As one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the world, tourism accounts for 10 percent of the global economy and provides one in every 10 jobs. In addition to economic growth, international travel promotes cultural exchange, infrastructure development, social inclusion, and even environmental and wildlife conservation.
Nevertheless, all these come with an ecological price: According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), tourism generates around 5 percent of global carbon emissions. The development of tourism infrastructure and activities can lead to the loss of natural habitats and biodiversity, as well as water and air pollution. Particularly hotel buildings play a crucial role in the latter, due to their large energy consumption, water use, and waste generation.
“One of the challenges facing tourism is that after transportation, particularly air and drive travel, buildings, including hotels, are the biggest source of greenhouse gases,” Jonathon Day, the graduate program director in the hotel school at Purdue University said, to The New York Times. “That requires investment and commitment from hotel owners, management companies and brands,” he added.
Ecological hotels with sustainable practices are increasingly popular as people become more aware of the impact of their travel on the environment. According to a 2021 study, 81 percent of travelers plan to choose a sustainable accommodation option in the coming year, and 86 percent would be willing to pay more for it.
As millions of travelers are adjusting their habits and budgets for a greener future, hereafter are some of the top trends in ecological hotels.
Sustainable Construction & Buildings
In alignment with the planet’s needs and the demands of consumers, many ecological hotels are tapping into green construction technologies. This includes sustainable materials and techniques such as using recycled or locally sourced materials, incorporating renewable energy sources like solar panels, and designing buildings that are energy-efficient.
For instance, modular construction, which saves 68 percent of carbon emissions during construction, has become a rising trend for planet-forward hoteliers.
In addition, hotels that incorporate locally available natural materials such as bamboo, terra cotta, or timber might also benefit from an aesthetic boost — and more Instagrammable walls for their guests.
Digitization & Technology Integration
With the advancements in technology, ecological hotels are implementing innovative solutions like smart rooms, automated energy management systems, and other technological advancements that improve sustainability and guest experience.
Among the most significant technological tools at the disposal of ecological hotels are digitized access solutions. User-friendly and secure access management can assist ecological hotels to not only enjoy improved customer satisfaction but also reduced resources and energy bills.
Minimizing Waste & Resource Consumption
By now, amenities or services such as free drinking water refill stations, reusable linens or tableware, and plastic-free toiletries are ubiquitous sights in hotels worldwide.
Ecological hotels reduce food waste by offering smaller portion sizes, promoting leftovers, and donating excess food to local charities. Many also compost food waste to create nutrient-rich soil for landscaping.
A thoughtful waste management and recycling program can help these hotels divert waste from landfills and reduce their environmental impact.
Nature-based Experiences & Education
“You can’t fix what you don’t understand,” goes the common adage. A rising number of travelers shifting their preferences to feel closer to nature in their destinations.
Hence, many ecological hotels offer guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in nature and participate in activities that promote conservation, such as hiking, birdwatching, or beach cleanups.
Some ecological hotels also started initiatives to educate their guests on sustainability and environmental issues, offering workshops, tours, and other educational opportunities.
Ecological hotels often engage with their communities through partnerships with local businesses, cultural exchanges, and philanthropic initiatives. This can include anything from sourcing the soaps from local artisans to collaborating with schools nearby on educational programs.
Such acts help ecological hotels to build valuable relationships, strengthen the hotel’s brand image, support the local economy, fulfill social responsibility obligations, and receive crucial feedback.
This way, ecological hotels can create a more sustainable and successful business model that benefits the hotel, the community, and the planet.