The hospitality sector is at a critical point. The industry has experienced a steady lift in revenues in the past decade but margins have remained razor thin and, in some places, have actually decreased as innovations like the sharing economy inspire travellers to look elsewhere for accommodation.
Hotels house more technology than ever before, with the average hotel room now hosting six different electric appliances. Meanwhile, guests now take an average of five connectable devices on nights away from home, all of which will probably require charging from a mains power supply at some point in their stay. In short, we’re using more energy than ever, but hotels are expected to shoulder the costs of this increased consumption. Coupled with a growing awareness of the human impact on our natural environment and increased pressure from environmental agencies, it’s never been more vital that hotels take steps to reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
Whilst integrating new technology to your hotel can be a daunting task, introducing sustainable features can actually save money in the long run, particularly if those technologies improve operations efficiency and earn your hotel a reputation for green innovation.
The age of the eco-traveller
Travellers are increasingly turning to more eco-friendly accommodation as the true impact of our presence on the surrounding environment becomes clearer. A recent survey by E.On revealed that 50% of hotel guests value sustainability and energy efficiency in hotels, while almost one in five would be more likely to stay somewhere if it used renewable energy sources.
Energy efficiency represents a unique opportunity to appeal to the environmentally conscious traveller while simultaneously reducing hotel expenses.
Hotels can earn eco-credentials with guests by integrating more sustainable hospitality technology. Differentiating your hotel from the crowd can be a challenge but aspiring to some kind of eco-hotel status can open up new channels of guest and earn valuable accolades from industry leaders.
Sustainability starts with design
It’s no secret; installing features to harness renewable energy will save you money in the long-run. The industry can benefit from harnessing renewables, including through utilising tax breaks and encouraging a more sustainable approach to daily operations. As hotels move to integrate more technology, the need for clean, renewable energy sources becomes essential to maintaining profit margins.
It might sound obvious, but ensuring your hotel is lit entirely by LED lighting can dramatically reduce your electricity output. Meanwhile, installing water aerators, allows guests to enjoy hot, clean water at up to 50% less cost.
Installing motion-sensitive lighting in hallways and shared spaces can reduce the overall amount of time lights spend on. In areas where natural light is available, look at dimming your electric lighting to reduce energy consumption without reducing visibility.
Integrating energy saving static features from the renovation-stage can lead to significant savings down the line. In hot countries, where a significant portion of energy expenditure is spent on air conditioning, light reflecting windows can have a valuable impact. Likewise, in cold countries where heating can account for up to 50% of a hotel’s energy costs, including extra insulation features like thick curtains and energy-efficient glazing can pay dividends in the future.
Cut costs with initiatives
Almost every aspect of a hotel’s daily operations can be tweaked to encourage a more energy-conscious service. Most hotels now operate on a ‘specified cleaning needs’ system. So if a guest wants their bedsheets and towels cleaned daily, they can make this clear with a sign on the door or by leaving their items on the floor. However, if they’re happy to keep the same bedsheets and towels on for the duration of their stay, they can also specify, saving the hotel valuable time, money and energy in unnecessary cleaning.
Integrating your hotel management system with a comprehensive CRM can also open new avenues for reducing energy consumption, particularly when combined with data on various hotel operations. With analytics on food consumption, cleaning, toiletries and more, hotels can the identify the least efficient areas of a hotel and incrementally optimise individual processes.
Many governments also offer a number of incentives to increase sustainability in your hotel that could lead to long-term savings. These incentives can cover anything from insurance premium discounts, to financial grants to tax write-offs.
With a Genie device in each room, gathering data on guest behaviour – including room service orders and media usage – becomes significantly simpler. By integrating data gathered from Genie phones with your hotel CRM, you can track hotel processes and develop energy saving solutions around tried and tested means.
Get guests & staff in on the act
Training your staff to take a proactive role in the sustainability of the hotel ensures it’s an all-around effort. Even simple office functions, like switching to recycled paper, or going digital altogether, will help cut down on waste.
Designate specific members of staff to manage resource consumption in key areas of the hotel, and provide regular training sessions. Make sure employees turn off lights as they leave a room, recycle waste and, where possible, share transport.
