Why Guests Go Green

By Rani Bhattacharyya Community Economics Extension Educator , University of Minnesota Extension- Center for Community Vitality | September 04, 2011

Your potential guests have been inundated with all sorts of news and information regarding the social, economic and environmental issues we are facing globally. As a result, they now seek out hotel and other travel service providers that can show a practical, unique and proactive commitment towards resolving these issues. Addressing this demand as part of your messaging has become important because these issues are no longer remote or happening to others. The repercussions have started to affect not only our health, but our employment, and communities as well. In making an attempt to address these issues head on and stabilize both our personal and financial well being, society itself is starting to demand more truthfulness and meaning behind how purchasing decisions can help create a more sustainable world.

I've divided this article into three sections that provide an overview of: 1) why hotel guests are goring green, 2) where along the purchasing decision making process your properties' environmental performance reporting can be a great asset, and 3) how being true to your performance reporting efforts can proactively address the environmental and social interests of your guests. By reviewing these aspects of promoting your hotels environmental and social reporting efforts, I hope to provide a little insight into why adopting environmental and social benchmarking practices can be a significant asset in attracting and retaining new guests at your hotel.

Why Guests Are Going Green?

There are two main reasons why guests have learned to expect hoteliers and other travel service providers to adopt environmentally and socially responsible best practices. The first is based on the changing demographic landscape of society itself. While Baby Boomers (those born between the years of 1943-1960) are currently the wealthiest age demographic, both the X (born between 1961- 1981) and Y (born between 1982-2002) generations are segments of the population set to become the largest segment of the adult consumer population in coming decades. There are significant differences between these groups' current purchasing behavior, especially between the Y generation demographic (just now entering higher educational institutions and the workforce) and the older groups.

Coming of age in a world now dependent on immediate access to information, young adults are no longer tied to a specific geographic location to define their work, play, or purpose. Having developed an ongoing commitment and need for globalized (not just localized) engagement, they still find issues concerning inequity exotic but the emotional pull behind this attraction for members of the Y generation is no longer based on fear or guilt. These potential guests are seeking recognition and a means by which to resolve inequity issues rather than ignore or escape them. The travel purchasing behavior of the Y generation has reflected this over the past five years as well. Young adults have been the most frequent type of traveler and have also been spending more while on travel than any other segment of the population. Because of this shifting attitudinal change to seek meaningful purpose behind travel, many guests are now purchasing hospitality and leisure services where they can learn the story of a place. Specifically, they have begun to seek out (and expect to see) how their favorite brands and companies are helping to resolve the social, economic and environmental issues that are affecting the destinations they visit.

A secondary source of the greening trend in the hospitality market has been attitudinal shifts in the business travel sector. In light of ongoing economic issues in the US and abroad, WTTC's business travel report released in April found that growth of business related travel has not been as extensive as that of the leisure travel sector over the last ten years. Over half of the companies they surveyed cut 30% or more of their travel budgets in 2009. While this drop in business related travel was unfortunate for the industry as a whole, there has been a very limited rebound in 2010 -2011 so far. The financial problems in 2007-2008 also became a motivating factor behind the quick adoption and integration of expense reporting software and technology by employers. This software allows for more instantaneous on the go expense reporting that includes environmental performance metrics as well. To meet these economic and energy conscious needs of business travelers, articulating your environmentally responsible best practices via web 2.0 applications should be a significant part of your marketing plan. In addition to this, the clearer that you can articulate how seamlessly your services are integrated with other destination component services such as dining, recreation and transportation opportunities available in your area, the greater your chances will be that corporate travelers and event planners will become loyal guests.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.