What digital tools can support the sustainable transition of the hospitality industry?

8 min reading time

Published on 18/09/23 - Updated on 18/09/23


Tourism accounts for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a figure to which the hotel industry contributes 1%. Although its impact is minimal compared with transport, the sector nevertheless needs to adopt a more sustainable approach. An ambitious CSR policy is one way of meeting new customer expectations. Indeed, 76% of tourists want to travel in a more sustainable way, and 43% of them are prepared to pay more for it, according to the latest study by Booking.com.

Despite all these good intentions, 74% of travellers expect the tourism industry to be the driving force behind this virtuous dynamic. Hoteliers must therefore redouble their efforts to offer their customers carbon-free holidays. But it's not always easy to know how to commit a hotel to sustainability, without resorting to greenwashing.

While many solutions can be put in place, such as eliminating single-use plastic items or using LED light bulbs, the choice of a good Property Management System (PMS) should not be overlooked. Since it controls almost everything in a hotel, it can be a highly effective tool for implementing eco-responsible strategies and actions.

Putting an end to waste

The days of paper invoices and bookings are over in the age of 100% digital. This is good news for the planet, as it takes 300,000 litres of water to produce around 1 tonne of paper. A seamless digital journey is therefore now crucial in the hotel industry to free itself from all superfluous paper documents. Among the many solutions available to hotels, the implementation of a PMS like Mews, which uses cloud technology, seems optimal.

The Dylan Amsterdam hotel, for example, has embarked on this adventure and no longer uses an ounce of paper. As its Reservations Manager, Carol Domacassé, points out, "There's no longer any need to print out anything for payments or reservations. Everything is in the cloud".

A virtuous circle that doesn't just concern reception. In fact, the room service and maintenance teams now use tablets instead of paper and pens, which saves them a considerable amount of time in their daily tasks. In addition, less paper means less waste and therefore more time for the floor staff.

More and more players in the hospitality sector want to do the same, like the Parisian boutique hotel The Chess Hotel, which aims to dematerialise everything thanks to the Cloud. And the hunt for paper concerns all areas of a hotel, including the F&B area if it has one. This means replacing printed menus with QR codes that redirect to a 2.0 version. This change is relatively simple to implement and has been well accepted since the health crisis.

The F&B section of hotels is also faced with food waste. According to Winnow, around 25% of hotel food purchases are wasted. Drastically reducing this figure must be part of hoteliers' CSR policy, and to achieve this Mews has developed its own POS by integrating an existing player. This tool makes it possible to better manage stocks according to the number of guests expected, thus avoiding buying too much and potentially causing waste.

The power of applications

While more and more hotels are abandoning chemical cleaning products in favour of more environmentally-friendly alternatives, others are going even further in their green approach. Guests now have the opportunity not to change their towels and sheets systematically every day. An initiative that saves hundreds of litres of water.

To simplify the implementation of this initiative, Mews has developed a housekeeping application that could be used to indicate to room service in real time which rooms do or do not wish to have their linen changed. As well as saving time and efficiency during housekeeping hours, this initiative will enable the hotel to make energy and water savings over time.

There are also applications dedicated to guests that allow them to control the settings in their rooms, such as temperature or lighting. It's a great way to get guests involved in a hotel's sustainable approach, as long as you keep them informed and make them aware of the need to save energy.

These same applications can also be used as digital keys, eliminating the need for hotels to make their own. While the bulk of the effort is generally made by hoteliers, every little gesture counts, so it is imperative to encourage guests to adopt responsible behaviour during their stay.

An eco-responsible attitude that travellers are increasingly adopting and advocating, according to the latest study by Booking. In fact, 67% turn off the air conditioning in their room when they are not there, 77% turn off lights and household appliances when they are not, and 45% now recycle their waste when they travel. These are encouraging figures, which are also up on the previous study, underlining travellers' desire to be more involved in the decarbonisation of the hotel industry.

Measure to save

According to an ADEME report, the average hotel consumes 241 kWh/m2/year. The sector therefore consumes a lot of electricity, but not only that. It is estimated that a guest uses an average of 300 litres of water per night in a hotel, compared with 150 litres at home.

While it's important to reduce energy and water consumption, it's also vital to know in advance what quantities are used to run a property. This can be a complex task at first glance, particularly for large hotels or hotel chains with several sites, but in reality it doesn't have to be with the right tools.

Hoteliers using a modern PMS benefit from a number of analysis tools that enable them to assess operating costs, providing useful indicators for fine-tuning the use of these invaluable resources. The Mews Multi-Property functionality is particularly suited to groups and chains that need to measure these indicators on a large scale.

Energy efficiency has a number of advantages, beyond its environmental benefits. Using less energy in the middle of an inflationary period, when hoteliers' operating costs have soared, means considerable savings. Moreover, the money saved can be used at some point in the future to implement other sustainable initiatives, creating a genuine virtuous circle.

The emergence of new technologies should also play a major role in decarbonising the hotel industry in the years to come. Indeed, hoteliers will increasingly adopt advanced energy management systems that take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data analysis to optimise energy consumption and reduce emissions. These new-generation systems will automatically adjust heating, air conditioning and lighting settings.

Do not overlook the social dimension

When we talk about CSR, the term sustainable development is systematically used to refer to environmental protection. While this is indeed the case, it is all too often mistakenly forgotten that the notion of sustainability also encompasses social, economic and ethical issues. In the hotel sector, this obviously concerns customers, local communities and employees alike.

The human factor plays a central role in the hotel industry, as Ufi Ibrahim, Managing Director of the Alliance for Energy and the Environment, points out: "The hotel industry is, by its very nature, a sector where people serve people. Our businesses can, and often do, act as platforms where employees, customers and local businesses thrive together".

Taking care of employees means automating tedious and repetitive tasks so that teams can concentrate on high added-value missions. Once again, the choice of PMS is crucial to reducing the workload of hotel staff as much as possible, particularly receptionists.

Many hoteliers, such as the American group Stay Hospitality, put their trust in Mews. "We like the way Mews allows our customers to check in online, before they arrive, which saves us a lot of time and work," says Ralph Davies, Stay Hospitality's Chief Financial Officer.

These comments were corroborated by Jean-Michel Dalmasso, founder of Dalmata Hospitality, who explained that "PMSs are now extremely simple tools for teams to use. When it comes to these issues, we need to be extremely aggressive. [...] All these tools enable us to say to our teams: "Concentrate on your customer, on your management". As a result, they will gain many skills that are more important than filling in a table or checking in and out".

At the same time, automating a number of these tasks reduces the amount of emissions generated by employee travel, while developing a more digital and therefore dematerialised customer experience.

According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the hospitality industry needs to reduce its carbon emissions by 66% per room by 2030 to take account of the expected growth in the sector and the corresponding increase in emissions. There is still a long way to go to achieve such a result in such a short space of time. Hoteliers must therefore do everything in their power to accelerate this transition.

As we have seen, choosing the right digital tools is essential if the hotel industry is to make a lasting commitment to sustainability. However, digital technology is far from perfect in environmental terms, accounting for between 2% and 4% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide according to several studies. While there are no miracle solutions for decarbonising an entire business sector, adopting a PMS to improve both environmental and social performance is a good first step.

More information in partnership with Mews : https://hubs.ly/Q0223lsb0

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