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[Update] The sustainable transition of hospitality

Today, it is no longer possible to put sustainability on the back burner as a hotel operator. The current climate emergency and global ecological awareness are prompting more and more actors in the sector to work towards a greener and more responsible hotel industry. A sustainable commitment that involves various initiatives, from reducing energy consumption to recycling and the circular economy.

According to a recent survey conducted for maeva, the online travel agency of the Pierre & Vacances-Center Parcs Group, the summer of 2022 has made many French people aware of the climate issues following the repeated heat waves and fires. A summer that has also prompted 54% to consider new alternatives to limit the environmental impact of their next holiday. Thus, 33% of them mention the possibility of travelling less far, 19% indicate a less polluting mode of transport to get to their holiday destination and 15% mention eco-responsible accommodation.

A change in behaviour that does not only concern the summer period. Indeed, the French are aware that they will have to make an effort to reduce their energy consumption, even on holiday. Thus, 77% of those questioned said they were prepared to stay in places heated to a maximum of 19 degrees. Other measures to reduce energy consumption were mentioned, such as closing heated outdoor swimming pools (40%), stopping the use of snow cannons (22%) and increasing the number of offers to travel to the resort by train or bus.

This survey clearly demonstrates the commitment of the French to travel in a more sustainable way, thus agreeing with professionals in the tourism sector. However, there are still some obstacles, such as the price for 41% of respondents and the complexity in terms of organisation for 26%. Professionals must therefore take into account these remaining obstacles when developing their sustainable offers in order to respond to this desire to commit on the part of tourists, as Nicolas Beaurain, General Manager of maeva, points out:

The results of this study can only encourage us, the tourism actors, to get moving. More than ever, the French say they are ready to make ecology a criterion for choosing their holidays. Last summer's climatic disturbances have significantly accelerated this awareness. For many months now, we at maeva have been multiplying strong and concrete initiatives to participate in our own way in the positive transition of the holiday rental sector in France: pushing for new travel habits and shared mobility on our booking sites, making the criterion of eco-engagement a criterion for choosing a holiday rental, or the launch of Co2cotte, a travel companion dedicated to estimating the carbon footprint of each rental stay. These initiatives are at the heart of our project and of maeva's commitment to positive impact tourism.

Reducing your carbon footprint

The desire to adopt an eco-responsible approach, combined with the current energy crisis, has prompted the hotel operator Best Western Hotels & Resorts to strengthen its energy saving policy by launching a vast action plan within its network. All members of the network have been working for several months on the measures to be implemented in its properties in favour of energy saving in the short and medium term. Room temperature control will be a key element in order to avoid over-consumption. One degree of difference can correspond to 7% less energy consumption according to ADEME. The group plans to reduce the intensity of light in common areas in the evening, as well as to switch off the hotels' illuminated signs after the last guest has arrived, as well as the outdoor lighting. Finally, time slots for access to pools, saunas and steam rooms will be introduced.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts is also launching an awareness campaign aimed at guests to encourage them to adopt, at their own level, simple but effective gestures in favour of energy sobriety. These eco-actions mainly concern lighting, heating and air conditioning, water consumption and linen change. These various actions are part of its 2022-2025 strategic vision "Towards a hotel industry of the future", in which CSR policy plays a major role. The group aims to have 75% of its network certified by 2025. It currently has 63 Green Key or EcoLabel hotels, i.e. 20% of its French network, and more than 50 new hotels have committed to the process in 2022.

Because every gesture counts, we are strengthening our commitment to energy efficiency to respond to the current emergency, while ensuring that we maintain our standards of quality and comfort. Together, we must act. This is why we have developed a comprehensive action plan that includes all hotel businesses and employees. It is through training and commitment that we will achieve rapid results. We are also working with our hotel operators on long-term investment plans to address the upcoming environmental challenges facing our industry.

