Is the hospitality industry pushing the environmental envelope? Much has been done in the area of greening in recent years, but are operators doing enough to listen to what
guests want and making a true impact?

When deciding where to stay, today’s guests often consider more than just the comfort of the hotel room, its location and the room rate. For many, knowing a hotel is  evironmentally friendly — while perhaps not yet the biggest motivation in determining where to stay — is certainly important.

But what does it mean to be environmentally responsible? According to a 2010 greening study undertaken in the attractions field by PGAV Destinations — a global leader in the planning and design of leisure, entertainment and cultural destinations in the U.S. — environmental sustainability is not a widely understood term. “It’s believed to encompass air
and water quality, alternative energy sources, environmentally friendly cleaning products and natural insecticides, but interestingly [it’s] not perceived to include
climate change and global warming,” reads the study.

Still, the report indicates the notable signs of environmental stewardship include such basics as using recycling bins, installing energy efficient lighting and solar panels and selling food/beverage in biodegradable containers. A recent Travel Intentions survey by the Hotel Association of Canada reported similar findings. According to that study, 37 per cent of respondents said environmental initiatives such as water recycling and energy efficiency are important to them. Thirty-six per cent said it’s important for hotels to have
green products while, 30 per cent said a hotel with an environmental certification program is important. Additionally, 27 per cent said the ability to purchase carbon credits is very important, up six per cent from 2010.

Undoubtedly hotel companies are becoming increasingly green savvy (see story on page 7), although many don’t yet have a green strategy in place; and others are doing little in terms of even the most basic requirements. Ignoring the green movement doesn’t make sense as consumers, especially within the younger demographic, are becoming more discerning. The industry needs to move faster to ensure properties of all sizes are green friendly. Granted, only 13 per cent of HAC’s Travel Intentions survey respondents said their company has a green travel policy, but that’s up two per cent from 2010 and eight per cent from 2009.

Not surprisingly, demographics are expected to fuel greater growth in coming years. For example, another PGAV survey, shows millennial motivations and behaviours will have significant implications for travel and tourism moving forward. As we know, millenials are more connected to the green cause than any other group. In fact, according to the survey, more than 77 per cent of respondents believe it’s essential to connect to causes that are important to them, a trait more important to them than to older generations. “Millenials are not your traditional guests,” explains Mike Konzen, principal, PGAV Destinations. “They do not take leisure trips “just because,” but are looking for something
that resonates with their need to make a difference.” Now it’s time hoteliers.

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