Sustainability in tourism is important, not only for the environment but also from a social and economic point of view. In a tourism context, sustainability requires a hotel to take advantage of its surroundings, support the local economy, and take care to cause as little harm to the environment as possible.
Unfortunately, hotel activity will always have some negative effects on its immediate environment to varying degrees. Big hotel chains manage this better as they have access to resources in a way that independents may not. Smaller hotels tend to have under-qualified personnel, lack of technological access and less time. This results in small independent hotels having difficulty in adapting to the requirements that the industry demands. So what can small independent hotels do in order to sustain themselves and their environments, without creating huge economic pressure? Here are 6 key areas that will strengthen the hotel business and move the needle on sustainability efforts.
1. Use local produce and promote local businesses
Menus should take advantage of local and seasonal produce. Here, the hotel must inform their guests of this decision and use it as a selling point, emphasising the local authenticity and where the products come from. Also, let guests know about local businesses in the area that can enrich their time away. This can include shops, tour guides, restaurants and craft stores. This will have a knock-on effect as it will build the local community and enrich the area where the hotel is located.
2. Reduce food waste, buy bulk and recycle
It can be very helpful to local communities if you offer food leftovers to local charities, schools and shelters. This can either be given for free or offered at a greatly reduced cost. It is also helpful to create recycling points throughout the hotel, both for customers and staff. Another good idea is to reduce the use of unnecessary single-use plastics both behind the scenes as well as with guests. Also, take care to minimise the use of unnecessary packaging which generates unnecessary waste and opt for bulk buying where possible. There is also a cost saving when you buy this way, so plan carefully and incorporate this into your ordering process.
3. Plant trees native to the area
Develop the flora and fauna in the local surroundings. This not only generates more shade but absorbs CO2 and beautifies the environment. Holding the trees in mind, wherever possible, go paperless. Use digital communication in as much communication as possible including invoicing and guest communication.
4. Create energy and water-saving strategies
Hotels consume enormous amounts of water and electricity. By implementing measures like water diffusers in the taps, you save a lot of water and money. Use low-consumption lighting with LED bulbs which have a longer lifespan, require less maintenance and save a lot of energy in the long run. It is also a good idea to perform ongoing maintenance to check for water and power leaks.
5. Implement incentives for guests
A clever way to encourage sustainable behaviour with guests is to offer them something in return for making smart choices that assist the hotel in this endeavour. For example, in exchange for reusing towels (instead of rewashing each day), you might offer your guest a free drink at the pool as a thank you.
6. Raise awareness with staff and guests
Remember to educate your guests about the measures you are taking to protect the local environment. This not only builds your brand but also encourages guests and staff to be mindful and make empathetic decisions. Remember to ask your staff to share their ideas too, and reward them for their participation and proactive attitudes.
The bottom line
Smaller hotels are at a disadvantage when it comes to sustainability. But there are simple ways to save money, reduce your carbon footprint, and truly enrich the local environment. The 6 tips will ensure that you can generate growth for your business and the local economy, and ensure that not only is your hotel a nice place to stay, but a kind place to stay, too.
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