Olivier Cohn, General Manager of Best Western Hotels & Resorts in France

For its part, Cross Hotels & Resorts wants to embark on a sustainable approach to reducing global emissions. To this end, the Asian group recently signed two new hotel operator agreements in Bangkok and Pattaya with Evergreen Hospitality. In order to minimise its carbon footprint, the group intends to plant more trees and strictly follow the 3Rs precept: reduce, reuse, recycle. Cross Hotels & Resorts is delighted with the partnership with Evergreen Hospitality as Harry Thaliwal, CEO of the group, says: "I believe this joint commitment is in line with our shared values of sustainability, responsibility and environmental awareness. We continue to take proactive steps to reduce our impact on the planet by keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum and this visionary signature is another major step towards achieving our goal."

Plastic has become the industry's number one enemy with the end of single-use hospitality products and the disappearance of plastic water bottles. With this in mind, the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa has launched its new bottling station. Using water drawn from the lagoon and then filtered and carbonated to eliminate all toxins and micro-organisms, the property now offers its guests sparkling or still water packaged in signature glass bottles. This bottling station represents a model of short and circular circuit in the service of a desire to reduce single-use plastics. The Pacific Beachcomber Group, which manages this hotel, is committed to minimising its environmental footprint and reducing the amount of waste generated by its properties, including eliminating single-use plastic from the 'guest experience' by 2025.

The fight against waste is just as important in industry, as Iberostar recently unveiled its ambitious plan to install artificial intelligence in its more than 100 hotels worldwide to become zero waste. This will enable the group to reduce food waste and save over 1,600 tonnes of food in the first year. The initiative is made possible by an innovative system based on Winnow's technology. Typically, properties that use Winnow's technology halve their food waste within 12 to 24 months. The Winnow systems implemented in Iberostar's kitchens know exactly what they are throwing away, what they are saving, and how they can make smarter decisions based on real data. A goal that resonates with the UN's MDG 12.3, which aims to halve global per capita food waste by 2030.

Reducing food waste is essential to achieving the goals of our 2030 Agenda. The value of food cannot be underestimated and at Iberostar we want to ensure that it is not wasted. As well as training our employees to tackle food waste, we have implemented this innovative system to reduce the amount of waste we produce without affecting the guest experience. We believe that the use of cutting-edge technology, training and innovation dedicated to food waste elimination will help us reduce climate impacts, meet our goals and contribute to broader global objectives that benefit the planet.

Sabina Fluxá, Vice President and General Manager of the Iberostar Group

Ashotel and the Association of Farmers and Breeders of the Canary Islands are also tackling the problem of food waste by promoting the transformation of organic waste into fertiliser for the countryside. Around 90 tonnes of organic waste and prunings collected from half a dozen hotels in Tenerife over a six-week period will be transformed into 14,000 kilos of compost for the island's ecological farms. This initiative is part of the "Circular Tourism Communities" project, promoted by both entities. In the words of the Ashotel Group, "The aim is to make use of all the rich organic matter produced in the hotels, to stop burying it in landfills and to regenerate the soil and farmland for better agricultural production and local supply, which ultimately means generating a circular economy.

Regenerative agriculture is also a feature of the Relais & Châteaux network. Indeed, the association of independent hotels strongly encourages this practice in support of the joint annual Food for Change campaign with the Slow Food association. As a reminder, regenerative agriculture creates naturally fertile land, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and increases carbon sequestration. This is a very useful initiative in the fight against climate change, as it paves the way for carbon neutrality and, beyond that, for the 'net zero' objective. For example, many of our members cultivate their own gardens, often with heritage, endangered or unusual species that are in danger of disappearing if not grown for food.

Relais & Châteaux chefs are custodians of biodiversity, acting as advocates for the beauty of nature, which in turn creates resilience in our food system. Prioritising soil health leads to carbon reduction and improved water cycles. This is regeneration. It is the future of gastronomy.

Olivier Roellinger, Vice-President of Relais & Châteaux

Meeting the challenges to develop a more sustainable offer

Although sustainable tourism has gone from being a trend to a norm in just a few decades, there are still some obstacles to the full development of a 100% responsible hotel operator offer. According to Google data, the demand for sustainable development themes in 2021 has increased by 150% in France. Also, the queries "eco-responsible travel agency", "eco-responsible transport" and "eco-responsible hotel" have increased by 15, 29 and 32% respectively. However, the reality is not quite as rosy, or green in this case.

