How do you know when eco-certified travel is going mainstream? It is when customers and hotel chains both extol the virtues of certification and eco-labels.
Earlier this year, a Canadian Travel Intentions Survey found that 25% of leisure travelers and 31% of business travelers said that a hotel with an environmental certification program was important to them. Overall, 42% of business travelers surveyed said that practices like recycling and energy efficiency matter to them when choosing where to stay (up five percent from 2011) and the same percentage of all travelers said they would pay $1 or more to offset their carbon footprint during a stay at a property.
While consumer awareness and demand for green commitments rise, large hotel chains like Kimpton Hotels and Hilton Hotels are responding by inserting transparency and accountability behind their green marketing claims.
This is good news for the travel industry, consumers, and the communities they serve.
For example, Kimpton Hotels promotes that all of their properties are Green Key Eco-Rated either 4 or 5 (with 5 being the highest). Green Key certification standards are designed to reduce impact on the environment and improve health and well-being by studying a hotel's main operations (i.e. housekeeping and maintenance, food and beverage supply chain, as well as conference and meeting facilities) for:
- energy and water conservation,
- solid and hazardous waste management,
- indoor air quality,
- community outreach,
- building infrastructure,
- land use, and
- environmental management
Each Kimpton hotel offers information about hybrid car discounts, environmental partnerships with the Nature Conservancy and its local, organic dining options. For me, one of the more memorable health and well-being programs was the offer of a pet goldfish during our family weekend stay at the Hotel Monaco in Seattle a few years ago. The idea was to avert a business customer's potential loneliness while on the road, even though we got more laughs watching our young son enjoy the goldfish.
Hilton Hotels has achieved the distinction of certifying their entire worldwide hotel chain (3,750 properties in 85 countries) as accredited ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management systems (EMS). The ISO 14001 EMS standard emphasizes continual improvement of a business' operations toward reducing waste management and energy consumption costs as well as lower material and distribution costs by having a more efficient supply chain (for housekeeping, maintenance, food, beverage, meetings, etc.).
Hilton offers information about its overall energy and water use, targets for consumption by 2014, carbon emissions, and involvement in programs such as the Global Soap Project and Good360.
All these measures are a great start toward sustainability. However, my goal is to go beyond the reduce, reuse, recycle message to the social empowerment, conservation education and community owned message.
What do you think Kimpton or Hilton Hotels could do better?