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Why Hotels Need Better Tools to Measure & Communicate Sustainability Data

Frederik Steensgaard

Average global daily temperatures are soaring, with the world experiencing its warmest June on record. These unprecedented heat waves, unwelcome reminders of the reality of climate change, come at a time when many in the Western hemisphere are either taking or planning vacations. There’s no denying that travel is part of the problem: the tourism industry alone accounts for 8 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and despite hospitality brands’ best efforts, this number is set to increase.

For concerned travelers, there’s obvious tension between the desire to see the world and protect it. That’s why increasingly, consumers are looking to spend their travel dollars with suppliers who are doing their part for the planet. A recent Booking.com report revealed that 78 percent of global travelers intend to stay in a sustainable property at least once this year, and 57 percent prefer accommodations with sustainable certifications. On top of that, hotels with eco-friendly credentials boast four times higher conversion rates than those without sustainability certification. Given the urgent need for more sustainability in hospitality and increased consumer demand, why are so many hotel brands struggling to communicate their sustainability efforts and successes to potential guests?

The Data & Technology Gap

Most major hotel brands have environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies in place. What they lack, however, is an accurate accounting of the impact of their policies or an effective way to connect their sustainability bona fides to their sales channels. The reason is simple: current data collection and analysis methods are plagued by inefficiencies in the guise of manual and fragmented data collection (think emails, surveys, unconnected systems, etc.). Due to these inefficiencies, sustainability management ends up being extremely costly—around $21 billion every year, according to our data, which includes $13 million in missed revenue. Out of the $21 billion, hotels are spending $8 billion on sustainability data reporting just to get the minimum done.

But data collection is vital to sustainability reporting. It allows properties and hotel chains to set goals, qualify for-eco-certifications, benchmark against competitors and other properties within the brand portfolio regionally and globally, and market their green efforts to potential customers. The current processes severely limit or outright hinder these activities and offer insufficient time and resources to further develop sustainable practices to impress stakeholders.

Imagine the following scenario: a global hotel chain puts into practice a policy to reduce its water consumption by opting not to wash a guest’s sheets or towels unless requested or after a week-long stay. This is a common practice put in place by many hotels today and is often a criterion for multiple green certifications. To ensure that an individual property is complying with this policy—and to understand its efficacy—the hotel chain needs to track its water consumption and confirm that the opt-in laundry policy is followed by staff. Housekeeping might write that information down on a piece of paper. Then, a manager will input it into a spreadsheet, which then gets emailed to the regional manager tasked with collecting the information and inputting it into a central database for analysis. If this sounds laborious and inefficient, multiply it by dozens of policies designed to meet the standards of various sustainability certifications across hundreds of individual properties. It’s an ineffective system.

Imagine instead a scenario where information is inputted directly into an AI-powered platform that aligns on-property activities with requested reporting standards, distribution channels, and available certification standards, can process and analyze data in real-time, and make predictions and recommendations that help guide future decisions. Not only will hotels save significant workforce hours—vital to the current staffing shortages—but they will also qualify for more certifications and get a more accurate picture of their sustainability footprint. By closing the data gap with technology, hotels save time and money on their sustainability management and reporting, enabling them to invest in more initiatives that create positive ecological impacts.

Fixing the Communication Problem

Enacting and tracking more robust hotel sustainability policies and communicating these policies and impacts to end users (aka guests) are two sides of the same coin. To reap the economic benefit of consumers’ interest in eco-minded suppliers, hotels must be able to properly communicate their value proposition to potential guests during the trip planning and booking phase. Marketplaces like Booking.com allow consumers to filter their hotel search using sustainability criteria and provide sustainability ratings for each listing. But if hotels can’t provide their distribution partners with accurate, real-time data, they’re missing out on a major opportunity. The same centralized hub that makes data collection and reporting simpler, faster, and less expensive can also connect with third-party booking platforms automatically and continuously; it can transmit your hotel’s sustainability metrics to their database in real-time, thereby ensuring potential guests always get up-to-date information that allows them to make informed decisions that align with their values.

There is no doubt that hotel brands want—and need—to make greater efforts to better their sustainability footprint. Those that can successfully accomplish this and effectively communicate their success to guests will tap into the growing consumer demand for sustainable travel. Not only will this generate more revenue for their properties but also attract business travelers employed by companies with increasingly strict sustainability travel policies.

Automated data collection and reporting can help achieve this goal. But building the in-house expertise to create these systems usually isn’t feasible or even desirable. Finding a technology partner with a platform that allows a hotel to collect, analyze and report its sustainability data in real-time—one that also has relationships with hospitality marketplaces and eco-certification bodies—can help save money, time, and speed up the transition toward a hotel ecosystem that is crucial to the survival of both tourism and the planet.

About the Author

Frederik Steensgaard is the CEO and Co-Founder of BeCause, an enterprise software company that enables sustainability data to flow more simpler, faster, and cheaper so travel and tourism companies can positively impact people, the planet, and their profits. BeCause works with over 17,000 companies, including sustainability-certified hotels, eco-labels, certification entities like GreenKey, industry partners including UN GSTC, and marketplaces including Booking.com. For more information, visit www.because.eco.