Even in crisis, hotels can focus on sustainability

Following the latest launch of the World Travel and Tourism Council’s protocol, “Leading Global Protocols for the New Normal,” it struck me that the organization’s key approaches can and will actually help integrate sustainable practices into hotel operations rather than putting them on the back burner for the newfound holy grail of “health and safety.”

Let me elaborate. The four key approaches and purposes of the protocol are:

1.     Ensure coherence through a coordinated, collaborative and transparent approach, supported by medical evidence, within the travel and tourism sector as well as with governments and public health authorities. Purpose: operational and staff preparedness.

2.     Share harmonized and consistent protocols that are outcome-driven, simple and practical across destinations and countries. Purpose: ensuring a safe experience.

3.     Rebuild trust and confidence with travelers through effective communication and marketing; letting them know the protocols implemented and assurances available to keep them safe. Purpose: rebuilding trust and confidence.

4.     Advocate for the implementation of enabling policies to support recovery and demand regeneration for the sector. Purpose: implementing enabling policies.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Transparency is very closely linked to both guest and employee trust, and transparency on health and safety measures will enhance this trust and confidence, as also laid out in the third point. But sustainability is also about transparency and telling your guest where you are in your journey to becoming a sustainable hotel.

Given that the link between our neglect of the environment and viruses such as COVID-19 spreading from animals crowded into increasingly sparse natural habitats has become evident in this crisis, the more we as businesses do when it comes to combating climate change and looking after the environment, the more guests and travelers trust us.

This is not just a “nice to have” but a key pillar to the brand offering and loyalty we want our customer to feel towards our brand as hotels.

Transparency is also about being in control of our supply chains, another issue the WTTC stresses and another key ingredient to sustainable hotel management, too. This crisis has very much shown us that knowing the source of our products and produce is key to ensuring a robust supply chain, and ensuring that this is more local than global can help in future challenges, as well.

Point 2, regarding consistent protocols that ensure a safe experience, cover issues around waste management, as proper waste disposal and separation also helps the environment. As you retrain staff on new cleaning and sanitary requirements, include training on waste separation – especially if there more single-use items, such as masks and rubber gloves, will be left behind by clients. (Note that for staff, it is cheaper to provide re-usable masks, as well as gloves made from re-usable materials that can be washed.)

Point 3 relates back to trust again. It is important to ensure you communicate your environmental as well as sanitary measures effectively on all your communication channels. And let me reassure you that posts of the beautiful environments, wildlife and plants you look after will get more likes that those on the latest hand sanitizer you are offering your guests!

Point 4, regarding advocating for policies with your local governments: You might even stand a better chance to get those demands to policymakers get pushed through if you can show that engagement with local communities and the environment is firmly embedded in your own business strategy.

None of the above need cost you anything. Rather, they allow you to harness the current situation to ensure that sustainability-related issues get integrated into all the new measures you need to address and adopt anyhow post COVID-19. And they will only enhance your hotel’s reputation as a responsible business ready for the traveler of tomorrow.