Green initiatives have taken centre stage in almost every environmental
Green initiatives have taken centre stage in almost every environmental talk across the globe. However, it is essential for all stakeholders to take note of the importance of sustainability in upholding green initiatives as environmental policies are being formulated (Hard 2010, p. 1). Every economic sector remains culpable for environmental destruction experienced in the world today; although the level of responsibility may vary from one industry to another.
The hotel sector is however an important sector for embracing green initiatives because it accounts for a significant amount of expenses which companies, individuals and organizations make for social and corporate events (Hard 2010, p. 1). This is true because most hotels are usually chosen because of their abundant facilities for meetings like conference facilities, guest rooms and the likes (Hard 2010, p. 1).
In as much as event planners specialize in the best event practices, they should also wrap their fingers around devising ways in which hotels can offer more environmentally friendly services in form of green initiatives. Certain hotels across the globe such as Veil resorts in the Caribbean have adopted this initiative and are at the forefront in decreasing their environmental footprint while increasing their sustainability of hotel services (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 4).
The same trend has also been adopted by Asian hotels since the advent of Asia- pacific hotels environmental initiative (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 4). This movement towards sustainability is slowly being embraced across the globe and many hotel owners are finding it increasingly important to live in cordial harmony with the environment, thereby reducing the environmental impact of their operations.
Many hotel chains are therefore embracing sustainability through the focus on developmental and operational activities on programs touching on educational functionality, reforestation strategies, eco-resorts and such functional areas in the hotel sector (Enz 2009, p. 2). Various governments have also joined this course by coming up with sustainable environmentally friendly practices which touch on building designs to meet environment standards and benchmark energy efficient practices.
Such kinds of trends have been witnessed across the globe and observers note that such trends are here to stay in order for the world to achieve an environmentally conscious tourism sector (Enz 2009, p. 2). However, green initiatives are diverse and many of them have been necessitated by increased costs of operation, increased government pressure, rising consumer expectations and the need to stay above business competition.
Core areas where green initiatives are usually implemented in the hotel industry include energy conservation, green house gas emissions, fresh water conservation, ecosystem preservation, wastewater management, general systems among other areas of core functionality (Evans 2005, p. 55). This study will therefore explore the sustainability and importance of green initiatives in the hotel sector through an analysis of major programs and trends which have been embraced by some of the major hotels across the globe.
Responsible and Sustainable Development
Many businesses and organizations expect managers to show how their the element of sustainability (Copper 2002, p. 2). In the hotel sector, this element makes owners evaluate themselves based on whether they have adopted good recycling habits or not.
However, the most important push for hotels to adopt sustainable strategies revolves around the need to undertake corporate social responsibility. It is nowadays very difficult for organizations to be termed socially responsible if they do not observe environmentally friendly practices (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 4).
This is especially emphasized with regard to hotel designs and conference venues to ensure hotels adopt responsible and environmentally friendly practices. Another key area for hotel evaluation is the conservation of water and energy minimization systems. It is therefore becoming clear to most hotel owners that if they want to adopt sustainable strategies, they ought to implement green initiatives in their operations.
Hotels which are able to meet this criterion have done so through reviewing their operations, investing in new and efficient plants or equipments, and bringing the staff onboard towards the realization of green goals (Timothy 2009, p. 92).
Research done by Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, a tourism research organization, however notes that hotels contribute a great percentage of carbon gas emissions through transportation (Fennell 2002, p. 207). They also note that transportation accounts for about 82.2% of all carbon gas emissions (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 8).
Because of this realization, many hotels need to acknowledge the importance of reducing their carbon gas emissions not only in transport but also in conference events involving cooling, heating, lighting, projectors and the likes because this is a core area which needs to be tackled if hotels have to practice environmentally friendly practices.
One such hotel that has adopted this green initiative is the Accors Mercure Hotel in Oceania which has partnered with the Carbon research institute in Oceania to calculate the amount of green house gas emissions it produces; after which it pays for its offsetting (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 6).
Such kind of offset strategy is currently being undertaken through diverting organic hotel wastes from the landfill areas to compost areas (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 6). If the organic waste were left in the landfill areas, its decomposition would imply a higher level of potency because it will produce methane which is more potent than carbon (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 6).
To promote ecotourism in the hotel sector, it is important for prospective hotel designers to craft their buildings to meet environmental designs. This needs to be done after research on the surrounding environment is done and the impact hotel activities would have on the environment is established. Hotels can achieve a high level of energy efficiency if they construct buildings around trees because such an initiative seeks to protect the native habitat (World Tourism Organization 2008, p. 158).