One of the first problems is the lack of visibility of sustainable accommodation offers on the internet. Indeed, "few brands still appear in response to these requests in the search engine", observed Lucile Le Goallec, Strategic Insights Manager at Google. This lack of visibility can be explained in part by the smaller resources of these small, committed actors. However, with the arrival of platforms such as We Go GreenR, Fairbooking and Ethik & Trips, the situation is changing. These new platforms make it possible to reference these initiatives, which are becoming more and more numerous, and give them greater visibility.

Despite popular belief, sustainable accommodation does not necessarily mean a lack of comfort. On the contrary, more and more luxury properties are adopting sustainable commitments. Indeed, more and more properties in this category are making every effort to obtain labels attesting to their commitment to a more eco-responsible sector. We are thus witnessing the birth of a new luxury that now takes into account its impact on the environment, as well as on local populations. It remains to be hoped that both regular and new customers will be seduced by the development of this new offer and will be able to coexist.

Some actors are going even further by offering more concrete solutions, such as Airbnb. The rental platform has just announced the launch of its "sustainable accommodation" plan, a programme aimed at assisting hosts in renovating their accommodation, reducing their carbon emissions and saving money on their energy bills in the long term. This initiative follows the government's call to reduce energy consumption in France. To achieve this, Airbnb is partnering with Effy, an energy renovation specialist, to support hosts throughout their renovation project. Overall, Airbnb is investing €1 million in the launch of this plan by the end of 2022 and has the ambition to invest even more in the future. Hosts will receive assistance of between 1,000 and 2,200 euros for each act of renovation and will also benefit from advice on how to save energy, how to host more sustainably and how to participate in the fight against global warming. 

We will all have to learn to live with rising energy prices and adapt our behaviour to protect our planet from global warming. We are delighted with this new partnership with Effy and the deployment of our "sustainable accommodation" plan, which will enable many guests to take the first step in renovating their accommodation and reduce their consumption over time. The turnkey support we offer provides energy renovation solutions for everyone, from small improvements to more extensive renovations. There are no small jobs. All can contribute to beneficial changes. We hope that this initiative will meet the needs of our community now and in the long term.

Bertrand Burdet, Deputy Managing Director of Airbnb in France

Customers can also make a contribution through their behaviour. In order to encourage its customers to clear their tables in its restaurants and to sort out their waste, the Dutch subsidiary of McDonald's has come up with a rather original idea: to create a collection of gold jewellery in the shape of used packaging to reward people who throw their waste in the bin. Created in collaboration with the TBWA agency, the campaign is called "Litter and Glamour". Underneath its offbeat appearance, the marketing operation is in line with the environmental commitments made by the fast food chain, notably with the use of more environmentally friendly packaging and the implementation of a selective sorting system.

Pioneers and leaders in the hotel industry of tomorrow

Sustainability is the future of the hotel operator sector and some actors already understood this decades ago. The Samba Hotel in Lloret de Mar was the first hotel in Spain to obtain an ISO 14001 environmental certificate. A journey that began 25 years ago, starting with the simple recycling of grey water and the implementation of various energy saving measures. Jordi Palacín, the hotel's owner, recalls that at the time "people in the tourism sector thought we were crazy to invest time and money in this project".

Since then, the world's major hotel operators have followed suit and unveiled CSR plans, each one more ambitious than the last. Hilton, for example, has developed its environmental, social and governance strategy called "Travel with Purpose". The company has set science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. As part of its carbon reduction targets, Hilton has launched the Watts, Water and Waste programme. And the group is pushing the envelope even further by aiming to reduce the emissions intensity of its managed portfolio by 75% by 2030 to move towards a net zero future.

