycling of 22 tons of materials and a savings of $6000 annually (Alexander 2002).

Forty six percent of a hotel's solid waste is food waste (Alexander, 2002). Since all food waste can be composted, hotels are increasingly recognizing that composting is a better alternative to dumping food waste, as composted waste can be used as organic fertilizers (Alexander 2002).

The Willard Intercontinental in Washington D.C. has recycled a total of 191 tons in 2008. Landfill wastes (non-recyclables) have decreased from 1029 tons in 2005, to 635 tons in 2008, which is a 38% reduction. In 2005, they were able to compost one ton. By 2008, the composting increased to 37 tons with a 33% increase over 2007 (Willard InterContinental Hotel Washington D.C., 2009). These practices have been very successful for the hotel and have been justified by their future cost reductions and increasing occupancy rates. The hotel in return has received numerous rewards such as the Mayor's Environmental Award in 2009 and Business of the Year 2009 award for such efforts (Willard InterContinental Hotel Washington D.C., 2009).

Waste can also be used creatively in the building process, given to the local community for use in their buildings, or used as an attraction such as at the Maho Bay Camp in St. John which has a Trash to Treasures Art Center that recycles the resort's waste materials into craft items (Ernst and Young, 2008).

D. Green meetings

As more and more corporations are including a commitment to the environment as part of their mission statement, the demand for conference facilities that also reflect this commitment is growing. In many cases, the mandate given to the meeting planner is to plan and promote a conference that uses suppliers who have an environmental policy, and whose products and services offer the best environmental specification or the least harmful environmental option.

Several hotels are now offering meeting and conference options that focus on greening all aspects of the conference; from zero waste and carbon offsetting options, to greening services such as compostable and recyclable products. The latter include things like stationary; disposal free food and beverage service using reusable products such as china and linen napkins, focusing on eco-tours of the hotel and surrounding areas, and locally sourced, organic cuisine.

There are a number of options to ensure that meetings are green and the Fairmont Eco-Meet program was one of the first and the most successful green meetings program for a hotel chain. Other hotels that hold corporate conferences and events are also focusing on greening their meetings as this is increasingly being required from their corporate clients (Fairmont, 2002).

E. Green building practices

Green building practices are increasingly being used in new and retrofitted developments, mainly for energy and water efficiency and to reduce hazardous waste.

For example, the Orchid Hotel located in Mumbai, India, is a prime example of a "green" hotel that attracts up-scale clientele and provides state-of-the-art technology and luxury in an "environmental friendly context" (Jones, 2002). The hotel is made of re-usable wall panels made from fertilizer waste and environmentally friendly cement called "Portland Pozzolana Cement" and "autoclaved aerated concrete" to deplete the topsoil and provide thermal insulation, which both use a large percentage of fly ash (Jones, 2002). In terms of architecture, The Orchid Hotel has positioned some of their rooms to avoid facing external cements to prevent heat load, constructed ceilings to invite natural light into the building, in addition to a rooftop swimming pool to protect the building from heat. The hotel has also taken into consideration energy-savings and reducing their air pollution by installing a compact fluorescent light systems to reduce energy, wireless key card readers to turn off unnecessary lighting and CFC-free (chlorofluorocarbons) refrigerators. The hotel has also installed a modified tank to their air conditioners in order to store energy during off-peak hours and reduce overall use of energy, as well as installed scrubbers in their chimneys to reduce the fumes released in the air. With the hotel being situated in a large city, it is an exceptional example of how a city hotel can successfully go green using the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' method (Jones, 2002).

Six Senses Hotels and Resorts use materials from renewable sources, such as wood, adobe, mud and thatch. One prominent example of green construction is the Six Senses Hua Hin Spa, Thailand, which is made of clay-like mud, straw and rice husks. They are also launching a new brand that will be carbon positive and LEED Gold Standard certified. It also plans of making its company's flagship resort, Soneva Fushi, a zero-carbon emitting resort by 2010 (Ernst and Young, 2008).

The Kingfisher Bay Resort located on Fraser Island in Australia was opened in 1992 and built to the highest environmental design and sustainability standards. Buildings carefully constructed around trees were designed to be energy efficient and are restricted to two levels to promote environmental harmony.

It is also important to design the hotel with the community and its culture in mind. The Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa pioneered environmentally friendly lodging in the Middle East. The resort is located within the 225 square kilometers of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and was awarded by National Geographic as one of the world's best ecotourism models. It was constructed to represent a traditional Bedouin camp and embraces the indigenous culture, wildlife, desert habitat and environment of the region (Ernst and Young, 2008).

Even using only environmentally sensitive paints and building materials will significantly reduce the impact on the environment. Initiatives such as green roofs and using natural materials also significantly reduce building and energy costs.

F. Purchasing

Hotels have the ability to buy in bulk and to influence the supplier to provide less packaging and use more environmentally friendly materials.

Many countries such as Austria and Finland require suppliers to take back and reuse or recycle their packaging waste. A hotel can help reduce hazardous waste generation by making an effort to only purchase environmentally-friendly products. Purchasing locally all items and services, will also reduce the impact on the environment and benefit the community. Hotels can purchase and use biodegradable cleaning products, and purchase certified organic produce and products.

In Indonesia, the independently owned Damai Lovina Villas in Bali, has effectively reduced cost by decreasing waste and energy usage. The resort partners with a local research center that provides the resort with environmentally safe agricultural and household products. The resort's restaurant sources 80% of its ingredients from its own organic garden and local farms. By practicing sustainable farming, such as using permaculture to reduce water consumption and increasing crop health, and composting in lieu of using chemical fertilizers, the farm was able to reduce crop production costs by 90% and increase crop production by 20% (Ernst and Young, 2008).