Green marketing through green initiatives has been identified to be a key attraction for customers today. Green initiatives are therefore commonly used as a marketing tool by most hotel operators today. In this manner, many hotel operators make an effort of providing their customers with sufficient information about how they support green travel and how they have adopted policies that uphold sustainable tourism.
Such an initiative has been adopted in New Zealand through the 100% pure New Zealand campaign which has seen an increase in customer numbers in hotels that have adopted the initiative (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9). This strategy has been complimented by the New Zealand tourism strategy which has provided tools for implementing green strategies at the business level so that hotels can be able to harmonize their operations with the overall national brand image strategy.
This level of environmental consciousness has also taken centre stage in European politics especially after the signing of the Kyoto protocol in 1997 which resolved to reduce green house gas emissions by 8% in 2012 (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9). So far, the progress is on course.
As a result, many hotel operators took up the challenge and saw the opportunity to create a brand image in the hotel lifestyle sector by distinguishing itself from other lifestyle sectors through the adoption of green initiatives. In this regard, eco-friendly hotels were built to highlight the novelty of pursuing an . In the recent past, other hotel sectors have quickly adopted the same strategy and are also bubbling under the brand image of green revolution (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9).
With the increased consciousness of environmental issues and the entrenchment of mainstream green movement, hotel operators are only starting to realize the potential purchasing power adopting a green strategy has, for the hotel business (Black 2007, p. 187).
In fact, big hotel operators have no option but to adopt green strategies because failure to do so can potentially attract negative press (Clarke 2007, p. 307). This way, big hotel operators have gone to extreme levels to protect their brand images by adopting green strategies.
For instance, TUI travel, which is a leisure travel agency in Europe, has used the tact of seeking its destinations and planning forums or tradeshows by arriving at its decisions in an environmentally conscious manner, which is in conformance to business code of ethics and ecological guidelines which bind it and other similar organizations as well (Tzschentke 2008, p. 9).
Implementing green initiatives has been identified as one way through which hotels comply to environmental legislations. Such a strategy is important especially in America where hotels have been under pressure to adopt green initiatives, such as the 2006 California State law AB 32 which binds all hotels operating in its jurisdiction to undertake green initiatives through an ambitious plan of reducing the green house gas emissions in California by not less than 30% in the coming ten years (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 10).
This legislation is being undertaken as a reaction to the pressure of protecting the planet against global warming. Similar legislations have also been observed with regard to ensuring strict building codes are observed. These legislations have a strong impact in the hotel sector because most hotel owners are forced to comply or risk being closed down.
In addition, many US states such as California, Florida, Hew Hampshire, Vermont and the likes have also taken state initiatives to ensure hotels follow an internally formulated green house program to certify initiatives taken by state authorities in implementing strict environmental practices (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 10).
Such legislations if not observed can greatly affect the operations of hotels across the states involved. However, hotels can also benefit from adopting green energy initiatives in line with these legislative practices because they can enjoy tax breaks and cost cutting measures, in addition to increasing their business profile in the eyes of customers who are now very environmentally conscious about hotel operations (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 10).
In America, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS) is one way through which hotels can enjoy such privileges. In fact, many states across America are rewarding hotel companies which have a LEED certification by fiving them tax breaks; for instance, the city of Missouri has been contemplating giving hotel owners a 25% tax break, for a decade, if hotels meet the LEED certification (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 8).
Such initiatives have also been observed in Mexico where hotel companies are enjoying tax breaks of up to $9,000 to $25,000 per every hotel project that conforms to LEED specifications (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 10).
Apart from receiving tax cuts, operators are also in a position of saving up on energy costs because Buildings designed according to LEED specifications are very energy efficient. In fact, they are projected to use approximately 30% 50% less energy than conventional buildings and estimated to consume 40% less water with as much as 72% less solid waste disposal when compared to conventional buildings (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9).
LEED compliance does not however have its advantages only limited to tax cuts and energy efficiency because operators have in the past been observed to experience increased customer numbers because of the adoption of green initiatives.
Research studies (cited in Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9) note that 38% of hotel patrons have checked into environmentally friendly hotels and as much as 34% of hotel customers do not mind paying extra cost to stay in an environmentally friendly hotel. In addition, 9 % of hotel customers surveyed were reported to seek environmentally friendly hotels before they settled for a given hotel (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 7).
Market trends have also exposed a trend among green organizations whereby they reserve their retreats and hold conferences in hotels deemed economically friendly (Ryan 2007, p. 63). This is some sort of niche market strategy that can be capitalized through the adoption of green initiatives.