The same E.On survey also uncovered an interesting fact: guests use more energy in a hotel than in their home. Sure, guests are less inclined to watch their energy usage when they don’t pay the bill, but hotels should still incentivise guests to enjoy a more energy-conscious stay.
Given the option – and a gentle reminder – most guests will try to limit their energy usage in your hotel. Even a small sign by the hotel room door encouraging guests to turn off appliances as they leave can make a big difference to your bottom line.
Harness your eco-strengths
Hotels should strive to make the most of the surrounding environment and climate. Just because a technology becomes available doesn’t mean it’s the best option for your hotel. Solar panels on a hotel in Scotland won’t begin to pay for themselves as soon as they would in Spain. Similarly, rainwater storage technology will have limited use in a Dubai hotel. That doesn’t mean discounting these technologies altogether, but justifying expenditure on new energy-saving features requires prioritisation.
In Iceland, for instance, many hotels take energy from the country’s natural geothermal energy reserves. Several of these hotels also provide access to geothermal pools that act as ‘natural jacuzzis’. Not every hotel has access to geothermal energy, but you can utilise the local environment to reduce your carbon footprint.
It’s not just about adding new technologies. By managing your guest bookings intelligently, you can reduce energy-reliance and ensure a comfortable night’s stay for everyone. Save on heating by providing rooms that receive the most sun in winter. Likewise, try to book rooms in clusters and avoid placing guests in corner rooms (where more energy is needed to maintain a comfortable temperature). The differences may seem minimal, but by limiting heat loss throughout the year, you can boost your overall annual revenue.
Go green – literally
Hotels have turned to green features like rooftop green-spaces and vertical gardens to increase the aesthetic appeal of their grounds. It’s a win-win scenario; hotels can showcase their environmental accomplishments and previously unappealing areas become Insta-worthy photo opportunities.
Because concrete doesn’t absorb rainwater, runoff goes into drains and other water sources. This runoff is often filled with contaminants that damage the surrounding ecosystem. Adding more green space on your hotel grounds has the added bonus of helping channel rainwater. Gardens, ponds and shrubs create areas of natural beauty while reducing the impact of your hotel on the environment.
In areas where the weather changes dramatically from season to season – for instance, in tropical countries, where periods of intense rainfall are followed by periods of water scarcity – features like tree box filters can help store water during the rainy season and distribute it during the drier months.
Sustainability starts in the kitchen
Approximately 18% of all food purchased in the UK hospitality sector goes to waste. For hotels, this means lost profits and a sizeable amount of food gone to waste. Despite this, cutting down on excessive food wastage is a major challenge. Hotels always err on the side of caution, but changing guest numbers make predicting demand a major challenge.
Hotel kitchens operate to strict health and safety guidelines, so features like dimmed or motion-sensitive lighting are a no-go. Instead, look at partnering with local food charities who can remove excess food that can no longer be served. It won’t necessarily reduce your financial spend, but it will mean less food goes to waste.
Kitchens run to strict processes. That’s why it’s essential you look at how you source the food that comes into your kitchen.
By adding more seasonal produce to your menu, you can save money on importing overseas goods while supporting local businesses. Just as importantly; by sourcing food from local, sustainable suppliers, you reduce the carbon footprint of bringing food to customer’s plates and provide a taste of the local culinary culture. To learn more about approved sustainable local suppliers, check out resources like Sustainweb.
If your hotel has enough green space, look at setting some aside for growing your own herbs and vegetables. This enables you to manage every stage of the production process and limit the cost of importing foodstuffs from elsewhere. As an added bonus, you can use most forms of organic food wastage as compost. Not only does it nourish the soil, it also reduces the hotel’s reliance on external sources.
Of course, cutting hotel costs should be at the forefront of every hotelier’s actions. That doesn’t mean, however, that it should be the only reason for increasing sustainability in your hotel. We’re only just coming to terms with the real impact our existence is having on the planet. To ensure future generations enjoy the diverse wonders of our planet, hotels must take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. The hospitality industry as a whole owe it to the guests, and the world, to do their part.