, in our bi-monthly advice feature Ask the Experts.
Problem: I believe that I run my hotel in an environmentally-friendly way and have been interested in green issues for several years. I've always thought that considering the environment in your day-to-day business was something you should do as a matter of course and have been quietly getting on with it. However, recently I've noticed that lots of other hotels have been boasting about how green they are and have awards to prove it, but don't seem to be doing anything better or different than we are. Is it worth my while entering all these green awards to get noticed, or should I just concentrate on doing what I do normally and just be content with the fact that I'm doing my bit to safeguard the planet? Does winning an environmental award have any business benefit, or is it just PR?
Solution: The most important aspect is that you are taking action, you are doing your bit and you are being a responsible hotelier. Every hotelier, whether they are concerned for the environment or not, should be interested in conserving energy, water, reducing waste and supporting local businesses. This is plain common business sense as it saves money and supports the local economy.
Fortunately there are a considerable number of hoteliers out there who are concerned about environmental issues and are socially responsible and will go the extra green mile to make it count. They do this because they want to, and it very quickly becomes a part of their daily routine. When asked what they are doing in this respect, they tend to talk it down believing they are making little impact but in fact when you itemise it, it is in fact considerable.
They may mention some of the things they are doing in their room directory, and the “towel” option will probably be trotted out but generally they allow their guests to enjoy their stay and the benefits a number of their unsung green initiatives may bring.
Over the last few years, guests have become more acutely aware of environmental matters and question the ethos and motives of the hotels they are staying in. What they as individuals are practising at home, they see no reason why it can’t be repeated on a larger scale in other walks of life. So it is on this note that hoteliers can see the benefits of winning a green award.
A plaque at the entrance to the hotel indicating the hotel is accredited by the Green Tourism Business Scheme at either gold, silver or bronze level certainly creates the right effect. If the cabinet in reception is displaying a number of awards for being a responsible and caring hotelier it can do nothing but good, and the accompanying publicity certainly does no harm whatsoever. There are many hotels who will claim that an environmental and socially responsible element in their marketing has given them the edge over competitors.
So, whatever you choose, it’s ok by me. The most important thing is you are doing something positive – you are making a difference. A lot of small differences add up to a huge difference. You are raising awareness; you may even feel good about it and make others feel better too.
John Firrell is director and secretary of the Considerate Hoteliers Association