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by Nicolas Dubrocard, Former Wild Asia Project Director, auditor for Travelife and Green Globe, and Director of Audit Diagnostic Solutions Tourism

Nicolas Dubrocard

 

I started my path on sustainable tourism exactly ten years ago in Morocco where I was supporting small accommodations and hotels to obtain the Green Key international eco label and to save water through Travel Foundation’s programme called Every Drop Counts.

From the beginning of this journey I discovered that there was an area where it is easy to implement changes with huge environmental positive impacts: the bathroom.

The reasons were obvious: more efficient showerheads and taps save substantial amounts of water and energy (used to heat the water or pump it around the building) as well as limits the volume of grey water to be treated. A showerhead is easy to change, low in cost and has a payback of a few months if the original one is very inefficient. I visited hotels with shower water flows between 20 and 22 litres per minute, which is twice the amount recommended by international eco labels!

One can only imagine the amount of water and energy that could be saved annually!?

A quick calculation: let’s consider that a new showerhead can reduce the flow by ten litres per minute and the guest uses it only once a day for ten minutes (already a low figure) — the savings would be around thirty six cubic meters per year per room permanently occupied!

Most of the decision makers consider that this is not an interesting area for cost savings because water is cheap; they do not consider the real cost of water, including pumping, treatment, heating (keeping in mind that a hotel needs to heat a third of its water needs).

The financial savings is so considerable that it becomes ridiculous. It’s even inconceivable to still find that these older devices are still place, especially in destinations where the water resources are at risk; massive water wastage will lead to more tension between local communities and hotels.

So the first step for hotel managers, hotel engineering directors and even at home is to monitor and control the water flow in the shower. Don’t wait, do it now!

This part of the business is so easy, it should be mandatory and it’s a shame if a hotel’s owner or managing company is not following the sustainability experts advice during the hotel’s building phase; they would save so much time, money and natural resources!

After the technical aspects, I also had a look at the communication in the bathroom: the famous towel reuse programme. Again, the positive impacts are immense: water, energy, labour and chemicals are embedded in the towel cleaning.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

What has happened over the past ten years? The initial situation was simple: no one cared about reusing towels. At some point, some hotels started to communicate about it, asking the guests to participate to the towel reuse programme. Then, every hotel started to create its own communication. Most hotels, at the time, believed they were doing something cool and positive but they have mostly been using guilt as a leverage: “Save the planet”, “Help save the environment”, “Do you know how much chemicals we use to clean your towels”… highlighting the negative aspects of having new towel every day. This kind of wording was analysed and there are now much better ways to engage the clients to participate, such as using social norms[2]. In a few years the messages to reuse the towel have flourished in bathrooms like Caulerpa Taxifolia in Mediterranean Sea. Looking at this trend, it is amazing to realize that the industry at large did make a move – but is it really a change?

I’m afraid it’s not.

Let’s look at one more aspect: the staff training. This is the Achilles’ heel of most hotels. It is very complicated to change the way housekeepers are working – what they have learned and even their sense of ethics (which dictates to change all towels in the bathroom). One can also not forget the limited amount of time to clean each room which really means that a housekeeper should not lose any time making a decision regarding the towels. As a consequence, it happens that towels meant to be reused are replaced, making the client very angry. Imagine that you already took time to review all the documentation (sometimes written so small that you need magnifying glass to read it!), to understand finally where to hang your towel and now very proud of yourself, you realize that these very towels have been replaced, destroying all your efforts to save the planet, to reduce the use of a significant amount of chemicals, while on vacation…you will feel bad, betrayed… It is enough to write a negative online comment!

And what should guests think about the resort hotels asking them to reuse the bathroom towel while offering a free flow of 2m X 1m beach towels?

I had the chance during my career to adapt and implement over a period of two years a programme called “Kuoni Water Champion” in Thailand, aiming to help 26 hotels to reduce their water consumption[3]. During this action we emphasized as much as possible towel reuse and we tried to introduce a new approach following the Make A Green Choice programme initiated by Starwood in Europe, Africa, Middle East division in 2015.

This programme has three advantages; firstly, by giving guests the choice to decline housekeeping services, housekeepers do not have to make the decision regarding towels in a room; secondly, it is rewarding guests who participate in the action (via a voucher, loyalty points or donation) therefore diminishing the feeling that when participating to a towel reuse programme the biggest winner is the hotel; and thirdly, it also means that there is real monitoring and follow up where guests are encouraged to participate in and are made aware of the programme upon their arrival. There are certainly some downsides to this system; it may in a mid or long term reduce the need for housekeepers and contribute to unemployment; however, at least there is an alternative to the towel reuse communication.

