What should travel buyers be asking about sustainable accommodation practices?
WORLDWIDE: The Institute of Travel Management hosted a webinar with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance to talk about sustainable practices and measures in the hospitality industry. reports Felicity Cousins.
ITM invited Claire Whitely, Environmental Manager at the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, to talk about what’s happening in the hospitality industry and how hotels and corporate travel programs can do more to achieve ESG objectives.
The goal of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance is to enable every hotel – across the world – to operate in a sustainable and responsible way. Of course, the initiatives discussed in the webinar can be applied across the hospitality industry to any type of accommodation outside of traditional hotels, including extended stay options and serviced apartments.
The webinar session, hosted by ITM, was aimed at travel buyers and bookers – and focused on how to ensure travel programs can support and grow ESG and empower those that demand sustainable data and action in the sector.
The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance is a charity whose vision is that responsible hospitality can create a better world. It currently has around 35,000 hotels in its membership and engages across the industry and covers large hotel groups down to small independent hotels.
Claire Whitely, Head of Environment at the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, says: “By bringing these companies together, we are trying to use the collective knowledge and power that exists here on key environmental and social issues locally and globally. . Our members represent 35% of the global industry by chambers and we are growing rapidly as [the sector] takes a stronger stance on sustainability.
And it’s not just the operational side of the hotel, but the entire supply chain that comes with running a hotel.
Whitely adds, “We cannot overcome the challenges we face by working in silos, so we need collective action. We also develop practical tools and ideas from our members.
The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance is in the process of creating a five-year strategy, but it already has several tools available to travel buyers and reservations. One of its key tools is the Carbon and Water Measurement Tool used for reporting and measurement by over 30,000 hotels worldwide.
Everything on the website is free and open to everyone, not just members. Here are some of the resources buyers will find that can help them create sustainable hosting programs.
HCMI data for travel buyers
For travel buyers, one of the difficult aspects of defining a hotel’s sustainable practices and data is how things are measured. In the past, hotels all used different ways of presenting numbers and it was difficult to merge the data to understand comparable performance.
The HCMI Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative was created 10 years ago with the idea of hotels filing paperwork and self-reporting their emissions. If every hotel used the same metrics, it would make it much easier for those reporting and analyzing data for key ESG objectives.
Using the HCMI, a travel buyer also has the ability to compare results with Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmark (they compare thousands across the world and you can choose different hotels around the world and see if the data you get is good or bad).
HCMI can also be integrated with different hotel systems, so reporting falls under their brand, such as IHG’s Green Engage.
The HCMI is also compliant with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol and ISO 14064.
Using HCMI’s metrics, a travel buyer will see the total carbon footprint, footprint per occupied room and meeting space square footage, and renewable energy and electricity as a share of the total consumption. For those staying in presidential suites or serviced apartments, there is currently no differentiation system based on room size – an issue that will need to be addressed.
Total carbon footprint for MICE
The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance is also updating the tool and creating a report, which can automatically calculate particular meeting and event stays so a hotel can show buyers how many rooms they have. use as well as the meeting space. The report establishes the carbon footprint figure for the entire meeting. This data can then help make smarter decisions for MICE programs.
Sustainability Guidance Notes
The website contains guidance for determining the sustainability of hotels in a supply chain. It offers advice on what questions buyers should ask, and who those questions should be directed to, to really get to the sustainability of the property. The guide recommends requesting data on carbon and water initiatives (HCMI and HWMI) and even has a list of questions to ask properties.
One of the problems with reporting on sustainable practices is that, by its nature, the hospitality industry is so fragmented. Even if you take a property as an example – someone owns it, someone else can operate it and there can also be a brand involved. Getting each team to collaborate and follow the same paths is tricky, but they all impact the hotel, so they all need to drive sustainable practices, understanding and action across the industry.
To help with this fragmentation, the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance has created a pathway to net positive hospitality.
Whitely says, “There is fragmentation in the industry and everyone is at different places in their journey. Some are more advanced than others, but the majority of the industry is on the starting line. We believe that wherever they are on this journey, they should be able to achieve a net plus point over the years. The course covers major environmental issues and examines different levels of action and ambition.
Questions from buyers
At the end of the webinar, buyers asked questions.
Question: Is it possible to extract this data at the chain level rather than at the individual hotel level?
Answer: Yes, chains can provide reports on this and Key Account Managers can aggregate data on all hotel rooms you purchase during the year. This helps in sourcing tenders.
Question: We would like to see all hotel information, not just favorite hotels in our books. Is it possible?
Answer: Yes, we believe that it has become very clear that we need a centralized source of data, which is the only source of truth, so we will work to be the holders of this only source of truth.
Question: Channels like Travelodge and its booking company do not provide reports – how can we work on this as we cannot see the broadcasts of these channels?
Answer: Work has been done and we have created a methodology for net zero and alignment and how it can be reported, but there is still work to be done.
Question: HCMI is self-certified, so how sure can we be about the data provided by hotels?
Answer: Yes it is self certified at this time as we do not have the capacity to collect the data individually – our role has been to provide the aligned way of reporting – there are strong guidelines in the document and what they should include over 12 months. I’d like to think the majority of hotels are honest with the data, but it’s always difficult if it’s a standalone process.
Question: Does the size of the room someone stays in matter for the carbon footprint? Does the same data come back for someone who stayed in a presidential suite or a standard room?
Answer: We need to look at other ways to improve the methodology, one of which is if we can provide an estimate of the footprint of a standard room versus a suite.
Question: What data should we ask hotels to share?
Answer: The key indicators buyers are looking for are carbon and water, so we recommend asking about HCMI and HWMI. This makes it easier for hotels if everyone is requesting the same data and also gives them more time to make changes. This allows you to have comparable information, which should be of higher quality if it can focus on one type of data.
Question: Do you work with the TMCs to make sure the reports are accurate?
Answer: We’re just starting to have those relationships because they’re all starting to figure out how to provide data to their customers. This is definitely the order of the day for many people. When reservations are made through TMC, they have a vested interest in meeting ESG objectives.
SAN reported on another ITM webinar on trends in the serviced apartment sector with Silverdoor here.
The Institute of Travel Management is dedicated to supporting and developing all those involved in business travel. Founded in 1956, ITM represents over 5,000 business travel buyers and suppliers in the UK and Ireland. The ITM fall conference will take place on October 3rd. The ITM Spring Conference will take place in Brighton next year. See website here.
The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance was founded in 1992 following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio. Initially, the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance covered the environmental aspects of sustainability, but later broadened its focus to more social aspects of sustainability within the sector. Through global partnerships working with governments, the private sector and non-profit organizations to focus on the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance addresses both people – e.g. human trafficking , youth employment, modern slavery – as well as to the planet. For more information and resources for buyers and hotels, see here.