Ms. Kang

Eco-Friendly Practices

A Look at Green Lodging Trends in 2016

By Grace Kang, Managing Partner, Greenview

The Green Lodging Trends Report 2016 launched last month with the objective to catalyze green practices and innovation across the hotel industry worldwide, led by Greenview and Green Lodging News. The report is a result of a survey open to all hotels around the world regardless of service type, location, segment or size. One of the main benefits to the participants was the ability to benchmark against its peers on over 100 sustainability related best practices. Each participant received a confidential compare report showing the uptake of best practices, segmented by global, region, country, city, service type and hotel type, where applicable. The result was the production and release of the Green Lodging Trends Report 2016, which summarizes data collected from 2,161 hotels located in 44 countries.

The hotel industry has been benchmarking against its peer groups on data points such as the ADR, occupancy and RevPar for over 30 years. But when it comes to benchmarking sustainability performance and best practices, the familiarity and knowledge is not quite uniform across the globe. There are hundreds of sustainability related "attributes" at a hotel to benchmark. These attributes refer to things like efficient lighting and water fixtures, bulk dispensers, and electric charging stations. For the same reasons a hotel would benchmark financial performance against its peers, sustainability benchmarking enables hotels to remain competitive and for some to be leaders.

The Green Lodging Survey 2016 consisted of 108 attributes in the categories of indoor air quality, energy management, water conservation, waste management, kitchen & laundry, staff involvement, communication, guest engagement. Some of the attributes are considered common best practices such as providing 100% smoke-free environment to still nascent and innovative best practices such as the use of renewable energy sources on-site. Here are the key findings from the study:

Energy management can be considered as a default practice. Energy management is considered one of the fastest ways to reduce environmental footprint as well as cost of utilities. And the way a hotel manages its energy consumption has a direct impact on its total carbon emissions. Within the energy management category, the most common practices are energy tracking, having preventive maintenance programs and routinely checking HVAC filters, which were prevalent across over 90% of respondents. Not quite as high as 90%, but considered a common practice is the use of efficient lighting such as LED. Over 70% of respondents said they use energy efficient lighting in over 75% of their guestrooms. But not all energy management related practices are ubiquitous. The use of renewable sources such as solar PV, wind, and geothermal on-site is still low with an overall uptake percentage of 26%.

Many hotels are yet to adapt the most common practices. One of the biggest misconceptions of sustainability is that it costs more to be "green." There are many sustainability related best practices that are proven to save cost, increase efficiency, increase staff loyalty and enhance guest experience. All these have a positive impact to the bottom line. Yet, these practices are still not being adopted by many hotels. A towel and linen reuse program is already ubiquitous. However, more than 50% of the respondents are missing out on an opportunity to save energy, water and cost by not implementing an opt-out program where linens are changed only upon guest request or at check-out. Some practices require sizeable investment cost, however, there are many practices that don't cost a dime but have big impact. For example, not automatically delivering newspapers to every guestroom can significantly reduce waste. It simply requires management decision and training.

Full service hotels are not always "greener" than limited service hotels. Along with the misconception that becoming more green requires more capital, we often expect full service hotels to outperform limited service hotels in the sustainability front. Based on the survey results, we found that full service hotels and limited service were on par on many best practices while for some, limited service outshined full service hotels. These practices included offering 100% smoke-free environment, use of low VOC paints, installation of efficient water fixtures, rainwater capture, native or drought-resistant landscaping, and having high-efficiency boilers.

No property, segment, or location is clearly "winning" in sustainability. With over 100 attributes analyzed and compared, there were no one group leading the sustainability race overall. To take regional groupings as an example, the Americas excelled in recycling practices and use of digital thermostats to reduce energy consumption. However, the region could improve in water conservation by rain water capture or having variable frequency drives to reduce energy consumption compared to other regions. Similarly, Asia-Pacific leads in grey water reuse (94%) but has only 16% uptake for offering 100% smoke-free environment while over 90% of respondents in the Americas offer this.

