Business management

Marketing tips for eco-friendly hotels

Being seen to be green is a great way to boost business.

Improving your hotel’s environmental credentials can save both money and natural resources, but a greener business can draw in customers, too. Increasingly, consumers are concerned about the environmental impact of their travel and want to make more ethical choices. Hotels can be part of this growing trend and use their green credentials to increase revenue and bookings.

“There are clear links between improving the sustainability of a hotel or asset and the bottom-line benefits,” says Kathryn Harrison, environmental risk manager at EY. “Savings can be achieved through well-run environmental and intelligent building management systems, which can ensure that hotel equipment is powered down when not in use. Costs can also be driven down in areas including water, waste and cleaning materials.

“At a time when clients, partners and investors are becoming increasingly concerned about social and environmental issues, achieving such efficiencies also makes obvious sense from a PR perspective.”

A deciding factor

A recent survey from Booking.com found 36% of travellers plan to book more eco-friendly travel options than they did last year, while a survey by TripAdvisor.com found nearly two thirds of travellers often or always consider the environment when choosing hotels, transportation and meals.

Encouragingly for green hotels, 73% of millennials worldwide told Nielsen they were willing to pay more for services from companies that are committed to creating a positive environmental impact, with the research concluding: “Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship among today’s youngest consumers have an opportunity to not only grow market share but to build loyalty among the power-spending millennials of tomorrow.”

Green hoteliers should benefit from this by promoting their eco measures when marketing their hotels. Clear communication – to customers, stakeholders and employees – is key for successful sustainability marketing. Show customers the steps taken to make the hotel green and put this information front and centre, presented in such a way that it engages the audience and makes them want to explore further. The Scarlet hotel in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, for example, publishes a list on its website of 101 ways in which the hotel is sustainable, making it very accountable.

The Grand in Brighton, East Sussex.

“Hotels need a page on their website showing upfront how green the property is and where they’ve saved energy,” says Patricia Griffin, president and founder of the Green Hotels Association. “The main thing is to prove their greenness with statistics and facts. They need to keep that up to date and post new plans of what they are working on.

“The path to a green hotel will never end because there are always new ideas and new products.”

Community spirit

Hotels can also benefit from aligning themselves with green initiatives and environmental causes. In 2011, the Scarlet set up a community fund for new or existing local projects that contribute to improving the natural environment, including Surfers Against Sewage, which campaigns for cleaner seashores.

Partnering with a charity or cause that resonates with your community, customers and the hotel’s ethos can show commitment to social responsibility. Hotel management group Kew Green Hotels works with Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to supporting children and families who use hospices around the UK, creating gardens and outdoor spaces on site.

Meanwhile, the Grand Hotel Brighton has implemented a ‘green team’ to oversee its environmental performance. It also supports a local allotment group that works with disabled children to grow their own produce, as well as local cycling groups and events.

Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship have an opportunity to not only grow market share but to build loyalty

Accor Hotels, which has 4,200 hotels in 95 countries, launched a programme to reduce its food waste by 30% by 2020. It will accomplish this by installing smart meters to measure waste, reusing leftovers and donating food to charities. In Bangkok, Thailand, the hotel group donates leftover buffet food to a shanty town to feed impoverished children.

It makes sense to advertise these eco and social projects on your website, and use all the green logos that apply, such as the recycle symbol. Visual logos appeal more to onlookers and can help in quickly identifying the hotel as a green property.

Prepare a media and press kit of your green credentials, complete with high-resolution images and easy-to-read facts and figures. Travel journalists always need high-quality material, so make it as simple as possible for them to find it, preferably by downloading directly from your website.

And the award goes to…

Pay careful attention to the way you’re listed on online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia, Hotels.com and Booking.com. Apply for listing on TripAdvisor’s new GreenLeaders Programme, which showcases eco-friendly properties and rates hotels from bronze to platinum, based on their environmental practices. There are also OTA websites specifically for green-conscious travellers, such as Greentraveller.co.uk, which lists green hotels by country and holiday type.

In addition, consider some kind of formal green accreditation to prove the hotel’s commitment, and align the brand with an organisation that can promote the issues the hotel stands for.

Examples include Green Tourism, the largest sustainable certification programme of its kind, which partners with more than 2,000 eco-friendly accommodation providers in the UK and abroad. The not-for-profit organisation launched in Scotland 20 years ago and offers advice for businesses on sustainability measures and gradings of bronze, silver or gold. It also promotes its members through its website.

Rated highly

Some of the best-known green hotels in the UK have Green Tourism accreditation. Swinton Park Hotel in Ripon, North Yorkshire, a 32-room luxury castle, has a Green Tourism silver award and set up the Swinton Foundation, a charitable trust that supports artists, entrepreneurs and communities in the Yorkshire Dales and the regeneration of the rural landscape.

Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant in Hexham, Northumberland, has a Green Tourism gold award and a platinum rating for TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders programme and was included in the Good Hotel Guide’s 2017 pick of green hotels.

Battlesteads in Hexham, Northumberland.

Another important accreditation scheme is the global EarthCheck certification, which calls itself the world’s leading scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism, influencing the decision-making of six million travellers a week.

Entering an awards programme can also promote green credentials, and several awards for sustainability have been launched, including the AA Hospitality Awards and the Green Hospitality Programme’s Responsible Tourism & Travel Awards in Ireland.

Spread the word

Most importantly, get your customers on board. Get their feedback, respond to their comments on social media and make sure your staff are fully up to speed on your environmental agenda, so they can tell customers about it, too.

Most travellers don’t know enough about a hotel’s sustainability practices – 64% of respondents in one TripAdvisor survey said they “rarely or never feel informed about whether a hotel is truly eco-friendly”. So, businesses must make sure their green ethos is abundantly clear. With a positive and engaging marketing message, green hotels can win the loyalty and custom of visitors both today and tomorrow.

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