AMSTELVEEN, THE NETHERLANDS—For quite a few years now, many hotels have incentivized guests to skip housekeeping in exchange for a financial reward of some type. Covid-19 certainly increased the number of hotels that don’t offer daily housekeeping—primarily due to staffing challenges—but many hotels around the world still offer it. For hotels that do that, Floris Licht, Chief Planting Officer for Hotels for Trees has a program that not only helps hotel owners but the environment as well.
The Hotels for Trees concept is simple: One new tree is planted each time a guest chooses to skip daily room cleaning. The impact of that one choice can be seen on the Hotels for Trees website the next day. Guests only need to hang the unique door hanger on the outside of their door during their multiple day stay in order to participate. Thanks to a partnership with PMS provider Mews, which has integrated Hotels for Trees into its software, guests can also opt into the Hotels for Trees program at check-in. At that point, it is easy for hotel staff to update this in Mews Operations, simply by selecting “Skip housekeeping” for that guest. The Mews app shows the housekeeping team which rooms have requested to skip cleaning, and if a room has a skip cleaning hanger on the door handle, this can be updated in the app with a few taps.
“The Hotels for Trees integration makes everything smoother and easier to manage, especially for the housekeeping team who can handle things via the app,” said Silvia Danila Moggia, Owner of Oasi Hotel, who have been using the integration. “We reduced laundry and cleaning products costs, and our team have more time to clean other rooms and common areas. Even as a small boutique hotel, we were able to plant 622 trees in seven months, something we’re very proud of.”
Minimal Costs to Participate
Hotels that participate pay the nonprofit Hotels for Trees Foundation 5 Euro (a little more than $5) for each room that is not cleaned. Out of this amount 4 Euro is used by re-forestation partner Trees for All to plant a certified tree. The remaining Euro is used to run and further grow Hotels for Trees. Hotels for Trees invoices the hotels each month and ensures that the corresponding number of trees is planted. The only costs are those of the placards—.10 euro per placard. On top of the Hotels for Trees fee, hotels can expect to save 5 to 6 Euros per room not cleaned.
According to Licht, who also works as General Manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station full time, there are now 142 hotels participating and more than 105,000 trees have been planted since the program launched in July 2021.
Licht hatched the idea for Hotels for Trees in college while taking a course in sustainability management. When things got slow during Covid-19 and occupancy dropped dramatically, Licht began working on his business plan. “I have always been passionate about sustainability,” he says.
Cause Increases Participation Rate
Interestingly, Licht has worked with other housekeeping opt-out incentive programs that only had a 12 to 13 percent participation rate. Hotels partnering with Hotels for Trees, however, are experiencing about 30 percent participation. Licht, who has worked in the hotel industry since 2003, attributes the higher participation rate to the good cause connection but also to the increasing number of millennials and Generation Z travelers who tend to care more about sustainability. Corporate travelers who are not footing their own bill are also participating.
For hotels struggling to fully staff housekeeping, and that have even had to close off a percentage of their rooms, the Hotels for Trees program has numerous benefits. “Planting a tree tends to cost less than paying for cleaning,” Licht says. “The guests very much like it. It helps build the hotel’s sustainability image. It can help drive conversions and attract groups.”
Participation in Hotels for Trees can also help attract potential employees who are looking for an employer who genuinely cares about sustainability.
Licht says Hotels for Trees also offers an opportunity for hotel general managers to participate in tree plantings.
Some hotels have gone beyond what is expected as a Hotels for Trees partner and incorporated the program into more of the guest experience—front desk signage, for example. Some hotels are up to eight trees planted per room per month. “Some hotels are really motivated to run their hotel in a sustainable way,” Licht says.
Many Upsides to Not Laundering Daily
Over 1 percent of all CO2 emissions on our planet is caused by the hotel industry and the travel, services and deliveries that are linked to it (source). More specifically, research has shown that in 2021 each overnight stay in a hotel generated an average of 47,26kg of CO2 (source). For hotels interested in reducing their overall carbon footprint, Hotels for Trees can help. An average adult tree captures about 20 kg of CO2 per year. Along with the reduction in emissions, there are cost savings in labor, chemicals, linens, and equipment.
Hotels for Trees supports various reforestation projects across the globe. These projects were selected in cooperation with Trees for All. A few examples of countries benefiting from Hotels for Trees include Vietnam, Ghana, and Madagascar. There are many others.
Licht says Hotels for Trees’ goal is to plant at least 1 million trees per year as of 2025, together with its partners.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.