Is the Hospitality Industry Practicing Resilient Thinking?

By Tim Trefzer Head of Environmental Sustainability, Georgia World Congress Center Authority | May 13, 2018

Over the last decade, the hospitality industry has taken advantage of the bottom-line savings stemming from simple environmental initiatives. Swapping halogen light bulbs for energy efficient LEDs; Exchanging water-heavy toilets and urinals for low-flow (or even waterless) alternatives; Instituting a recycling program resulting in lower waste hauling costs. These obvious cost-saving solutions to the overall budget weren't an integral part of the fabric of doing business but were merely actions taken for financial gain. And that is all of what sustainability was to the hospitality industry.

Today, however, sustainability in this industry has moved beyond low-hanging, easy-to-quantify, cost-saving actions. Once the financial benefits of these actions have been recognized, what's next? Guests and clients, especially highly influential millennials, are increasingly aware of a company's impact on environmental and social wellbeing. They expect businesses to address environmental and social causes in pursuit of a better society by incorporating this mindset in all aspects of business.

Serve a Social Purpose

Many of the world's most prominent organizations have taken notice of this new expectation. Look no further than to Larry Fink, founder and CEO of BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world. In an open letter sent to CEOs earlier this year, Fink explained, "Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate." Notice he used the word "benefit" to describe how organizations need to be received by all stakeholders.

Sustainability, in its purest form, refers to the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. A benefit implies providing additional value. This is resilient thinking: not only the ability to sufficiently sustain but to produce a better condition than before.

Resiliency is about more than just a business, the environment, or a cause. Fink, again in his letter to business leaders, went on to state "…you must also understand the societal impact of your business as well as the ways that broad, structural trends – from slow wage growth to rising automation to climate change – affect your potential for growth." In other words, the health of our society will directly impact your bottom-line. This may or may not be true in the very near term, but as a visionary long-term asset manager, Fink can attest to the value that businesses can reap by looking beyond short-term profits. And although this may be a relatively new framework for success, it is a strategic imperative that organizations, executives, boards of directors, and other key constituents should elevate through visioning practices and leadership.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.