As an independently operated hotel you likely face daunting challenges on a daily basis; the kind of challenges that demand the attention of yourself, your staff, and your limited resources, if you hope to keep your head above water. So, when someone brings up concern for the environment at your hotel, it may not immediately jump to the top of your to do list. However, you might be surprised to learn that as an independent hotel, you’re uniquely positioned to embrace sustainability, not only to promote the environment, but as a tool to grow your bottom line.
The Advantage of being Independent
Larger, chain oriented hotels usually have the resources, especially financial, to undertake sustainable initiatives without too much hardship. However, there are qualities unique to independent and even smaller chain hotels that make it not only easier to pursue sustainable practices but more advantageous, as well.
Less Red Tape
As an independent hotel, your operation does not get muddled down with layers of bureaucracy and hierarchy like larger chains. Decisions are made at the top and can be quickly carried out below without having to go through elaborate approvals from various executives and boards. This means that if you want to pursue a sustainable idea for your hotel (or any idea for that matter) there’s really nothing to stand in your way. You’ll probably appreciate this concept more when you realize the market for sustainable hospitality.
An Ear to the Ground
As an independent hotel, you also have a unique relationship with the local area. It is easier for independent hotels to be connected to the people, issues and goals of the surrounding community. Chains are usually spread over wide geographic areas and their managers are not always immersed in the local area. And oftentimes, chains are more inclined to adhere to corporate policy and goals than community ones. Armed with local knowledge, independent hotels can be more responsive to the sustainability goals of the surrounding area and even help dictate them. This responsiveness in turn can help foster a positive marketing image and enlist the surrounding community’s support for your hotel. This will then help you to develop local business relationships that further accelerate your sustainability goals or help you reduce expenses; such as purchasing produce from local farmers.
Having a Niche
Unlike chain hotels, which are often identified by their corporate brand, independent hotels have the ability to define their own distinguishing feature(s). Considering that 71% of travelers consider sustainability when making their hotel choice, independent hotels may be smart to consider finding ways to make sustainability a recognizable aspect of their hotel. What will be considered a recognizable feature by guests could be any number of initiatives, and you certainly shouldn’t feel afraid to think a little bit outside the box.
The Hotel Felix in Chicago displays artwork that was created from waste metal, thus intriguing their guests while exemplifying the hotels commitment to the environment. And in Lake Placid, the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort created a special acid rain neutralizing beach; a thing of beauty and purpose. In both instances, these hotels have a commitment to sustainability and show this commitment in unique and memorable ways that can help draw guests to their property, and perhaps inspire them to return.
Being an independent hotel may put you in a prime position to embrace sustainability, but what can you do to take advantage of your situation? There are several small measures you can take – but don’t be afraid to think big.
When just testing the waters of sustainability, there are several easy to implement and proven solutions available to independent hotels:
- Switch to energy efficient light bulbs and appliances.
- Adopt a linen and towel reuse program.
- Install low flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators.
- Offer amenities through in-room dispensers.
- Provide guests and staff plenty of opportunities to recycle.
Now to the sustainability veterans of hospitality these solutions may seem like child’s play, but they are exactly the types of things that can introduce an independent hotel and its staff to the concept of sustainability. And most of these will lead to cost savings and increased productivity of hotel staff.
However, if you want your hotel to really tap into the sustainability movement and see it grow your bottom line, you’ll probably have to go over and above these fairly simple solutions. We’re not going to pretend that this type of commitment will be easy, inexpensive or without some risk, but it may help differentiate your hotel in the mind of today’s eco-friendly traveler. This commitment can entail any number of things. I previously mentioned the Hotel Felix and Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort plans, but there are many other examples:
- The Highland Lake Inn installed solar panels that provide energy to heat water, meeting the hotel’s entire hot water needs.
- The Lenox in Boston installed a road side EV charging station, and allows guests to charge their electric vehicles free of charge.
- Many hotels have adopted room automation systems, reducing energy use in unoccupied rooms.
These are but a few of the sustainable initiatives undertaken by independent hotels. Ideally your hotel will conceive of something unique and original to intrigue guests to your property, but you really can’t go wrong in committing to sustainably on any level. Remember, sustainability is green in more ways than one…