Guest interest in green lodging can be a formidable segment. There are many consumer-facing studies indicating that more and more travelers are interested in what the hotels are doing to be more green. Yet, when asked whether hotels knew the level of guest interest in sustainability, about 25% of the respondents said they didn't know. Based on the survey, almost a quarter of overnight stay guests express interest in sustainability, while that percentage reaches as high as 70 with meeting guests. Finding ways to engage guests such as communicating sustainability initiatives on the hotel website and offering tours of your facility to guests and the public that highlight environmental improvement projects are simple ways to help your operations be more green.

Incremental uptake will have big impacts over time (or not). Most of the survey questions were designed to understand the current state. However, a select set of questions were designed to also understand future intent. For example, we asked whether the hotels offer 100% smoke-free environment. Four percent of the respondents said they plan on offering 100% smoke-free, 8% plan on putting ozone laundry system, and 5% plan on installing electric vehicle charging stations in the next year. These answer choices had small uptake for the most part. However, if the uptake multiplies over time, the increase will be significant.

Green hotel certifications help properties advance. There was a positive correlation between hotels with green certification and their uptake on many of the best practices surveyed. Majority of the hotels with a third party green hotel certification said they have a green team or a green champion in place. Having a designated person or team to implement sustainability initiatives plays a critical role in adopting best practices and innovation as they emerge. But there were still a portion of the best practices that were not adopted by these hotels as not all best practices are covered by the third party certifications.

Green teams are an emerging force. And so is training. Sixty nine percent of respondents said they have a green team in place consisting of property-level staff members. In addition, 64% of respondents said they have a green champion who implements sustainability programs on-site. These figures indicate that there are already thousands of individual meeting regularly to address and implement sustainability related issues and initiatives. Seventy nine percent of respondents said they hold training to educate the front and back of house staff members on green practices. High uptake on green teams/green champions coupled and training will result in knowledge of green practices accelerating throughout the lodging industry.

Show me the money. Some sustainability initiatives do come with a big price tag. Installing solar panels for example, may be difficult for a hotel without an allocated budget. Properties are encouraged to consider a wide range of best practices to adopt based on their current availability of resources. There are plenty of no-cost to low cost initiatives that will lower cost as well as the environmental footprint as mentioned earlier.

Technology does play a central role in hotel sustainability. Technological advancements play a big part in accelerating sustainability for the lodging industry. Variable frequency drives, occupancy sensors, and LED light bulbs were once considered innovative and now best practices while systems like reverse osmosis and composting machinery are technological innovations of today. These systems and equipment make saving energy consumption, conserving water, and reducing waste more efficient and effective. But it's important to note that not all innovative green practices are technology-related. A reciprocal relationship with the local farmers by providing them with compost in exchange for produce is one example of an innovative practice that doesn't require technology.

The Green Lodging Survey 2016 was the first survey of an annual exercise to assess and catalyze green practices and innovation across hotels worldwide. The annual exercise of benchmarking the latest best practices and innovation in sustainability allows participating hotels to compare year over year their own progresses against their peers. Moreover, annual Green Lodging Trends Report will serve as the lodging industry's guide to the state of sustainability. The report is freely available and ready for download at www.greenviewportal.com/surveys/greenlodging. The 2017 survey will be open in Q2 of 2017. Please also visit the link then to participate and receive a free compare report.

Grace Kang is Managing Partner of Greenview and has over 15 years of experience in the hotel industry in various functional roles, particularly in data analysis and reporting. She brings corporate perspective from working at top global hotel brands in sales strategy and development finance roles, both working with data for corporate reporting purposes. In addition to her hotel background, she gained Asia experience working at Samsung Card in Seoul, Korea, where she created a VIP travel program for the company’s top-tiered credit card members as well as led a team of marketers to increase Samsung Card’s e-commerce presence through business development. Ms. Kang can be contacted at +65 9623 1876 or grace@greenview.sg Please visit http://www.greenview.sg for more information. Extended Bio...

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