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Hotels embrace sustainability initiatives to attract guests & reduce costs

ESG Industry News Sustainability Reporting
  • July 24, 2017 | Chris Ogletree
Hotels embrace sustainability initiatives to attract guests & reduce costs

Checking in as more hotels embrace energy-efficient and sustainable initiatives to attract guests and reduce costs

More operators are investing in energy management systems and other sustainable programs to cut utility costs, enhance guest experience, and help their properties stand out from the competition.

Hotels are big businesses. In the United States alone, the hotel industry generates more than $199 billion in annual revenue.

U.S. hotels represent more than 5 billion square feet of space, nearly 5 million guest rooms, and close to $4 billion in annual energy use.

For a full-service hotel, energy costs typically run between 4% - 6% of revenue, while historic and luxury properties can see energy costs hitting 10% or more. It’s clear from these statistics that the hospitality industry is ripe for sustainable practices, which drive significant cost savings; we certainly feel this at Goby, as the demand for our hospitality-specific solutions has increased dramatically over the past year.

The hospitality sector directly benefits from investments in energy-efficiency and sustainability due to round-the-clock operations of hotels and resorts, and the utility bill savings go directly to the owner.

Hotels are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their service offerings, including their guest rooms, meeting & conference planning, and even food and beverages. Green hotel certifications like LEED and Green Key continue gaining momentum, and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR is working on a new, hospitality-specific scoring system in response to the industry’s specific needs and growing demand.

Embracing sustainability

Being green goes directly to a hotel’s bottom line and can help your property maintain long-term value, reports the Green Hotels Association. It can help retain staff long-term, as it shows that management cares about their health and well-being, and it can attract more guests.

"Guests are actively making a choice of where they stay, and it’s really forced the hospitality industry to be advanced in its sustainability initiatives," Brad Aldrich, SVP of Business Development at AHLA (American Hotel & Lodging Association) and Staff Liaison at their Sustainability Committee, which I am a member of. "That would include water management and all types of energy consumption... because people make choices based on that."

However, hotels walk a fine line

Hotels have moved cautiously when undertaking sustainable initiatives. Research shows that guests do care about sustainability as long as their overall experience isn’t compromised. For example, they want to save water, but they don’t want a shower head with a weak spray. Hotels need to find a balance.

"We don’t want the hotel guests to think we’re taking something away from them," Anica Landreneau, associate at HOK, told me. "So how do you maintain that balance between luxury and a really great experience, but still look for those conservation fixtures – whether that be lighting or asking them to reuse their towels or sheets or low-flow fixtures? But it’s become so mainstream that we see even luxury brands not having the tiny little plastic bottles everywhere, having the request to reuse linens, things like that."

Demands for sustainability are growing among consumers & businesses

"We’re starting to see more and more people looking for something that has a sustainability flavor to it," says Aurora Dawn Reinke. She’s a sustainability consultant and founder of Astrapto.

Surveys show more consumers are choosing sustainable travel options. In fact, this year we expect to see 36% of travelers planning to choose more eco-friendly travel options than they did in 2016, according to

Meanwhile, many corporations have booking polices requiring their employees to stay in sustainable hotels. "And more meeting and event planners are looking for sustainable options, which will grab the attention of more hotel owners," Reinke says. Some RFPs for meetings & conferences request that hotels answer: "What’s your sustainability program? How are you minimizing your carbon footprint? What’s your water consumption?"

How to make your hotel more sustainable

Using energy management systems, LED lighting, digital thermostats, linen reuse cards, lights out cards, and motion sensors in public restrooms, exercise rooms, and meeting rooms reduce energy bills significantly.

More hotels are installing sophisticated systems that sense when a room is occupied. When a guest enters a room, the device allows the temperature to be manually controlled within a certain range and then sets it back into an energy-saving mode when the room is vacant again, explained Pat Maher to the New York Times. Maher is a retired Marriott executive who’s a consultant to hotels on energy management. He said such a system could save a hotel 20% or more in energy costs.

Energy-saving kitchen, laundry, and air-conditioning equipment can also significantly reduce energy use. Hotels are utilizing guest room recycling, water-reduction efforts like low-flow shower heads and toilets, and environmentally-friendly cleaning products. They’re also serving local and organic food and ditching disposables like water bottles and small bottles of shampoos and lotions.

Using technology & software to monitor energy consumption

Sophisticated technology and software solutions that are specifically designed for hospitality can help hotel owners and managers track energy usage across their portfolio as well as for individual properties. Automated, centralized data makes data-driven decisions easier. Given the transparency and visibility into their performance data, hotel owners and managers identify opportunities for efficiencies and cost savings that impact their bottom line and, more importantly, their guest experience.

More hotels are getting on board with energy-saving measures

According to a recent survey by the AHLA, energy-management sensors in rooms are at their peak overall usage with 48% of hotels adapting the technology. Also, 90% of hotels are using LED lighting.

Resources to check out

Many utility companies now offer rebates to hotels that have installed digital thermostats and other energy management devices.

Also, the AHLA works with the EPA, which offers the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager that allows properties to enter in their energy consumption and earn ratings within the ENERGY STAR Program. ENERGY STAR is a free benchmarking tool to help U.S. businesses gauge their energy efficiency.

Chris Ogletree

In his role as Marketing Manager, Chris oversees website administration & development of a wide range of content, including email campaigns, social media, & marketing collateral, as well as supporting improvements to the design & functionality of the platform.

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