Ms. Kew

Eco-Friendly Practices

Hospitality Needs to Shift Its Attention to People

After Two Decades of Focus on the Planet and Profits

By Rauni Kew, Public Relations & Green Program Manager, Inn by the Sea

By largely ignoring People hotels are missing a huge opportunity for profitable networking, community collaboration, branding and setting barriers to competition with unique, regional guest experiences. A brief history of the growth of green travel and sustainability in tourism and hospitality offers a backdrop to understanding how far hospitality has come in a very short time, and where the industry should go in the future using People, Planet, Profit as a business model.

History tells us people have always traveled out of necessity to find food, escape from oppression, or for religious reasons. Evidence of travel on trade routes for precious metals and spices go back to 3,000BC and beyond. Travel for pleasure is documented in Roman times as the very wealthy traveled to soak in baths for health, or escaped to the coast for relief from summer heat. For centuries most travel was unpredictable, difficult and fraught with danger for all but the very wealthy until mid 18th century when improved roads, trains and ships made mass travel, simply for pleasure and education, feasible.

Thomas Cook is credited with being an entrepreneur of modern tourism. The Thomas Cook site states "Thomas Cook began his international travel company in 1841, with a successful one-day rail excursion at a shilling a head from Leicester to Loughborough on 5 July. From these humble beginnings Thomas Cook launched a whole new kind of company- devoted to helping Britons see the world." And so began modern tourism. The industry developed quickly, benefiting from our shared and ongoing desire to see and experience new things! In 2015, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel & tourism generated $7.2 trillion, representing 9.8% of global GDP with 284 million jobs, or 1 in 11 jobs.

After World War II global tourism began to escalate, as did growth of travel related products. By 1960 some operators, governments and even travelers began to recognize there was a downside to the rapid growth in tourism- that the economic benefits of tourism also brought negative impacts to natural environments and local eco systems, and disruptive, sometimes devastating consequences to local communities and traditions.

However, interest in finding solutions to the negative impacts created by tourism and travel by both the industry and travelers was not main stream. In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development created the Brundtland Report on sustainable development, a landmark study that laid framework which eventually led to sustainable tourism development. Five years later, The UN's Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero outlined actions around sustainability, many of which had appeared in the Bruntland Report. In spite of these landmark reports, and global participation by government leaders with recommendations for sustainable development, acceptance of these concepts was not embraced by the majority of hospitality or tourism operators, and the studies were largely ignored by the industry.

Sensibilities to the environment were evolving, and by the 1990's some operators were beginning to take notice. In 1994 a British economist, John Elkington, working on issues related to corporate social responsibility, coined the phrase Triple Bottom Line. Triple Bottom line accounting expanded the traditional concept of success outlined by financial performance to also take into account social and environmental performance. This 3 word phrase created a straightforward road map for business that was easy to understand. Simply put, a business could no longer see itself as profitable unless social and environmental impacts were addressed.

The following year, in 1995, Elkington made the road map even clearer by coining another phrase to sum up the complex concepts of sustainable business practices- People, Planet & Profit. The meaning of profit and planet were clear, but importantly, Elkington carefully expanded on his meaning of People. Elkington defined people as stakeholders, members of the community or region where a business operated who contributed to the success of that business. In this model, stakeholders should benefit from the success of that business- a good example being a fisherman who sells seafood to a hotel being fairly treated, profiting from tourism, and celebrated for their part in that hotel's success. Elkington also felt a business should contribute to the success and well being of the community, by giving back and offering support in areas such as education.

Whether because of growing consumer interest in environmental protection, or a recognition of cost savings related to reducing energy, water, waste and chemicals, a growing number of tourism organizations began adopting concepts of sustainability, or People Planet & Profit into their goals. Hospitality followed slowly, first recognizing the savings realized by working on the Planet piece- reductions in water, energy, chemicals and waste. Hotels, restaurants and tourist related business began to recognize that reducing their environmental impact also had great marketing value for the increasing number of green minded travelers. Operators also began to appreciate the long term value in preserving and protecting the unique and iconic destinations travelers enjoyed visiting, now and for future generations. By 2000 hotels and tour operators were learning how to green their products. Within a few short years the industry developed over 350 certifications globally, most recognizing hotels for reductions in energy, waste, water and chemicals, with some also requiring support for local communities. By 2010 through to the present, green hotel operations were mainstream.

