As sustainability becomes a key emphasis through a number of industries, we explore why it is crucial to the hotel sector and the benefits more tenable decisions can bring to a business.

As the saying goes, we are only gifted with one body, which is why we must look after it and, simply, our planet is the same. The more eco-conscious we are now, the greater the effect we will be have on our future.

As the demand for a greener future grows across the board, it poses the question: ‘how do we navigate our way through the sustainability journey?’ and while no hotel can change the course of global warming on their own, every little helps.

Due to the attention on sustainability, several government bodies are helping businesses to act in that direction. The first thing to do is to check how your local institutions are supporting sustainable practice with initiatives such as bonuses for renewable energy resources, or partial refunds to those who invest in hydric systems to avoid water waste.

General Manager at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Lake Como, Jan Bucher, explained that guests are becoming more and more attentive to these aspects: “We think it’s a good thing because the only way to make meaningful changes is through the focus of the public opinion. I think that sustainability is not just an option anymore.”

It’s a common belief that it’s better to start from the simplest tasks, but Jan thinks that the opposite strategy is better: “The longer a change takes, the earlier it has to start because a vision is needed.

“We suggest to reduce (or avoid when possible) the plastic packaging, to select fish from sustainable fishing, to increase the local and seasonal products in a hotel menu, to buy electric devices with low energy consumption… the options are endless and there’s always something that can be done better.”

In the EU, there are several initiatives to increase the sensitivity towards the argument, and Jan explained that at the hotel they implement them within the management. The team also gives a ‘welcome letter’ to new employees expressing the values.

Owner of Amada Colossos Resort in Rhodes, Aris Soulounias, realises that every hospitality business is unique, and commented: “As sustainability grows to a holistic concept that touches every single part of our operations – from technical implementations regarding energy consumption, water consumption and material/waste management to the importance of educating the teams and promoting local businesses – there are a wealth of actions for each one of us.”

When embarking on a sustainability journey within a business, Aris sees that the most important step is to find the expert consultant who will guide you through the process and then draft a baseline report to understand where you are now, what the areas of opportunity are for your business, and which challenges you will have to overcome: “This step is crucial for your planning as you must, first and foremost, understand the needs and necessities of your hotel as well as your destination.”

At Amada Colossos Resort they have taken a series of strategic interventions in their facilities to maintain a lower carbon footprint, including all windowpanes and frames (an area of 2,000m²) that are energy efficient and all the heating and cooling in rooms and public spaces is handled by chillers and inverter pumps, reducing energy costs by three times. They also use LED technology light bulbs and light strips in all light fittings around the resort, reducing energy consumption and maintenance requirements. Furthermore, the resort have reorganised their waste management system and have introduced source separation activities to increase recovery and recycling of waste, also adverting their disposal to the landfill.

In our brave new world, responsible operations are the foundations of a healthy and successful hospitality project. Aris believes that, as hoteliers, you are ambassadors and trustees of your destinations: “Protection and respect towards the social and physical environment contribute to that end, not only by minimising certain costs but also by proving tangible proof points of our commitment to the destination via our sustainable choices.”

Stacey Fleming is the Group Director of Operations at Highland Coast Hotels, and she believes that there is no direct path to follow surrounding sustainability, it is more important to make steady changes that will, in turn, allow you to develop into a sustainable and greener business. At Highland Coast Hotels, they implement a variety of sustainable measures. Each of which would be a great start for hotels beginning their sustainability journey. These include: eliminating single-use plastics, introducing a laundry policy to reduce unnecessary water usage, meal planning to minimise food wastage and, wherever possible, sourcing food from local suppliers to reduce ‘food miles’. The hotel group is also minimising their use of energy, for example switching off lights when leaving a room and asking housekeeping staff servicing rooms not to switch on lights and TVs. 

Stacey commented: “It is incredibly important to consistently monitor your own personal carbon footprint.”

The hotel sector currently accounts for 1% of global carbon emissions, and as part of Highland Coast Hotels’ Environmental Plan, their intent is to minimise the business’ impact on the environment, protecting it, and enhancing it wherever possible. This is particularly critical in such a fragile and sensitive area like the Scottish Highlands.

“In order to do this, we have a clear set of principles which will govern our activity, and a clear agenda of ‘Achieving Carbon Neutrality’ set around the three clear principles of measurement, reduction, and off-setting.

“People have a tendency to overcomplicate, and as a result, fear sustainability. We need to ensure that everyone is aware of the bigger picture and that by us all making small changes, together we can achieve something far greater.” Stacey added.

A big focus for Highland Coast Hotels is to introduce e-charging points across their portfolio to encourage the use of electric cars by guests and other users of the NC500. As a team who understand the fragility of the area’s ecosystem, and with the ever-increasing level of tourism, they are keen to ensure that their guests can travel responsibly: “This will also, in turn, contribute to a greater consumer experience, as it allows our guests to travel via electric car and we will become far more accessible to everyone.” Stacey concluded.

At Villa Lena, sustainability isn’t merely a lifestyle choice, it is at the absolute heart of what they do. Over the past six years, the team at the villa have made a conscious effort to invest into both large and small changes in order to be sustainable – from solar panels and large water recycling plants, to cutting out any single-use plastic.

Hotelier and Founder of Villa Lena, Lena Evstafieva, notices that committing to big infrastructure changes at the beginning can be difficult. So, in terms of advice, it is important to start from small everyday choices. Avoiding plastics could be a good beginning.

“In our opinion, you run the risk of falling behind if you don’t adapt and actively make changes to be more sustainable,” Lena added.

Being sustainable is more than a trend. In the world we live in today, it is our responsibility to build a sustainable future and business. In the hotel sector, the conscious use of resources is essential. The success of hospitality businesses is dependent on its ability to preserve the natural and cultural features that entice travellers to visit its regions. Failure to do so has consequences.

Lena explained that small details could make a big difference: “Starting from recycling is important and easy at the same time. Start small and then work on bigger plans to change infrastructure.

“We have air conditioning in our rooms, but we also have a sensor that stops the air conditioning when someone opens the window: this is an effortless choice to reduce energy waste and consumption.

“It is important to use local suppliers as much as possible. Choosing local products and services is significant for communities, a very sustainable choice.”

One of Villa Lena’s key objectives is significantly reducing their overall carbon footprint and energy consumption. The villa runs roughly 65% of the estate on green energy, having invested heavily into cutting-edge renewable energy sources, including solar panels and ground source air pumps. In addition, upgrading insulation in older buildings and motion sensor light switches in communal areas allow the villa to conserve energy even more efficiently.

There are so many opportunities to improve energy, water, and waste efficiency in hotels, you just need to figure out where to start, but as we’ve established, you mustn’t leave it too late. In order to ultimately stay at the forefront of a guest’s mind, you need to ensure you’re keeping up with the demands of the industry and, as consumers pine for a positive and healthy future, making conscious decisions is the way to do this.