Green issues have been increasingly prominent in recent years, and this has affected all areas of life. Whether it is recycling rubbish at home, having a low-emission car, getting involved in green politics or indulging in a bit of grow-your-own when sourcing food, lots of people like to be eco-friendly. Inevitably, this has affected the tourism industry too.
There are two main ways in which this has happened. One is to make traditional forms of holiday-making greener, while the second is through specialised eco-tourism, with an emphasis on making everything exceptionally green and promoting issues like conservation.
Making the normal green
There are those who take a slightly negative view of some sorts of travel and tourism on environmental grounds. People who feel this way are concerned about the emissions created by long-distance travel, particularly by plane. For some, the ideal would be to take local holidays rather than travelling overseas, but one step offered by some airlines is to allow people to pay a small extra fee when booking tickets to enable them to ‘offset’ the emissions created by the journey. For those running a hotel that is frequented by overseas visitors, the likelihood is that many people will arrive in reception having offset their emissions, and they will not want the place they stay at to waste their efforts and investment by being environmentally unfriendly. There are a number of basic and obvious steps that can be taken. These include recycling, using energy-saving bulbs, sourcing food locally, or even using micro-renewable energy like wind turbines, photovoltaic panels and ground source heat pumps. In addition, the use of smart technology can help to make things greener still. If McDonalds can use waterless toilets, then your hotel certainly can. Having smart thermostats and lighting that turns off automatically when rooms are vacated can also ensure energy is used more efficiently. Energy efficiency also includes having good insulation. If your walls and roofs are not well insulated that is a complete waste of energy. It means the hotel may be colder than it would otherwise be and necessitates the use of more energy. All of these things require money to invest in, but the benefits are obvious. It means the running costs of a hotel are reduced as less energy is required for lighting and heating, while money can also be saved by generating some energy on-site. Sourcing local food ingredients can also be cheaper. Best of all, it is a good selling point for your hotel when you can list all these green attributes in your marketing material. That means you will not only do your bit to help save the planet, but also attract more environmentally-conscious guests.
An eco-hotel will certainly not be lacking in any of these areas, but often these establishments take on specific characters of their own. In some respects, they simply raise the bar even further. Big windows may allow in more natural lighting and thus reduce the need to switch on artificial illumination. The materials the e hotel is made of may also be natural and organic, such as wood. However, this form of hotel actually can come with a little bit less luxury than others. It might, for example, not have many televisions, radios and internet connections, fulfilling dual aims of saving electricity and also encouraging people to get away from ‘normal’ life and enjoy the wonders of nature instead. In this case, it is worth making sure that some good alternative indoor activities are available, should the weather be bad in summer, or as a means of ensuring people are not bored on dark winter nights when going outdoors is not much of a worthwhile prospect. Nonetheless, if the location of the hotel is designed to enable people to get away from the busy cities and out into the wilds, it makes sense that guests will want to get back to nature, exploring the scenery and watching the local wildlife.
Support big causes
Another way your hotel or chain can make a difference is by supporting environmental causes. It is great for showing your green credentials and impressing potential guests, but, even more importantly, it enables you to offer your guest a chance to get involved as well. For example, events like Earth Day often see major buildings turning their lights off for a set period of time. If your hotel follows suit, encourage your guests to do likewise in their rooms. Alternatively, just as airlines offer a chance to offset emissions, a green hotel could give guests a chance to include a donation in their booking payments to an environmental or conservation charity. These are just some of the ways in which a hotel can be more sustainable. With determination and good marketing, it should be a win-win-win situation. The guests will love it, the environment will benefit and as a hotelier you will feel the satisfaction of making a difference.