Given the context of our increasingly hectic and demanding lives, sometimes it’s hard to see change. But when we take pause and remember how things used to be, it’s clear change is more pervasive than we realize. For example, 20 years ago, with the exception of one or two huge hotel companies, few hotels focused on greening. Today, concern for the environment is no longer considered a passing novelty or a topic for “tree huggers,” instead it’s increasingly becoming part of a business’ operating environment (see story, p.13).
And, interestingly the issue has become broader based. No longer are environmental initiatives defined by a guest’s decision to reuse their towels or opt out of having their bed sheets changed daily. Today greening is about sustainability and it encompasses topics such as wellness, ethical practices as well as how companies treat their employees. In fact, it also takes into consideration how well we take care of our bodies and how well-ordered our lives are. More importantly, today’s consumers are no longer satisfied in knowing that hotels are “green” — they want to understand how eco-friendly the hotels they patronize are, as well as the impact of the property’s “green” plan.
As Linda McCormick, a green travel blogger, said in a recent story in The Globe and Mail, “First check if [hotels] have accreditation.” Then, she advises hotel guests to push for more information. “Truly eco-conscious hotels or carbon-neutral hotels also have sections on their websites dedicated to their green practices. If not, ask: you’d be surprised how many can’t produce this.” McCormick and other experts, such as eco-travel writer Catherine Mack, also quoted in that same Globe and Mail story, advocate vigilance in determining whether hotels are truly walking the talk; she also encourages guests to research a hotel’s practices before booking a stay. And, she urges hoteliers to do their part in training staff to understand their environmental philosophy. “Part of being a green hotelier is to educate every member of staff,” she says. “So, if the receptionist can’t tell you what you need to know, you probably should book elsewhere,” she advises. “Sadly, most hotels won’t go green until they see travellers really want it.”
Not surprisingly then, as today’s hotel guests become more educated and more discerning in their tastes — fuelled by the belief that a hotel should be viewed as an extension of their home — making the claim that a hotel is eco-conscious is simply no longer good enough; today’s consumers will demand operators also prove it.