A Look at Green Lodging Trends in 2016

By Grace Kang Managing Partner, Greenview | January 08, 2017

The Green Lodging Trends Report 2016 launched last month with the objective to catalyze green practices and innovation across the hotel industry worldwide, led by Greenview and Green Lodging News. The report is a result of a survey open to all hotels around the world regardless of service type, location, segment or size. One of the main benefits to the participants was the ability to benchmark against its peers on over 100 sustainability related best practices. Each participant received a confidential compare report showing the uptake of best practices, segmented by global, region, country, city, service type and hotel type, where applicable. The result was the production and release of the Green Lodging Trends Report 2016, which summarizes data collected from 2,161 hotels located in 44 countries.

The hotel industry has been benchmarking against its peer groups on data points such as the ADR, occupancy and RevPar for over 30 years. But when it comes to benchmarking sustainability performance and best practices, the familiarity and knowledge is not quite uniform across the globe. There are hundreds of sustainability related “attributes” at a hotel to benchmark. These attributes refer to things like efficient lighting and water fixtures, bulk dispensers, and electric charging stations. For the same reasons a hotel would benchmark financial performance against its peers, sustainability benchmarking enables hotels to remain competitive and for some to be leaders.

The Green Lodging Survey 2016 consisted of 108 attributes in the categories of indoor air quality, energy management, water conservation, waste management, kitchen & laundry, staff involvement, communication, guest engagement. Some of the attributes are considered common best practices such as providing 100% smoke-free environment to still nascent and innovative best practices such as the use of renewable energy sources on-site. Here are the key findings from the study:

Energy management can be considered as a default practice. Energy management is considered one of the fastest ways to reduce environmental footprint as well as cost of utilities. And the way a hotel manages its energy consumption has a direct impact on its total carbon emissions. Within the energy management category, the most common practices are energy tracking, having preventive maintenance programs and routinely checking HVAC filters, which were prevalent across over 90% of respondents. Not quite as high as 90%, but considered a common practice is the use of efficient lighting such as LED. Over 70% of respondents said they use energy efficient lighting in over 75% of their guestrooms. But not all energy management related practices are ubiquitous. The use of renewable sources such as solar PV, wind, and geothermal on-site is still low with an overall uptake percentage of 26%.

Many hotels are yet to adapt the most common practices. One of the biggest misconceptions of sustainability is that it costs more to be “green.” There are many sustainability related best practices that are proven to save cost, increase efficiency, increase staff loyalty and enhance guest experience. All these have a positive impact to the bottom line. Yet, these practices are still not being adopted by many hotels. A towel and linen reuse program is already ubiquitous. However, more than 50% of the respondents are missing out on an opportunity to save energy, water and cost by not implementing an opt-out program where linens are changed only upon guest request or at check-out. Some practices require sizeable investment cost, however, there are many practices that don’t cost a dime but have big impact. For example, not automatically delivering newspapers to every guestroom can significantly reduce waste. It simply requires management decision and training.

Full service hotels are not always “greener” than limited service hotels. Along with the misconception that becoming more green requires more capital, we often expect full service hotels to outperform limited service hotels in the sustainability front. Based on the survey results, we found that full service hotels and limited service were on par on many best practices while for some, limited service outshined full service hotels. These practices included offering 100% smoke-free environment, use of low VOC paints, installation of efficient water fixtures, rainwater capture, native or drought-resistant landscaping, and having high-efficiency boilers.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.