HotelsKeeping clean and green: Can hotels stay eco-friendly in a highly sanitised world?

Has Covid-19 made hotels more sustainable?

Hotels are actively seeking ways to align their operations and practices with Covid-19 hygiene concerns.
Hotels are actively seeking ways to align their operations and practices with Covid-19 hygiene concerns. Photo Credit: Accor

Hotels are no longer just a place of rest, comfort and dining, they are also expected to be bastions of safety and cleanliness after the pandemic.

But the increased scrutiny on maintaining top levels of hygiene and sanitisation also means an added weight on sustainability, say hospitality executives in Asia, as hotels turn to disposable face masks, sanitisation chemicals and individual plastic packaging for health and safety reasons.

At Accor, Garth Simmons, CEO of Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea said “the increased use of disposable items such as masks and gloves has indeed had a negative impact on the sustainability practices of hotels across the industry. We’ve actively tried to minimise this negative impact by encouraging the use of fabric masks or implementing sanitisation stations rather than single-use bottles of sanitisation gel.”

While trying to ensure that guests’ experience remains synonymous with their brand standards, some hotels find it challenging to step up hygiene efforts with their current procurement practices to address Covid-19 concerns. For example, most guests still prefer the use of disposable masks and cutleries served in sealed single-use plastics for hygiene assurance.

“The health measures have increased plastic use in some of our locations to address the health needs. At Laguna Phuket, for example, the enhanced usage of face masks and other single-use items is an area of focus for us, and we continuously review and improve our waste management practices,” said Ravi Chandran, executive vice president, group business performance of Banyan Tree group & managing director of Laguna Resorts & Hotels.

“While the pandemic does pose some challenges, it has not deterred us from continuing to make headway with initiatives such as replacing single-use toiletry bottles in guestroom showers with larger, pump-topped bottles. Although slightly delayed due to the pandemic, this initiative continues its global roll-out throughout 2021,” said Rajeev Menon, President, Asia Pacific (excluding Greater China) for Marriott International.

Others, like Soneva, have introduced waste management plans at each of its resorts to help with increased waste arising from the use of PPE for staff coming in initial interaction with guests at airports and check-in, CEO Sonu Shivdasani told Travel Weekly Asia.

But some pandemic-induced changes, such as the suspension of buffet dining options, could signify a step forward for hotels to upgrade their sustainability initiatives.

At Banyan Tree properties, “changes in other practices result in reductions with, for example, a la carte dining creating less waste than buffets,” noted Chandran. “Temporary closures have reduced net energy use and waste.”

While the crisis has put the hotel industry to a tough test of survival, hoteliers also take the pandemic to innovate and rethink their business practices to vie for customers.

“With travellers becoming more and more conscious about the environment and their impact on the communities they visit, we can certainly say that sustainability is here to stay,” said Marriott’s Menon.

Accor is pledging serious efforts to sustainable development with the recent appointment of Brune Poirson as chief sustainability officer, a new role tasked with defining, driving and monitoring the group’s commitments in terms of sustainable development.

Poirson was a former member of the French Parliament, and for three years was Secretary of State for the Environmental Transition as well as a champion of the anti-waste law in France.

It’s more important than ever for the hotel industry to continue on the gains made in sustainability in recent years. Said Shivdasani: “I believe that now the hospitality industry will focus more on a natural, unique experience that contributes to the environment.”

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