April 14, 2024

Eurocean 2004

Life is an adventure

Greenwashing? Forget it. Don’t tell and sell, just do it

MORE and more, customers want to participate in sustainable travel so forget greenwashing. And don’t tell and sell, just do it.

This was the consensus among the three panelists at the recent WiT Experience Singapore during a session on “The Tech, Heart & Dollars of Sustainability”. Even while they recognise the cost of initial investment is high, continued education on sustainability and its benefits – both for travellers and hotel owners alike – still needs doing.

From right, Choe Peng Sum, Pan Pacific Hotels Group, Khang Nguyen Trieu, Accor Asia and Laura Houldsworth, Booking.com

In a recent sustainability report by Booking.com, 83% of global travellers think sustainability travel is vital, and over 60% of respondents said the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future.

“It is clear there is a demand, and there is a requirement for our accommodation partners to be doing what we need them to do, and to also then share about it with the consumers,” said Laura Houldsworth, managing director & vice president, Asia Pacific, Booking.com.

Laura Houldsworth: “It is clear there is a demand and there is requirement for our accommodation partners to be doing what we need them to do.”

While we may all agree quickly and confidently that sustainable travel is the way to go, the challenge of “just doing it” is no doubt challenging. Panelist Choe Peng Sum, CEO of Pan Pacific Hotels Group knows it firsthand.

“We just
spent $2.4 million on double-glazed windows so that cold air doesn’t leak out
and hot air doesn’t come in. Nobody sees that. The guests will say ‘oh you’ve
got a window’. It is not cheap,” he said.

But he said he helps owners see the worthiness of investment into sustainable practices. For example, he pointed out to them that using a rainwater harvesting system can save six million litres of water for the hotel. That fills two and half Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Hotels can certainly do more. Choe pointed out the common practice for hotels to provide single-use water bottles and toiletries. It calculated that each of its hotels use some 360,000 of these bottles per year and some 460,000 of those single-use containers for toiletries.

Why moving data to cloud and one global standard to rule all make sense

Accor’s chief technology architect Khang Nguyen Trieu suggests that hotels can lower their carbon footprint by 80% if it moved its data to the cloud. Accor, he said, was accelerating its data’s move to the cloud and intends to close all its data centres within five years. In tandem to that, cloud providers are also offering more tools to improve the way resources in the cloud can be consumed.

The hotels
are clear about the many ways in which they can operate more sustainably. But
one of the issues is getting that message out to the customer. In Booking.com’s
report, 79% of respondents said they would choose a hotel with sustainable
practices, but 49% claimed they can’t find enough information on the hotel’s
sustainable actions to make that choice. That same report revealed that while 3
out of 4 accommodation players say they have implemented at least some kind of
sustainability practices at their property, only one-third actively communicate
about their efforts proactively to potential guests.

Doing its part to aggregate and communicate these messages from the hotel to the customer is Booking.com.

identified five key pillars across the sustainability platform – energy, waste,
water, local communities, local environment. Within that, there are about 30
practices that we’ve identified that the accommodation partners can list that
they are actively doing, and then we put it on their page,” said Houldsworth.

Houldsworth said it is also filling in the education gap by providing accommodation partners with handbooks, guidebooks, and educational opportunities on its partner hubs. She said it is about making sure supply meets demand; if there is a demand for it, Booking.com will be prioritising efforts to meet that demand – whether it is through filter searches or different displays on the front. It is about giving what the customers want, said Houldsworth.

And what of
accreditation and certification agencies and the need for a global standard for
sustainability? What is more important to establish, the panel was asked.

thinks a global standard is what’s needed. “Like any industry that matures, it
needs to have a unique standard that will make it much easier, not just for the
guests but also for the industry to know in which direction to go,” he said.

Choe says
there is a need for two types of accreditation – one for buildings itself and
one for hotel processes. For buildings to be accredited as “green”, it would
need to consider things like triple-glazed windows, solar panels. Accreditation
for hotel processes would keep hotels honest – he called out hotels that make a
show of recycling efforts, putting different bins out for various types of
waste, but once it goes to the backend, it all gets dumped into one single bin.
“So there needs to be a certification for processes like ISO14001, 14002,” said

The sizeable
impact the hotel industry has on the environment cannot be refuted. Choe
brought it home with these sobering numbers from the Urban Land Institute that
did a 2019 survey on hotels’ energy use: hotels burn 289 kilowatts per square
metre, offices burn 181 kilowatt per square metre, and retail burns 81 kilowatt
per square metre.

Every little step that a hotel takes towards being sustainable counts because it is after all, a huge hotel universe.

Watch video of panel here.

Featured image credit: Jirsak/Getty Images