What grade would you give your hotel(s) when it comes to engaging guests in sustainability efforts? Think about your guests’ entire experience—from the moment they learn about your property, to the point of reservation, check-in, their stay with you, to the moment they check out. Where are there missed opportunities to let your guests know about what you are doing to minimize your property’s environmental impact?
Oftentimes, hotels do a lot to reduce their energy and water consumption and reduce waste, but it is back-of-the-house activity. Or maybe it is right in a guest’s face, but they do not know it—a smart thermostat, for example, or a water-saving showerhead.
If you could create the most informative guest experience from a sustainability perspective, what would that look like?
Think ‘Touch Points’
When I think about this topic, I think “touch points”. The first touch point is your marketing—what you are saying to your guests before they make a reservation. It is the reputation you have built in the media, on social media, on your own website, and perhaps a third-party booking site. Most businesses don’t aggressively push environmental messaging in their marketing. It is a missed opportunity. For some, environmental messaging is front and center on their websites. For many, it is most often a link that you must hunt for.
Most third-party booking sites don’t make it easy to find green messaging. Booking.com is one example of an exception.
What about first impressions when a guest enters your front door? Is the environment welcoming with plant life, art focused on nature, or perhaps art local to the community? Are there any recycling containers visible? What happens at your front desk? At Legacy Vacation Resorts properties, all guests are given a reusable steel water bottle at check-in. Then they are given a recyclable keycard made from cherry wood. They also have the option to contribute to a carbon offset fund. Just a few minutes in and the guest knows something very green is going on. Do you do anything similar?
The Guestroom Experience
After the guest has checked into their room, what will they find there? At this point, guests expect some type of messaging about towel and linen replacement. No surprise there. But what about other messaging about all the green things you are doing? Can your guests find that on a video on your TV? Can they find a summary sheet elsewhere in the room? If you have a restaurant or restaurants, will your guests read about your efforts to source locally, grow onsite, or offer vegetarian options? In the guestroom, an air purifier and bathroom dispensers are certainly visible reminders of your commitment—a recycling container as well. What additional green touchpoints can you point to?
Outside the guestroom, EV charging stations, bicycle lending and fitness programs also convey a sense of caring.
Some hotels go so far as offering tours of their properties—touting all the steps they have taken to reduce their environmental footprint. If you offered such a tour, how long would it be? Hopefully, not five minutes. Many lodging establishments also offer volunteer activities for guests—a great way to get them and your staff fired up about doing good for people and planet.
A Green Suggestions Box
At the checkout touchpoint, what do you do to capture the guest’s overall impression of your green initiatives? Do you wait for the guest to post a review online? Chances are, you don’t ask at all. At Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla., there is a “green suggestions” box for guests. A great idea. You never know who is staying at your property and what expertise they can share.
Beyond the point of checkout, if you have made a positive impression on your guests, they will keep coming back and they will tell their friends and colleagues. Perhaps you can even make a donation to a charitable organization, or have a tree planted, in each guest’s name—and e-mail them about it after their stay.
Put yourself in the shoes of your guests, examine every touchpoint and bring your team together to brainstorm how you can better convey your hotel’s commitment to sustainability. Subtlety is smart and you need not preach but push the limit when it comes to sustainability—whether every guest notices or not. Trust me, many will.
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