Why hotels need to focus on sustainable technology

The name of the game in 2020 is sustainability in hotels. These days, sustainability is more than just a travel industry buzzword or term travelers drop to sound hip. The statistics are there to back that up. According to a recent survey of millennials, 87 percent would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental causes and more than nine in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause. 

Smart hotel chains are listening and changing the way they operate to reduce their impact on the environment. As a reward, hotel chains have realized that ‘going green’ can be a savvy marketing strategy as well—receiving free press and promotion about their sustainability efforts in annual rankings.

The good news is that being more sustainable is not hard for a hotel to do. And in many cases, it entails implementing practices that actually save money. One of the most popular movements recently has been the push to remove single-use plastic from the hotel. To join this effort, simply stop buying plastic straws. How great is that? IHG and Marriott International have eliminated plastic straws in thousands of hotels worldwide, removing an estimated 1 billion straws from the ocean and landfills. That adds up, for both the company and the environment. Both brands also are cutting out single-use bottles in the hotel bathroom, estimating to remove more than 500 million plastic bottles every year from the environment.

However; hotel technology holds the promise of making a far greater contribution to carbon footprint reduction and a more eco-friendly hospitality industry. So what hotel technologies are making the greatest difference in saving the planet?

Smart Rooms

Intelligent room technology has arrived. A few years ago, the idea of controlling all aspects of the guestroom from your smartphone was a really cool idea. In 2020, the largest hotel brands will be rolling out room controls within their loyalty platforms that enable guests to preselect the room temperature, lighting mood, TV, music, blinds and more—all triggered by a mobile key that transmits those settings from the digital lock on the door. This level of personalization has never been possible before and will transform both the guest experience and optimize energy consumption to save thousands of dollars for the hotel.

Mobile Extension

More than 5 billion people are now connected to a mobile network, equivalent to roughly two-thirds of the world’s population. Mobile devices are a key enabler of sustainable economic growth and a major contributor to the delivery of the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals

The guest smartphone has the potential to deliver the largest environmental impact of all other platforms combined. Using the digital device that guests already have, hotels can reduce (or eliminate) the use of paper—saving tons of water and chemicals used in paper processing—and reduce (or eliminate) wasteful plastic keycards. Paired with modern property-management-system platforms, mobile key software can revolutionize the guest journey in a hotel and add significant cost savings in the process.

The future is keyless, paperless and has less plastic. We’ll never completely get away from plastic in hotels, but we will eventually stop buying and producing plastic that is used once and discarded. And as technology evolves to seamlessly link functionality within the hotel with guests' mobile devices, the synergistic forces of guest satisfaction, cost reduction and environmental sustainability will produce a greener planet for everyone to enjoy.

Brian Shedd is chief sales and marketing officer for OpenKey, a mobile key technology company.