How sustainability factors into corporate travel bookings

(NY Hotel Skyler)

In April, the GBTA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Global Business Travel Association, released the study Corporate Social Responsibility: Going Beyond Green. The research calls attention to the fact that travel management professionals can enhance their organizations’ corporate sustainability practices by considering those of the suppliers with which they contract.

“Now more than ever before, companies are taking a holistic approach to improving what many call the ‘triple bottom line,’ comprised of social, environmental and financial factors, or the ‘three P’s:’ people, planet and profits,” said Kate Vasiloff, research manager at the GBTA research directory.


Today’s Sustainable Hotel, Defined

While the research shows that currently only 16 percent of travel management professionals incentivize their business travelers to stay in hotels with sustainable practices, the paper signals the start of a conversation that will likely result in an upcoming change in business practices. So hotels that don’t already have robust sustainability practices in place would do well to get ahead of the game now.

Of course, hotels worldwide have already implemented an array of green initiatives, from achieving LEED and Green Globe certifications to in-room occupancy sensors and reuse cards for towels and linens. Some hotels like the Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Key West, also practice rainwater harvesting. The luxury hotel has a 750,000-gallon cistern for collecting rainwater used for landscaping. Rooftop gardens and beekeeping have also taken hold in urban hotels such as the Hilton Chicago, along with the farm-to-table dining trend like that in place at St. Kitts’ luxury retreat Belle Mont Farm, where guests have the opportunity to visit local farmers and pick produce that the hotel’s chef then turns into a meal.

The Next Wave of Sustainability

But in 2017, which the UN declared the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, a growing number of hotels are slowing realizing the lodging industry’s next iteration of sustainable business practices.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently defined “hipster hotels” as “reclaimed wood, repurposed materials and retro furniture.” In other words, there’s a rising trend toward upcycle design in the hotel industry, and the 58-room Hotel Skyler in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, is already part of that movement. The first hotel to join Hilton’s Tapestry Collection, this former temple and performing arts enter uses reclaimed local materials such as Tiffany-style stained glass windows from a local church and lobby casework from a deconstructed warehouse in Syracuse, N.Y. Tom Fernandez, the hotel’s director of business development, said the intent behind the design was to showcase both historic preservation as well as an ‘eco-chic’ vibe. But he told HOTEL MANAGEMENT that the Hotel Skyler’s sustainability efforts go beyond aesthetics to include a geothermal heating system and a storm water management system.

Partnering on Tesla’s Popularity

Electric luxury carmaker Tesla produced 83,922 vehicles in 2016, 64 percent more than in 2015, and luxury hotels are taking notice of the potential crossover between their guests and Tesla owners. New Orleans’ Windsor Court Hotel joined teamed up with Tesla Motors and EnviroSpark Energy Solutions to offer four Tesla-only charging stations and two universal charging stations, all operated by the hotel’s valets.

“The charging stations have helped drive local business to the hotel as well as helped to separate us from other hotels when choosing where to stay for guests who own or drive an electric vehicle,” said Ralph Mahana, assistant GM of the Windsor Court Hotel. “There was previously great demand from both local and non-local guests and now when they have a great spa or lunch experience here and they can charge their vehicles, it reminds them to come back more frequently.”

On-Site Eco-Experiences

Beyond U.S. borders, Sandos Caracol Eco Resort on Mexico’s Riviera Maya created the Sandos Eco Club in 2009 to improve the property’s sustainability practices. The multidisciplinary staff not only remodeled rooms to now include LED lighting, a recycling system for gray and soapy water, a solar-powered water heating system and air conditioning, but the resort also has an on-site wastewater treatment plant and solar-powered golf carts. The resort, like so many across Mexico, also makes the most of its nature-based surroundings with eco-friendly tours and activities like a jungle bike path, bird sanctuary and plant-a-tree program through the Xcalacoco Experience. Likewise, the Hotel Xixim on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula houses a small museum with exhibits of various native species of plants, insects and animals to complement the on-site interpretative nature trails. Designed for both for leisure guests as well as meeting planners, these on-site experiences translate to greater value and a more experiential hotel stay as demanded by today’s traveler.