Considering the fact that green initiatives are still optional in most markets across the globe, hotels which adopt a green strategy can potentially gain from enjoying competitive advantages over others who do not. However, in the coming few years, this advantage will not be easily derived because green initiatives are set to be the new baseline for operations in the hospitality industry (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 7).
Hotels which adopt a green strategy are nonetheless proactive in a number of areas. Hilton chain of hotels for example has been proactive in ensuring customers recycle towels; hotel rooms are fitted with low energy consuming bulbs, and setting the standards for environmental performance to be adhered by all employees (Herremans 2006, p. 63).
On the other hand, Marriot international hotel group has also taken a proactive stand in adopting green energy initiatives through wildlife preservation, air cleaning, conservation of wastewater, and ensuring the general environment is clean. In the past 5 years, the hotel company has also been able to reduce energy consumption by more than 6%, thereby conserving the immediate environment by protecting up to 1.4 million acres of endangered forestland in its primary environment (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 7).
Adopting certain green initiatives could potentially save hotel operators a lot of money. Such initiatives include the use of cards in hotel rooms and the reuse of towels. Moreover, such initiatives are very cost effective on virtually zero outlay.
Considering the turbulent business environment and the recent global economic downturn, hotel operators have especially acknowledged the need of adopting strategies which can possibly lead to cutting down operational costs. Green initiatives have come up as one viable initiative. It is therefore prudent that hotel operators adopt green initiatives in todays world which is characterized by souring oil prices, and high utility costs.
Hilton group of hotels in Europe is one such hotel which has seen the need of adopting green initiatives because it has in the recent past saved the hotel up to 9 million pounds since the adoption of green initiatives in 2006 (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9). This initiative has majorly been advanced on the platform of energy and water conservation which have also led to the realization of decreased carbon dioxide gas emissions per guest in the same period (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 9).
Also, across the European Union, many governments have stepped up to to hotels which adopt green initiatives so that more and more hotel establishments can follow the same trend of seeking eco-friendly operational practices. For hotel operators this may include pipe work insulation, and installing low energy equipments for refrigeration services.
In as much as the above-cited measures provide specific benefits to hotel operators, changing the hotel designs is the long-term key towards achieving a lasting solution to solving environmental problems in the hotel sector.
The use of renewable sources of energy like wind power, solar power and the likes can also make hotel operators derive a sense of satisfaction in contributing to the general cause of attaining an environmentally friendly business environment. Comparatively, it is very expensive to design and construct a new building according to environmentally friendly standards than to modernize a building to conform to the same standards.
The adoption of green initiatives is however hindered by existing ancient hotel building designs which do not meet environmentally friendly standards. Examples are large hotel rooms with big windows; characteristic of most European hotels which take up a lot of energy in heating. This factor, together with certain elements such as regulatory planning restrictions, building structures, hotel ambience and perceived clientele tastes all pose a big stumbling block towards the attainment of a green environment in the hospitality industry.
Making the adoption of environmentally friendly strategies optional is therefore not enough for hotel operators if such barriers have to be overcome. It is therefore important that most European governments and indeed other governments do not only provide capital allowance incentives to hotel operators who meet environmentally friendly standards but also penalize those who do not conform to the same.
In this manner, hotel operators will compare the expected benefits of operating large hotels (which are environmentally unfriendly) with operating environmentally friendly and efficient hotels and choose the latter which will prompt them to adopt green initiatives especially in hotel designs (Suzanne 2010, p. 2).
It is however unfortunate that only established hotels are cautious on the importance of adopting green initiatives because small or upcoming hotels (like in the Russian hotel market) have not yet placed green construction in their list of priorities (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 4). This trend is unlikely to change in the near future.
However, this type of insensitivity does not occur because hotel operators are unaware of green initiatives but because hotel operators in some of these countries operate in markets where there is very little quality lodging supply and therefore it does not seem economically viable to invest money in green initiatives when sustainability is a problem (Lee-Ross 2010, p. 143).
In such countries, investing in green initiatives is therefore perceived as more costly than the conventional building initiatives and worse still is the fact their respective governments have no incentive structures in place to entice hotel operators to design economically friendly hotels (Ernst & Young 2010, p. 4). Feasibility is therefore not supported in such countries.
However, as many markets mature, the incorporation of green initiatives will be a benchmarking tool of operations and it will be adopted by many hotel companies across the globe; both at the construction and operational stages. Moreover, the continued globalization trend evident in todays global economy has seen the entrance of multinational hotel chains which have a better environmental record and therefore their operations are expected to expedite green initiatives in growing markets.