This ambition is shared by Radisson Hotel Group, which joins the large companies participating in the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign and the UNFCCC's Race to Zero campaign, in a major, globally coordinated effort to achieve the Net Zero goal. Radisson is currently in the midst of an energy transition and is implementing a number of initiatives to support greener hotel operations. Building guidelines have already been extended for newly built or renovated properties to align with three of the most widely used sustainable building certifications, namely LEED, BREAM and EDGE. In line with these certifications, the group has defined its own Build Planet guidelines. 

Radisson Hotel Group has a long and strong history of pioneering sustainability initiatives in the hospitality industry. The pillars of our responsible business, Think People, Think Community and Think Planet, play an important role not only in our transformation plan, but also in what we see as our duty as hotel operators to create a better future. We are taking clear steps and affirming our commitment to be net zero by 2050, not for our commercial gain, but to create real change and encourage others to join us on the path to net zero, and ultimately net positive. 

Federico J. González, CEO of Radisson Hotel Group

In keeping with its commitment to sustainability, Radisson Hotel Group announces the launch of its first Ultra-Fast Electric Charging Hub. The aim is to expand its network of over 510 electric car charging stations in the EMEA region, in partnership with Allego, the leading pan-European provider of electric vehicle charging solutions. At the ultra-fast charging station just unveiled in Frankfurt, it takes about 20 minutes to charge a car.

Accor is equally committed, and is one of only 7% of companies in the travel industry to have implemented a net carbon reduction strategy and is taking strong action to make a positive impact on the planet. The group is committed to this through its diverse portfolio of brands, including the young greet brand which promotes a world of alternative hospitality, guided by the ethos of reduce, reuse, recycle. With 21 existing greet hotels and another 24 in the pipeline, this concept is certainly taking off. More luxurious brands such as Fairmont and Mövenpick are also committed to achieving sustainable certifications. In addition, Accor has joined the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance to work on a broader scale to transition the sector.

Last year, Kempinski Hotels formed its Sustainability Committee in order to step up efforts to implement a global sustainability policy in all of its subsidiaries. The group has adopted the reporting standards identified by the International Sustainability Standards Board at COP26. By the end of 2022, ESG objectives will be integrated into the Group's global strategy. Kempinski intends to continue its partnership with the environmental benchmarking organisation EarthCheck and the local philanthropic initiative BE Health. The group has also partnered with Clean the World, an organisation that diverts used soap and hospitality bottles from landfill and reuses them in new bars of soap and bottled products that can be distributed to communities in need. 

A well-defined, goal-oriented approach to improving ESG impacts leads to a multitude of benefits. Our goals are to identify concrete goals and targets for ESG impacts across the Kempinski constellation and to measure 100% of emissions from Kempinski businesses and properties by 2023. At the same time, we need to ensure that all Kempinski stakeholders, from hotel owners to employees to suppliers and others, are fully on board and understand the environmental, financial and reputational benefits of these targets. 

Hadrian Beltrametti Walker, Executive Vice President of Kempinski Hotels and founder and team leader of the Sustainability Committee

Finally, Avani Hotels is similarly affirming its commitment to creating a more sustainable industry by signing the UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge. Launched in 2019 and in collaboration between UNESCO and Expedia Group, the UNESCO Sustainable Travel Pledge aims to promote sustainable travel, community resilience and heritage conservation on a global scale. As part of its determination to become a zero-carbon organisation by 2050, Avani Hotels is introducing ambitious energy, carbon and water reduction targets, and committing to halve organic waste. The group has also committed to reducing the use of single-use plastic by 75% by 2024 and each natural property will support the long-term conservation of habitats or species by 2023. Avani Hotels is currently developing an application that will facilitate paperless check-in, check-out and billing by prioritising digital payments and other paperless transactions. 

At Avani, we believe that travel is a force for good and we are committed to supporting sustainable tourism, both at property and industry level. We are proud to join our sister brand Anantara and other global hospitality and travel actors in developing a platform for the travel community to push for progressive climate action change. 

Manuel Melenchon, vice president of operations in Asia for Minor Hotels

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