Can you grow you hotel’s appeal with the right eco credentials?
The answer is yes.
The growing popularity of eco hotels is a testament to the fact that consumers are more conscious than ever about their impact on the environment. Eco hotels are designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They also offer a unique experience for guests who want to stay somewhere that makes them feel good about their choice.
Consumers today are looking for more more eco conscious aspects to their travel and tourism plans. Eco tourism is growing in popularity as more people become aware of the importance of protecting our planet.
Today’s consumers are increasingly millennial, as well as socially and environmentally conscious. Millennials are committed to implementing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These provide a shared blueprint to action social and environmental issues such as ending poverty, improving health and education, reducing inequality, tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
76% of millennials think climate change poses a serious threat to society and have grown up viewing it as an existential threat, worrying about rising sea levels, and witnessing one natural disaster after another
. As consumers, they seek longevity and are willing to spend more on sustainable products and services, including travel. A recent Nielsen study noting that 75% of Millennials have altered their purchasing habits. They also made significant changes to their lifestyle to lessen their environmental impact, compared to only 34% of Baby Boomers.
For these consumers, there are plenty of factors that make up their eco travel experience—from the food and drink, to the service and accommodation. They’re asking tougher questions and demanding more. Which means if you’re planning an eco hotel, or own a hospitality property, eco design needs to be central to your strategy.
What is an Eco Hotel?
An eco hotel is any hotel that uses sustainable practices in its operation, from energy conservation to reducing waste.
Eco hotels tend to be smaller and more intimate than traditional hotels, which means there’s less competition and more opportunity for new business owners to enter the market.
There are many different ways to achieve this goal, but all of them follow three basic principles:
1) Reduce your environmental impact as much as possible without sacrificing quality or comfort for guests.
2) Engage guests in your efforts to reduce your environmental impact (and make them part of the solution).
3) Make those efforts visible—letting customers know what they’re doing to help the environment will increase their goodwill toward you, which can translate into more bookings.
The Design Elements Of An Eco Hotel: How To Make Your Hotel Sustainable
Eco hotels are a great way to bring awareness to the environmental impact of travel and tourism. One of the most important things you can do when designing an eco hotel is to consider what your guests expect from their hotel experience.
If you’re looking into designing an eco hotel or adding sustainable elements to your existing one, there are several things you’ll need to consider before making any decisions.
Incorporate sustainable design elements into your architecture
There’s been an increasing use of low impact structures, tents and eco buildings to create immersive guests experiences that deliver major eco benefits.
These benefits of these temporary structures are numerous:
- A small environmental footprint compared to conventional foundation systems such as concrete slabs, pads and stumps etc.
- Low probability for disturbance to ground surfaces and natural flora.
- Relatively fast install times therefore minimal disturbance from construction workers and machinery compared to conventional dwellings which may take several weeks.
- Accurate material manifests leading to minimal waste on site.
- Easily transportable materials that can even be airlifted into remote and environmentally sensitive locations offering minimal impact compared to conventional truck haulage.
- Easily dismantled and easily removed if required offering minimal onsite disturbance compared to demolition of a conventional structure.
- A range of environmentally friendly services can be installed including solar panels, septic and filtration systems etc.
- Use of recycled decking and flooring like rice husks decking that offers natural thermal insulation. With the colour embedded into each board no painting or staining is required preventing harmful chemicals spilling into the earth.
- Durability of product means minimal maintenance and disturbance on site.
- Energy efficient walling materials that can be heated or cooled very efficiently due to the canvas construction holding the ambient air temperature so well which ultimately minimises power consumption.
- Neutral colours that visually blend in well with the natural environment.
Embrace energy efficiency
First off: what kind of energy source will your hotel use? There are many different types out there.
Solar panels, smart grids and smart apps can enable an eco hotel to better monitor increasing energy demands. They can help to optimise electrical distribution and use automation to manage large variations in loads.
If you’re a property where guests can park, consider including EV charging stations and the option of connected electric vehicle services to promote clean energy and can reduce emissions by optimising car usage.
Minimize waste output and pollution caused by hotel operations
An eco hotel can help reduce its carbon footprint through waste management practices such as recycling programs and composting initiatives (among many others).
Promote local economic growth and employment opportunities for local communities
From a development perspective, ecotourism ventures should only be considered ‘successful’ if local communities have some measure of control over them. And if they share equitably in the benefits emerging from ecotourism activities. An empowerment framework is one of the best measures for helping to analyse the social, economic, psychological and political impacts of ecotourism on local communities. It involves:
- Economic empowerment – Ecotourism needs to bring lasting economic gains to a local community. Cash earned is shared between many households in the community. There are visible signs of improvements from the cash that is earned (e.g. improved water systems, houses made of more permanent materials). Most proﬁts should not go to outside operators, government agencies, etc. The community shares in these economic beneﬁts regardless of capital and/or appropriate skills.