Buying locally is crucial in enabling local communities to benefit from tourism, so it is important to use local suppliers, where possible for commodities such as for food, furniture, uniforms etc. Buying from local suppliers helps enable the money spent to stay within the area. Local industries also often use traditional techniques and methods, which are unique to the area. Tourism support for these local industries helps these cultures and traditions to be protected and passed on to future generations.

The Holiday Inn in Sanya, China, uses local bakers and launderers in order to increase the benefit to the community and reduce the impact on the environment (Graci, 2009).

G. Promoting the local economy

Hotels should actively support initiatives for community development in their area. They are in an ideal position to be able to consult with the local community and identify their needs and concerns and then work with them to enable them to benefit from tourism. There are many means to do this such as through education, health, sanitation, employment, supporting local charities, purchasing from local suppliers, working with communities and offering new opportunities for local small entrepreneurs.

H. Employee engagement

As discussed, employee involvement is necessary for the success of the environmental program. Employee engagement through educational opportunities, site visits, competitions, newsletters, and other means, encourages staff to become involved in a hotel's environmental program.

Some best practices include the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that promotes environmental education and communication between staff and guests. The Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C. engages in social improvement efforts, such as employee volunteering and supplier diversity programs (Willard InterContinental Hotel Washington D.C., 2009).

It is important that all staff members are being treated well, paid a fair wage, and have decent working conditions. Most countries have well-defined legislation; however, there are many hotels in countries around the world that do not pay staff even a minimum wage.

It is also important that local residents are employed in both operational and managerial roles and given access to training as necessary. Child labor laws must also be followed.

Motivated staff members tend to deliver improved guest services and good working practices help to recruit and retain high quality people. Appropriate and thorough education and training of staff is essential for improving a company's overall sustainability performance. Staff members need to be trained on both skills related to their role as well as being taught how they can help improve the sustainability of the destination and the business. For example, if staff encourage clients to use local services such as local guides and restaurants, the economic benefits generated from tourism will be spread throughout the local community and clients will get to experience the local culture.

I. Social responsibility

Social responsibility, such as becoming involved in your local community or the community at large, benefits the organization in a number of ways.

The Accor group of hotels has an Earth Guest Policy which focuses on the local development, child protection, fight against epidemics, and food elements of social responsibility.

The Sofitel Hotel, one of the brands of the Accor group, located in Cambodia gives aid in local farming by providing agricultural training. The hotel brand has also raised awareness of the implications of the child sex trade by having campaigns aimed at both their guests and employees (Accor, 2010).

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are equally involved in providing social initiatives as well as environmental initiatives. The company has projects in local community areas in which their hotels and resorts are located, relating to education, poverty, and donating to charities (Fairmont, 2008).

The Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts based in Singapore, considers corporate social responsibility a core part of its business. The company has developed environmental programs in the Maldives and Seychelles for marine conservation, in Phuket for gibbon rehabilitation, and in Bangkok for elephant protection. The company also created community outreach programs, such as programs for dengue eradication on the Bintan Island in Indonesia. In addition, the company supports indigenous artistry through Banyan Tree Gallery, its retail arm that markets local arts and crafts at Banyan Tree hotels. To continuously improve the company's performance it publishes an annual sustainability report (Ernst and Young, 2008)

The Six Senses Resort based in Thailand has implemented the company's Dragonfly Habitat Project, which was suggested by an employee to use a traditional approach to deal with controlling mosquito populations.

Six Senses also contributes 0.5% of its revenues to its Social and Environmental Responsibility Fund of which 60% is spent locally by the company for sustainability projects (Ernst and Young, 2008).

J. Conservation

As many tourists travel to experience the natural habitats within which the hotel operates, it is imperative that hotels focus on conserving the resources that sustain them. By the year 2025, the Earth could lose as many as one-fifth of all species known to exist today. Several hotels have been doing their part to conserve the natural environment and protect species.

The El Nido Resort in Palawan, Philippines, actively protects Palawan's giant clam gardens and supports the reintroduction of endangered cockatoos (Ernst and Young, 2008).

Loreto Bay, in Baja California, is a sustainable community emphasizing green building practices, community initiatives and a dedicated nature preserve that covers over 4,800 acres (Ernst and Young, 2008).

The Morgan's Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge in Nicaragua, is part of a 2,500 acre tree farming and restoration project and is surrounded by 2,000 acres of private nature reserve. (Ernst and Young, 2008).

Fiji's Turtle Island Resort has helped to restore the island's ecological diversity by planting 500,000 native trees and maintaining a four-acre organic farm, which provides the island with fruits and vegetables (Ernst and Young, 2008).

Hilton Hotels Corporation has pledged to protect 1.4 million acres of endangered rainforest.

These hotels have put conservation on the priority list and have actively contributed to its protection.

K. Customer education

Tourists are often unaware of the impacts they have while they are on holiday and so it is important to help them understand how they can minimize this. There are many ways to do this for example by providing information on the website, public areas of the hotel, and in guest rooms.

Hotels should foster the development of green tourism and promote its benefits to its guests.

The hospitality industry future

In the 2010, Hospitality 2015 Game Changers paper, the consulting firm Deloitte states that hotels must develop an environmentally responsible brand and embed a 360-degree view of sustainability within the business model. Price, quality, brand and convenience will continue to drive consumer spending, but sustainability will increasingly be part of the decision- making process.

Deloitte also estimates that by 2015, sustainability will become a business imperative, requiring companies to educate their organization on the changing consumer and regulatory environment and to derive strategies to maximize their market position (Deloitte 2010).