What can hotels do to become more sustainable?

Woman lying on a bed using a laptop
Tech-friendly: many people look for Wi-Fi throughout a hotel’s premises Credit: Getty

Customers want greener hotels, but they aren’t willing to forgo the luxury as well. The industry must evolve quickly to cope.

In the hotel industry there is an urgency not only to go greener but also to become more tech-friendly, according to recent research by energy leaders E.ON.

In fact, customers now value free WiFi far more than a complimentary breakfast, but with every HD television and power shower comes a challenge to the green credentials increasingly needed to attract eco-conscious punters.

Like a majority of markets globally, the hotel industry has been forced to evolve rapidly in the past few years in response to this change in consumer attitudes.

A third of hotel users believe that there should be an accreditation system that ranks places to stay on their sustainability.

E.ON’s survey findings, which were published in May and took into account about 2,000 respondents, also showed that hotel guests in 2016 favour a sustainable stay – even while they admit to using more energy than ever.

Energy – a cost and an opportunity

Half of hotel guests who took part in the survey stated that sustainability and energy use by a hotel is important to them, while almost one in five would be more likely to stay in or recommend a B&B or boutique hotel if it used renewable energy sources such as solar panels.

A similar number would be swayed by knowing a hotel used energy-efficient measures such as low-energy lighting.

So what does this mean for hoteliers? Simply, that energy efficiency represents a sweet spot combining customer appeal with lower business costs – if only they can hit it.

E.ON offers a range of energy solutions particularly relevant to hotels that can help businesses increase their energy efficiency – allowing them to expand the services they offer without hiking costs or their carbon footprint.

These range from variable speed drives for machinery – slowing fans or motors to dramatically cut costs – to integrated heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and electric vehicle charging points.

Guests take an average of five connectable devices with them on nights away from home

Such heavyweight technology is needed to meet the energy-intensive expectation of today’s gadget-heavy customers.

Guests take an average of five connectable devices with them on nights away from home (up 40pc in just five years), and many demand Wi-Fi throughout a hotel’s premises, and often outside, by the pool or in the gardens.

From turbocharged showers and underfloor heating to bright lighting and air conditioning, basic furnishings are increasingly power-hungry, even before you throw in the costs of universal USB sockets, contactless charging pads or electric vehicle charging.

As anyone who has furnished their home to a similar level can attest, none of that comes cheap, but hoteliers and bed-and-breakfast owners who fail to adapt quickly enough could face the prospect of a frosty reception and bookings drying up.

But while it may seem that these demands put hoteliers in a dilemma, by considering market forces and prioritising energy efficiency, they can overcome and profit from the twin demands of high energy use and a sustainable approach. Greener hotels represent a premium for guests, while more efficient systems can help keep costs low and margins high.

So, where to start? E.ON encourages its customers to consider their energy use in three stages.

The first stage is to check the rate at which they’re paying for energy, and to get a greater sense of how much their business is affected by this cost.

The second is to address the easiest fixes to bring that cost down – such as replacing inefficient bulbs or heaters and minimising wasted heat or light.

The third is to put energy at the heart of the business’s strategy and to make committed investments that promise long-term reward, such as installing solar panels, or investing in waste heat-recovery systems to slash heating costs.

A third of hotel users believe that there should be an accreditation system that ranks places to stay on their sustainability

For hoteliers, whose needs can include everything from external lighting to spas and kitchens, the rewards of such investments can be enormous.

“The changes in travelling habits and the demands of guests will have a significant impact on hotels both small and large,” says Phil Gilbert, director of energy solutions at E.ON.

“This is not just from their impact on energy consumption, but also something to bear in mind when renovating your accommodation.

“Cutting down waste, using smart technology to manage buildings and possibly generating their own power are all options for hotels to consider, and E.ON can help throughout the whole process, from concept to management.”

Mr Gilbert says that there are areas in the hotel industry where energy is commonly wasted: heating, for instance, might account for 40 per cent of total energy costs; while lighting often uses a quarter of a hotel’s electricity bill. Through energy management and education these costs can be significantly reduced – up to a third in some cases.

For example, E.ON has recently carried out work at Cottons Hotel, Knutsford, Cheshire, which proved so successful that the owner, Daniel Thwaites, is now ready to invest significantly in energy solutions across other hotels in the Thwaites chain.

Getting to grips with energy costs is important for all businesses, and minimising the impact that rising energy prices will have is important for every organisation’s long-term security.

While offsetting that risk, it also represents an opportunity to demonstrate the green credentials many customers are looking for.

And – as those working in the sector well know – the customer is always right, so it is time for those who are especially resistant to change to listen up.

Download a free energy report here and for more information on energy saving solutions, visit eonenergy.com

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