The Next Phase of Sustainability in Luxury Hotels

In recent blog posts, we have considered current trends in sustainability that impact the built environment, but perhaps no industry is feeling more pressured by consumers than the hospitality sector. As guests become more ecologically savvy, they want assurance that their stay will be as eco-friendly as possible, and their questions are compelling new approaches to the sustainability of luxury hospitality destinations.

Greenwashing Will Not Work

Greenwashing or “green sheen” occurs when an organization promotes green policies or initiatives without addressing that the organization may have a net negative impact on the environment through pollution, carbon emissions, etc. The hospitality industry is no stranger to the term largely because of the increased desirability of green destinations among consumers. “We’re absolutely seeing an increase in green-minded guests looking for opportunities to support businesses that are conscientious of the environment,” says Nichole Peterson, Associate Director of Partnerships and Guest Experience at Visit Napa Valley. “As this trend continues though, businesses are being asked more and more to prove that this is a serious commitment and more than just a green veneer being placed over the top of the existing guest experience.”

Pressure From Both Directions

With the volatility of energy prices, there is already ample justification for the hospitality sector to deploy energy-efficiency, sustainable measures to their properties. Both consumers and the corporate sector with respect to business and travel events are putting more pressure on owners and developers than ever before to become more eco-friendly.

“We’re seeing that the groups we work with are being questioned much more frequently around their sustainable operations, particularly from a corporate perspective as well. A lot of hospitality businesses are very reliant upon the corporate sector and increasingly we’re finding in those RFP documents…that they are being asked very pointed questions around how sustainable they are.” – Timothy Griffin, Principal, Wellbrook Hospitality

Clearly, consumers are pressuring the market to deliver more sustainable options, hoping they are built into the guest experience in new ways. 

“Consumers just care about [sustainability] so much more right now—there’s significant evidence that GenX and millennials are seeking brands that talk about their sustainable credentials, live by them, and articulate them. And consumers are happy to spend more money on those brands. In addition, many of our clients who are more reliant on the corporate sector are seeing RFPs that request more detailed information about sustainability initiatives. It starts with the building, but they’re also asking supply chain questions, looking at plastic use on-site, cleaning supplies, sustainable materials—it’s  really maturing.” – Veronica Givone, Managing Director, IA Interior Architects Hospitality Practice

Faced with these dual pressures, the hospitality industry, still rebounding from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, is looking at the sustainability challenge from all angles as it tries to get an edge on the competition and the market recovers.