Our collective power can deliver positive impact locally and on a global scale.
This has been an unprecedented year. The impact of this ferocious pandemic is threatening lives, businesses and communities at an alarming rate across the globe. My sympathies are with everyone who has been affected.
The coronavirus has upended the world’s operating assumptions and the hospitality industry has been particularly badly hit. I’m saddened to see this once thriving industry, which contributes so much to their local communities and economies, being affected so severely. It’s estimated that over 100 million jobs could be lost in the travel and tourism industry, and the impact of this crisis will be felt for many years.
I’ve been inspired by seeing our industry respond so humanely to the crisis. Despite facing significant challenges, hotels around the world were quick to look for ways to support their communities. Vacant hotel rooms were transformed into treatment facilities and frontline healthcare professionals were given free food and accommodation. Other hotels provided support to homeless people, victims of domestic violence and refugees. And, in a simple but symbolic gesture, hotels in cities around the world used the illuminated windows of their properties as beacons of hope to their neighbors.
Throughout this crisis the industry focused on its people who have always been at the core. Hotel companies launched varied initiatives to support their staff and remain totally committed to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees and guests as tourism starts to recover. The many COVID-related governmental restrictions create a huge challenge on how to provide a safe experience, while at the same time limiting the environmental impact of the new procedures and initiatives. All these efforts are well intended for sure, but I am concerned about the massive waste increase, much of it could be reduced or eliminated through digital applications.
A New Alliance
It’s the very spirit of hospitality and resilience that unites our industry. That’s why I’m proud to chair the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance—an organization that brings together senior executives from leading hospitality companies and uses the collective power of the industry to deliver impact locally and on a global scale. The alliance emerged from the International Tourism Partnership, an industry organization founded in 1992 and representing today over 25 percent of the global hotel industry including the key players like Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, Wyndham and Radisson. The alliance will be taking forward the work of ITP, its global youth employment program, Youth Career Initiative, and communications platform, Green Hotelier, all with an all-encompassing, very clear vision: responsible hospitality for a better world.
Last week’s UN-sponsored Climate Week raised interesting discussions on the challenges addressing climate change in a post-pandemic world. Amid the current COVID-19 dislocation, it is easy to forget that only a few months ago, the debate about climate change was gaining momentum. Given the magnitude of this crises, one could ask if the world can still afford to pay attention to climate change and the broader sustainably agenda.
Our answer must be firm and clear: We cannot afford not to! As daunting as the challenges are, the pandemic can in my view cement the sector’s commitment to corporate responsibility and create a renewed focus on "building back better." While this is a time of great change for the world, and our industry, the members of Sustainable Hospitality Alliance are more committed than ever to addressing the issues that impact our planet and its people and working together for a more sustainable and resilient future.
It is imperative that as travel picks up again, the sector remains focussed on responsible recovery—and builds strong foundations for a resilient industry that’s better prepared for future crises—whatever form they take. I look forward to seeing the industry flourish again, but we cannot pursue growth at any cost. The Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals have put into harsh reality the scale of the changes that are required to protect our planet and its people, and the hospitality industry has the opportunity—and the responsibility—to play our part.
When the United Nations launched the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, they brought to focus the urgency for action, and this is no less critical today. We need to take imminent actions to avoid the sever impacts a global temperature rise above 1.5 degrees would have on our society and the global economy. The pandemic has demonstrated how vulnerable people and communities are once again disproportionally affected by adversity. Likewise, climate change remains a critical challenge, limiting the impacts of which we must all, businesses and individuals alike, continue to tackle as a priority.
I am firmly convinced that by working together we can achieve more to address the social and environmental issues that impact the world around us. And, through the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the industry has the collective power to play our part.
Find out more about the organization, join us and play your part in creating a better world. Please visit www.sustainablehospitalityalliance.org.
Wolfgang Neumann is the chair of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and is the former president and CEO of Radisson Hospitality.
This article originally appeared on Hospitality Insights.