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Is it possible to conciliate hotel sustainability and guest comfort?

The hotel industry worldwide is becoming more committed towards sustainable development initiatives. For those who have already taken steps to reduce their environmental footprint, how can they achieve their goals without negatively impacting the guest experience and expectations? How to communicate on the initiatives undertaken?

As part of the Global Initiative on Plastics and Tourism, led by UNEP and UNWTO, Accor has recently announced its commitment to join the Initiative. By the end of 2022, all single-use plastic items integrated into guest experience will be removed from its hotels. The group has also created the new brand "Greet", designed to ban disposable plastic from rooms and other areas in the brand's establishments. Accor plans to open 10 additional Greet addresses in Europe in 2020. These new environmental initiatives are transforming the customer experience. Consequently, guest involvement and behavior are key to this transformation. 

A survey conducted to 72,000 Hilton Group guests in 2018 revealed that approximately 33% of guests preferred hotels with environmental and social programs. Among guests under the age of 25, this figure rose to 44%. The results showed that social, environmental and ethical considerations were at the heart of guests' purchasing preferences. 

On the other hand, a more in-depth research by the Accor group for the design of the Planet 21 2016-2020 program has yielded more detailed results on the subject. Thus, the study revealed four conclusions: While many guests are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable development, the degree of a hotel's commitment to sustainable development is not always decisive when booking a room; women and young guests are currently the most interested in sustainable development and are the ones who take concrete steps to support it ; guests are willing to pay more to stay in a more eco-responsible hotel, even if they are not willing to sacrifice their comfort; guests are willing to get involved voluntarily, 64% of guests are willing to receive their bills by e-mail and not on paper and 61% are willing to sort waste in their room. 

According to the NGO International Tourism Parternship (ITP), the involvement of clients in eco-responsible initiatives is a rather delicate subject and requires appropriate communication. First, it is necessary to think about the reasons for communicating about sustainability efforts: either to get more bookings by differentiating the hotel, to penetrate new markets or to get customer support for the efforts. Next, identify the target audience to which the establishment wishes to communicate (corporate or individual customers). Finally, associating actions with quality is paramount to remain attractive and not to compromise guests’ comfort. It is always also preferable to design sustainable solutions such as automatic thermostats rather than pressuring customers to remember to regulate them. On this basis, the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand's pilot project for the recycling of biowaste (organic materials) ensured that kitchen and stewarding staff were fully trained in sorting and collecting waste, in coordination with the technical department in order not to disturb guests. 

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