Why should hotels lead this effort? – Hotel online


Lisa Xie | January 21, 2020

Sustainable tourism has grown considerably in recent years. Why and how can hotels implement more sustainable practices, drawing inspiration from the UN SDGs?

By Lisa Xie

The tourism industry has one of the highest growth rates of any industry in the world, accounting for 10.4% of global GDP and 319 million jobs (10% of total employment in 2018)1.. At the moment, there is no sign that this trend is slowing down. In 2018, 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals were recorded (up 47% from 950.8 million in 2010) and their number is expected to reach 1.8 billion in 2030. Hotels are only one of the many players who play an important role in the industry. in general2.

Hotels play an essential role in sustainable tourism

The demand for hotels is generally associated with the number of tourists looking for an overnight stay and the popularity of a destination.3. So, when the tourism demand of a region increases, the demand for hotels increases, causing developers and hotel companies to rush to popular destinations. Hotels, tourism and local communities intertwine in close symbiotic relationships due to their physical proximity and inevitable collaboration4.

For this reason, sustainable tourism practices and ethical hotel development (which links social, cultural and economic factors) are essential factors for both the long-term preservation of culture and the socio-economic stability of host communities5. From this perspective, hotels play an essential role in the implementation of viable operational practices as well as in educating consumers about sustainable behavior.

Consumers are increasingly looking for sustainable destinations

Not only is sustainability a growing social issue, but consumers are increasingly aware of sustainable practices in hotels as information becomes more transparent.

According to Booking.com Sustainable Travel Report 201970% of global travelers say they would be more likely to book accommodation knowing it is eco-friendly, and 55% of global travelers say they are more committed to making sustainable travel choices compared to last year.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: a lever to steer sustainable tourism

Sustainability is a multi-faceted term for initiatives that conserve a particular resource. To address sustainability, we must address the four main pillars: human, social, economic and environmental.

Since sustainability must be a global, multi-stakeholder effort, the United Nations (UN) launched their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, as “The plan for a better and more sustainable future for all”. The 17 objectives aim to “Address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice”6.

As the SDGs serve as a guideline for hotels to compartmentalize each of their main operational functions (ie housekeeping, sales and marketing, customer service), how can hotels adapt their current practices accordingly?

  1. Identify and engage – Identify the areas of the main functions of the department (i.e. housekeeping, sales and marketing, customer service) with regard to the means that can impact the SDGs.
  2. Alignment – Align SDG with a hotel’s strategy and priorities to engage with stakeholders (i.e. franchisee, employees, customers, etc.).
  3. Develop the target and KPIs – Create new KPIs to address new areas in relation to the identified SDGs. Alternatively, hotels can add new factors to existing KPIs. These KPIs will be the key to monitoring and communicating progress.
  4. Review the company’s strategy – Evaluate how existing practices in different departments can be adjusted to follow the SDGs.
  5. Measure, evaluate, report and communicate
    • Measure the quantitative data collected
    • Evaluate data for possible improvements
    • Report performance and compare with the defined objective and KPI
    • Communicate with the brand and customers about this effort

SDG poster with the UN_PRINT emblem

What are the benefits?