However, despite the rapid uptake of green operations, and a broader understanding of sustainability, Elkington's model has not yet been fully realized- hospitality has not fully endorsed People, support for stakeholders and community, with the same acceptance as Planet & Profit.

Benefits to embracing all three parts of Elkington's phrase are enormous and timely. Today, the demand for authentic travel experiences that immerse the traveler in local culture is global. People want to connect to the destination in a personal way, and are looking for experiences that are unique to that destination in growing numbers. Travelers of all ages are keenly interested in the people and the culture of a location and want to immerse themselves in the local community rather than tick off sights in a guide. Visitors tell us they want to experience the destination like a local- so much so that connecting a guest to programs that support the people in the destinations they love to visit can enrich the travel experience. And the now well established locavore movement focused on the intense interest in fresh, local food has driven the farm to fork and trawl to table movements into hotel restaurants.

With global demand for this kind of regional connection, now is the time for hotels to celebrate and market all things local, to reach out to their surrounding communities and connect guests to People.

At Maine's Inn by the Sea one of the most popular packages is Maine Foodie Tours. Guests wind through the historic Old Port with local guides, tasting a variety of local fare from several of Portland's trendiest restaurants and local breweries. Guests not only get insider information but are also given the opportunity to chat and connect directly with purveyors and business owners who are able to market their products directly.

In Sea Glass restaurant the Chef, Andrew Chadwick promotes under loved, underutilized seafood fresh from the Gulf of Maine in a Gulf of Maine Research Institute program titled Out of the Blue. The goal of the program is to introduce lesser known but abundant and delicious seafood to guests in order to support the struggling fishing industry in Maine. Many of the popular fisheries such as cod or shrimp are closed to Maine fishermen, so introducing guests to lesser known and often "under loved" species broadens the market for fishermen while supporting the bio diversity of the Gulf of Maine. The program has been very successful with sales of five targeted 'under loved' species growing by 90% since the program's inception five years ago. Guests thoroughly enjoy Out of the Blue menu offerings, understanding they are supporting local fishermen and sustaining a traditional Maine industry.

On summer evenings guests at the Inn enjoy local food and wine in the Taste of Maine receptions. Growers, candy makers, fishermen and local wine makers are invited to the Inn to talk to guests about their Maine experience and market their products.

Including guests in a hotel's support for community has also proven popular with visitors at the Inn. The Inn collaborates with several local schools around the holidays to gather warm clothes for neighbors less fortunate, and to purchase books for local schools. Students create ornaments for the Inn's holiday trees and guests trade the student ornaments for donations of new, warm clothes. The clothes are distributed by Project G.R.A.C.E. to area food banks and shelters over the winter. The Inn thanks guests with $20 property gift certificates, and also purchases one book for every December hotel booking. The books, purchased from school librarian's wish lists, go to the schools who participate in the ornament making. The program is successful because visitors enjoy giving back and supporting the destinations they love to visit. In fact, every year we receive donations for school books, and new clothes by mail from past guests who still want to contribute and feel connected to the Inn's surrounding community.

There are endless ways for hotels to connect visitors to their community to benefit both the stakeholders who support our hotel's success, and our guests who want to immerse themselves in local culture. Now that most hotels understand the benefits of green hotel operations, it is time to focus on People, with profitable community collaborations, in order to work towards sustainability in a People, Planet, Profit model.

Rauni Kew's background is in marketing and public relations. Currently working in hospitality, she manages Public Relations & Green Programs for Maine’s luxurious Inn by the Sea, and Public Relations for The Maine Innkeepers Association. Ms. Kew served on the Maine Tourism Commission, has been a board and executive member of the Greater Portland CVB for 7 years and was the immediate past Chair, and is the Greater Portland Regional Representative for the Maine Office of Tourism. She frequently has published articles on sustainable hospitality in industry journals. Previously Ms. Kew was Marketing Director for a Chemical Process manufacturer. Ms. Kew can be contacted at 207-799-3134 or Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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