For each problem in the hotel industry, there is a solution. Some chains or individual hotels are really committing and doing their best. However, there is still a majority of industry players refusing to embrace the sustainability topics, keeping closed eyes on potential sources of revenue or cost efficiencies.

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

Photo: Nicolas Dubrocard

When will the hoteliers and hotel owners understand that sustainability is not a gadget but the best way to manage a hotel and increase their benefits? When will the architects stop building inefficient buildings?

Should we wait another ten years to realize that we could actually shape right now – with a little investment, repeated trainings and a lot of good will – a more sustainable industry where the hotels will not be seen as energy and water squanderer and where tensions with local communities are avoided?

 

*****

 

[1] For the person interested in monitoring their water flow in the shower, here is a short video in English and Thai

[2] A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels, by Noah J. Goldstein, Robert B. Cialdini , Vladas Griskevicius

[3] Free manual to download

 

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author(s) and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) or any employee thereof. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability or validity of any information presented by individual authors and/or commenters on our blogs and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.

 

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Greener Hotel Guest

Here are 3 easy tips for you on how you can be a more responsible greener hotel guest, not only when you’re on holiday but also if you are on a business trip or visiting a trade show or event.

1.How to keep your hotel room a “green zone”?

Make sure to only get your towels and beddings changed when it is really necessary instead of every day. By doing so you can help to save water and reduce the consumption of detergent which reduces the hotel’s grey water. You can also save your water consumption when taking a shower and close the tap when you’re not directly using at the moment.

Reduce energy consumption by turning off lights in your room when they are not needed, as well don’t forget to turn off the A/C when you’re leaving the room and you might put it on an energy saving mode so it doesn’t blast out cold air the whole day.

2.How to better manage your own consumption habits?

You can make more sustainable food choices by only ordering as much as you can eat. In terms of buffets, be sure to only take smaller portions and not everything that looks good to you, to avoid not being able to finish your food and contributing to the hotel’s food wastes.

Also, instead of getting a new plastic bottle of water every time, consider bringing your own refillable bottle with you and getting it filled at water dispensers.

3.How about your reading matters?

The first thing that comes to mind when thing about checking into a hotel is the booking confirmation. Don’t print it but rather download it onto your smartphone and present this version at the reception. In general, try to go as paperless as possible!

You can further reduce your paper usage and waste by catching up on the news online. Find yourself the digital versions of your favourite newspapers and magazines instead of requesting or buying the hardcopy versions.

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Five Travel Tips To Help Stop Human Trafficking

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10 August 2015 – It’s not terribly surprising to learn that many trafficking victims have been exploited in a hotel. It seems part and parcel of every movie we have seen about forced commercial sexual exploitation. The hotels are usually seedy under the radar locales or the high-end luxury kind where wealthy men, often foreign, abuse girls and women. Read more.

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Tourism and Water Use – Time for Some Fresh Thinking

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24 March 2015 – I’ve been looking into hotel water sustainability innovations over the last few days, trying to find some stories for a blog to mark World Water Day, which happened last Sunday. Jeremy Smith. Read more.

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This report describes the quantitative research that builds on the results of the first stage of this study described in the report ‘Innovation Capability and Entrepreneurial Orientation Dimensions for Australian Hotels’. The study aimed to identify and understand the capabilities hotels require in order to be able to implement innovation successfully across all aspects of their business.

by Peter Balan and Noel Lindsay

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Innovation Capability and Entrepreneurial Orientation Dimensions for Australian Hotels: An Empirical Study

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This benchmarking report shines the spotlight on The Alto Hotel on Bourke, the first hotel in Melbourne’s central business district to become fully certified using EarthCheck science.

by EarthCheck

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The Alto Hotel on Bourke, Australia

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This benchmarking report shines the spotlight on Mexico’s Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa, which is part of a cluster of five luxurious properties owned by Palladium Hotels & Resorts. After two years of successful benchmarking, the resort underwent Certification services and achieved EarthCheck Certified Silver status in 2010.

by EarthCheck

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Grand Palladium Riviera Resort & Spa, Mexico

 

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The Manly Hotel joined the Queensland Government’s EcoBiz program in 2005 with the aim of improving their environmental performance and reducing their demand for energy and has implemented an approach to improve energy efficiency.

by ATEC, EC3 Global

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CS07-The-Manly-Hotel_reviewed-1

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Logan & Albert Hotel is situated in Brisbane Street, Beaudesert as a part of the Scenic Rim Area. This Case Study looks at initiatives implemented to reduce large power bills experienced after a major renovation in 2006-2007.

by ATEC, EC3 Global

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CS06-Logan-&-Albert-Hotel_reviewed-1

 

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