  • Stimulate growth– Business growth is linked to the achievement of the SDGs at a macro level. Businesses need a resilient, reliable, educated and healthy workforce from all departments to support their workforce7. In the hospitality industry, its workforce plays a critical role in contributing to the overall guest experience. It is therefore important that companies take action at the local level to stimulate their long-term growth.
  • Manage risk– The creation of a stable market means that the investment involves less risk. Each SDG represents a risk area that represents a challenge for business and society8. In the asset-rich world of the hotel industry with long-term management contracts, building a stable environment is therefore both an advantage for hotel investors and the management company to operate in a low-cost environment. low risk and a benefit to the local community. of this stable lifestyle.
  • Attract investment– For the implementation of the SDGs, the government and the private sector provided funds to projects through climate-focused multilateral public funds9. In the financial sector, innovative financial models have been introducedten. BNP Paribas, for example, organizes their bond as part of its own SDG initiative where the return on investment of bonds is directly linked to the stock market performance of the companies included in the Solactive Sustainable Development Goals Global index of recognized leaders in their industries on social and environmental sustainability issues11.
  • Refocus on business value– The hospitality industry is a people-oriented business. From guests and employees to stakeholders and locals, the value of the hospitality industry is rooted in creating value for others and improving the world we live in. Since the SDGs require a global effort from different sectors, contributing to the SDGs is a good step towards reassessing values ​​for all stakeholders. The SDGs can help hotels set their ambitious goal, inspire stakeholders at all levels and increase long-term shareholder value.
  • Increase the attractiveness of the brand– The demand for durable properties will continue to increase as consumers become more aware of sustainability issues. 70% of global travelers say they would be more likely to book accommodation knowing it is eco-friendly, and more than half of global travelers say they are more committed to making sustainable travel choices in the world. over the coming year compared to last year.12. By promoting the sustainable practices and activities of a brand or hotel establishment, these brands / establishments can gain the upper hand to attract more customers.
  • Attract a wider audience– Hotels are constantly introducing new brands to suit different age groups and suit different lifestyles. Despite the increase in demand for sustainable accommodation, travelers still face barriers when making sustainable travel choices – 37% of respondents do not know how to make their trips more sustainable13. Focusing on sustainable factors can be a blue ocean strategy.
  • Your efforts are rewarded– At first, capital is needed to start a sustainable transformation, but the return is gradual and will eventually generate a long-term return13. Therefore, companies should make a real and particularly complex effort to achieve the relative SDGs.

The best class examples

Accor has been the leading hotel chain in its sustainable development effort. Their “Planet 21†initiative was launched in 2011 and addresses 10 of the 17 SDGs14.

In response, the two Marriott and Hilton launched their own sustainable development projects aimed at meeting the SDGs in 201815, 16. Marriott is the leader in transparency regarding every property’s efforts, and pledged to achieve the objective “that by 2020, each establishment will have a” Serve 360 ​​”section on its website with specific impact measures on hotels”17. Accor and Hilton also aim to provide transparent property-wide data at an unspecified time in the future18, 19.

Marriott, Accor, Hilton lead the best examples, however, there remain important questions about the accuracy of reporting and tracking their goals – an issue that should be addressed through transparency and public availability of each property’s information.

Challenges to take up

As major hotel chains battle for the top spot on the podium to achieve all of the SDGs, these companies have a big shoe to fill that impacts the purpose of the business and the community around it. It is therefore important that the company’s CSR is created and also deployed in a responsible manner.

Businesses need to be strategic and careful when using the SDGs as a tool to achieve societal benefits in a sustainable way instead of using it as a marketing tool for “greenwashingâ€, which will damage the image of the company. the long-term brand.

One way to combat the fairness of oversight, for example, is for hotels to consider bringing in a third-party auditor to ensure consistency and freedom from fraud. The next essential step is to assess the sincerity of hotels’ dedication to the cause of sustainability.


  1. https://ourworldindata.org/tourisme
  2. https://ourworldindata.org/tourisme
  3. https://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/wp-content/uploads/Industry-Research/Global/2011_UNWTO_Tourism_Towards_2030.pdf
  4. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-are-the-negative-effects-of-tourism-on-the-environment.html
  5. https://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/s3-euw1-ap-pe-ws4-cws-documents.ri-prod/9781138784567/Ch%206_Timothy.pdf
  6. https: //developmentdurable.un.org/? menu = 1300
  7. https://www.ey.com/en_gl/assurance/why-sustainable-development-goals-should-be-in-your-business-plan
  8. https://www.ey.com/en_gl/assurance/why-sustainable-development-goals-should-be-in-your-business-plan
  9. https://www.ey.com/en_gl/assurance/why-sustainable-development-goals-should-be-in-your-business-plan
  10. https://www.ey.com/en_gl/assurance/why-sustainable-development-goals-should-be-in-your-business-plan
  11. http://businesscommission.org/
  12. https://globalnews.booking.com/bookingcom-reveals-key-findings-from-its-2019-sustainable-travel-report/
  13. https://www.ey.com/en_gl/assurance/why-sustainable-development-goals-should-be-in-your-business-plan
  14. https://all.accor.com/gb/sustainable-development/index.shtml
  15. https://www.marriott.com/default.mi
  16. https://cr.hilton.com/
  17. https://www.marriott.com/default.mi
  18. https://all.accor.com/gb/sustainable-development/index.shtml
  19. https://cr.hilton.com/


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