- Psychological empowerment – The self-esteem of many community members is enhanced because of outside recognition of the uniqueness and value of their culture, their natural resources and their traditional knowledge. Increasing conﬁdence of community members leads them to seek out further education and training opportunities. Access to employment and cash leads to an increase in status for traditionally low-status sectors of society e.g. women, youths.
- Social empowerment Ecotourism maintains or enhances the local community’s equilibrium. Community cohesion is improved as individuals and families work together to build a successful ecotourism venture.
- Political empowerment The community’s political structure, which fairly represents the needs and interests of all community groups provides a forum. Through which people can raise questions relating to the ecotourism venture and have their concerns dealt with. Agencies initiating or implementing the ecotourism venture seek out the opinions of community groups. These include special interest groups of women, youths and other socially disadvantaged groups – providing opportunities for them to be represented on decision-making bodies.
Implement responsible water use practices
Saving water is the first step towards a sustainable tourism industry. It is generally acknowledged that tourists consume more water than residents and in very different quantities depending on the destinations. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) states that in European hotels, every guest consumes on average around 394 liters per night. In Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia or Thailand, the average rises sharply to 677 liters, while in Barbados the figure rockets to 839 liters.
We see two major problems with water management in ecotourism today: 1) the amount of water used per visitor and 2) the waste that is produced from that water use. When you visit an eco tourism site, you’re probably going to use more than your fair share of water. And then there’s all the waste that comes with it—bottles, packaging, and so on.
So how can you design a water responsible eco hotel?
- Start by raising the awareness of guests and of the entire staff about water consumption and wastage. You can include emails prior to arrival that educate guests on your hotel’s water standards. You can design educational and fun programs for children and their families that raise awareness of cooperation and create positive habits that guests can take home.
- Instead of drinking water, your eco hotel could use ‘grey water.’ Reusing grey water reduces the use of water, stops desertification and lets local communities actually use their own drinking water.
- Instal water filters in toilets and kitchens to allow guests to refill their water bottles, leading to the saving of plastic in containers and glasses.
- Encourage guests to reuse towels and bed sheets and to reduce the duration of their showers can save millions of liters of water all around the world
- Instal WCs with partial flush or faucets with flow limiters.
- Opt for water recycling for irrigation and the adoption of native flora in gardening
- Use tanks to collect rainwater for ecological vegetable gardens.
- Incorporate smart technologies and automatic systems that adjust water pressure, detect leaks and monitor consumption.
Incorporate energy-efficient technologies into hotel operations
Smart technology allows hotel owners to monitor and reduce their carbon footprint. It also helps attract guests who prefer and increasingly demand smart design in their surroundings.
How can you bring in ‘smart’ thinking to your eco design?
- Choose furniture with built-in charging stations
- Use ambient lighting for mood enhancement
- Add motion sensors in key places
- Use voice commands for simple tasks (like controlling the lights)
- Install video cameras around the perimeter of your property so guests can see who’s at the door before answering it
- Make sure all appliances are connected to Wi-Fi so they can be controlled remotely through an app on a guest’s phone or tablet
- Install smart locks so guests don’t have to worry about keys when you’re away from home
- Install temperature monitors throughout guest rooms and common spaces so you can adjust temperatures remotely
The benefits of ecotourism:
While eco tourism might not be as prolific yet as other types of tourism there is an increasing demand for it.
Eco hotels help to reduce the human impact on the environment – natural resources are protected; social responsibility upheld. There’s also a marked reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and in the carbon footprint, plus less waste produced at each property which reduces disposal costs.
By involving communities in an eco hotel’s operations it can boost economic growth and employment opportunities in those regions plus lead to significant positive social change.;
The increased revenue generated by guests who choose eco-friendly accommodations over traditional hotels is also an added plus from a business perspective
Additionally, if marketed well you could really amp up your guest attraction by focusing on your strong sustainability credentials: By being environmentally responsible at your business, you signal to potential guests that you are ahead of your competitors. While increasing your green standing and meeting global and local sustainability goals.
Ultimately, when an eco hotel is thoughtfully designed, built and run, it’s a win-win for all involved.
- Images: Camp Sarika, Utah, USA
- Ecotourism and the empowerment of local communities, Research by Regina Scheyvens
For more sustainable hotel, travel and accommodation insights visit our Travel Page.