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Can Investing in Sustainability Fill Empty Hotel Rooms?

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Ian Lifshitz

It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is competitive. Online ratings and reviews continue to be a crucial resource for consumers and the rise of the sharing economy has added a whole new element to the game. Hotel owners, executives and managers know how important it is to gain and keep a competitive advantage. They often ask themselves, “How do I bring new guests through the lobby doors while keeping past guests coming back time and time again?” The answer to that question just might be something unexpected: sustainability.

According to a recent survey conducted by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), sustainability attributes and environmental impact considerations are an extremely/very important factor to a third (33 percent) of all U.S. consumers and 39 percent of Millennials when they choose hotel accommodations.

Further, more than half of consumers (56 percent) say they would entertain the idea of paying more for a hotel room that provided sustainable paper products, such as tissue, and packaging to its guests. Among the Millennial generation, this number rises to 63 percent, with 19 percent saying that they would pay more.

Luxury Hotels Guests Demand Green Lodging

A focus on sustainability is even more critical for luxury lodgings. Additional research suggests that sustainable products are a “must have” for luxury hotel guests. In fact, according to the APP survey, 41 percent of U.S. consumers say they expect high-end hotels (4 or 5 stars) to implement sustainably sourced facial/bath tissue. For Baby Boomers, this number rises to 47 percent, indicating even higher expectations among the oldest generation.

Regardless of hotel type, leaders within the hospitality industry should recognize the role sustainability plays in both the decision making process and whether consumers might consider paying more for their stay. This data shows that investing in sustainability has the potential to positively impact the bottom line of budget and luxury hotels alike, and can serve as a strong value proposition to consumers of all ages.

There are several steps the hotel industry can take to meet consumer preferences when it comes to sustainability:

•    Understand your tissue options: Installing energy efficient lighting and offering guests the opportunity to not wash their sheets and bath towels daily are simple, well known ways to improve sustainability. But what about the hotel’s tissue products? Sustainability requirements for tissue products are evolving and it’s critical that hotel executives understand the options available to them within the current landscape. Recycled facial/bath tissue products are of course the top choice for sustainable sourcing, however when it comes to luxury, this can present challenges in delivering softer, whiter products to consumers.

It’s important for hotel managers to understand that when recycled products might not be suitable for their specific needs, there are other sustainable choices available. Look closely at procurement policies to identify what alternative product options are available. Understanding how products can be responsibly sourced from abroad can lead to both cost and end-user benefits.

•    Ensure you have a sustainable supply chain: The demand for environmentally friendly products expands even beyond the hospitality industry. As a result, businesses across the globe are shifting strategy and placing more emphasis on environmental transparency.

All companies need to look deep into their supply chains to evaluate how their current practices stack up to what consumers want. Aside from looking at specific products used, hotels must ensure that from a corporate level they are implementing sustainability throughout the supply chain. This involves monitoring the business on all levels, from suppliers to manufacturers, to ensure that sustainability is prioritized sufficiently. This will not only benefit the consumer and the business, but the health of the environment as well.

•    Communicate with customers: Once sustainability efforts have been matched with the particular hotel model, it’s time to ensure that this value proposition is being communicated to customers. From digital channels to signage in the hotel lobby and individual rooms, there are many avenues to educate consumers on sustainability initiatives.

About the Author

Ian Lifshitz is the sustainability director for the Americas for Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP). He is responsible for leading the company’s sustainability and related stakeholder engagement programs across Canada, the United States, and South America. Lifshitz is also charged with leading the company’s North American CSR activities, translating and communicating many of APP’s successful conservation, biodiversity and social community programs to North American audiences.

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