25 March 2014

A Smarter Hotel Stay

For those of us that are conscious of the environmental (and wallet) impacts of wasting resources at home, we're probably doing a great job of following the simple steps which can make a real difference - turning off lights, not running taps longer than necessary, turning the heating thermostat down a degree, etc.  But do we act in the same way when we're on holiday or a business trip, staying in a hotel?  Or do we find our behaviours are slightly more relaxed towards saving the environment?

Hotels today

Hotels today are likely to have various obvious measures in order to help reduce the environmental impact of your hotel stay:
  • Use of room keycards, which cuts the power to the guestroom when unoccupied
  • Encouraging reuse of towels for multi-day stays, saving energy and water
  • Increasing use of energy efficient technologies as part of room refurbishment programmes - LED lighting, flatscreen TVs, water-efficient showerheads, etc.
  • Use of shower gel / shampoo dispensers, rather than individual bottles
  • EV charging points for electric vehicles
Behind the scenes too, hotels are starting to realise that their energy usage is a controllable cost, so are investing in retrofitting building-level efficiencies - energy efficient boilers, better kitchen equipment, integration of renewables, etc.  And of course for a new-build hotel, there's a chance to make even more dramatic changes, adopting new standards.

Hotels are also engaging with their suppliers, and insisting that products and services provided are sustainable - this could be everything from FSC-certified wood for beds, to printer cartridges, through to sustainably sourced seafood in the restaurant.
The three largest hotel brands are already making investments in their sustainability story.  They realise that not only might it be a regulatory requirement, or a way to reduce costs, but also it's great for reputation, and even to drive revenue (e.g. offering carbon calculators for meeting rooms attracts business bookings).

For example, IHG have launched an initiative called GreenEngage, which helps hotel managers identify key interventions, and compares to other hotels in the chain:

Over at the Hilton Group, they have a programme called Lightstay™ which does something similar:

Hilton also have some reduction goals:

  • Reduce energy consumption by 20%
  • Reduce carbon consumption by 20%
  • Reduce waste output by 20%
  • Reduce water consumption by 10% 
[Hilton, please could you also articulate the baseline year in your targets, the scope (e.g. by carbon, is it scope 1 and 2 only), and the expected timeframe?]

I'm most impressed by the innovation Hilton are showing with their waste reduction though.  In some cases, they've neatly integrated their approach into the importance of their role in society, with some local initiatives including:

  • A partnership with the Global Soap Project (GSP), to recover and recycle soap for delivery to vulnerable populations
  • Diverting excess food from conferences to local food banks
  • Working with Good360™ to offer excess items from the property portfolio to community organisations
Beyond this, they are working with DH Hospitality and Serta to downcycle mattresses into tools, car parts, flooring and carpet padding.  They've even realised that with guests throwing-out 30% of newspapers, there's an innovative way to offer access to digital content, with USA Today, instead, reducing waste.

Finally, the Marriot Group are realising the multiple benefits a strong sustainability programme can deliver.

Could hotels do more?

So, we've established that hotels have started making your stay more sustainable, but also that for some guests, whilst on holiday, they might not be doing as much as they could to help out.  Can hotels help their guests even more? Maybe...

Here's the scenario I'd like to explore for a fictitious guest called Larry:

  • The standard room rate is £70 per night.  As a member of the hotel's loyalty scheme, Larry is offered a chance to stay in one of the new 'environmental' rooms, at no additional cost
  • Larry is made aware that his room's energy and water usage will be measured, and as an incentive to minimise usage, he will receive cashback (or hotel loyalty points), if he uses less than the average of all guests for that hotel, pro-rated for the time he stays
  • Larry can view his usage from his smartphone during his stay, over the free Wi-fi
  • At time of checkout, the meters are checked (remotely), and a suitable reward is credited to Larry's account
  • Over time and multiple stays across other hotels in the chain, Larry can view his energy and water savings historically, on the hotel's website
Over time, if the incentives are set correctly, the average usage for energy and water should reduce for all participating guests, causing a virtuous circle of higher targets.

Technically, this would need some form of sub-metering, so each room's usage could be tracked - something which of course has a capital cost, but one which may well be compensated with increased loyalty and enhanced reputation.  It may also be more appropriate in cheaper hotels where guests may be more respondent to incentives, or even a way to tie into corporate rates, such that business guests get recognition from their employee too.

Should we even use hotels?

Finally, there's a very active debate going on at the moment as to whether the traditional hotel business model is being terminally threatened by the peer-to-peer room-sharing websites, most notably AirBnB.  Nobody expects them to takeover the whole hospitality market, but there may well be a tipping-point where it reduces occupancy rates in some hotels to such a level that the hotel chains will see margins eroded more heavily, with rate discounts required.

AirBnB Logo

With threats looming to the hospitality incumbents, they have even greater incentive to reduce their costs, and provide innovative propositions which will lead to brand loyalty.

1 comment:

  1. As always, an excellent article Richard. I really like the idea of viewing my utility usage in a hotel - I wonder if there is an opportunity for one of the energy suppliers to partner with a hotel chain and supply Smart meters to each room? As the UK moves towards a rollout, some customers will inevitably need to be convinced of the "usefulness" of Smart meters, and having them in hotels will give them an opportunity to see them in action?