Sustainability is widely regarded as the key to a successful business in the 21st century. Sustainability or social responsibility is fast becoming a prime concern for public and private sectors alike and the hotel industry is no exception. But what does this term really mean?

In simple words, sustainability means that natural ecosystems can continue to support life and provide resources to meet the needs of the present and future generations. Evidently, the hotel sector puts increased pressure on the environment and is demanding natural resources. However, the industry also relies on the same natural environment – unspoiled landscapes, sandy beaches, turquoise waters, glaciers, waterfalls, coral reefs, and fresh air; all of which serve as great tourist attractions. Therefore, there is an inherent danger that we might harm the very basis on which hospitality is built.

In addition, other business concerns, such as rising costs, increased government pressures, and competitors’ actions have only motivated hoteliers to embrace sustainability and make it an integral part of the corporate agenda. Tourists themselves are also increasingly aware of the issue of sustainability, expecting hotels to assume responsibility and conduct their business sustainably.

The industry has been quick to respond to these changes and is progressively turning ‘green’. Policies and practices have been put into place in order to recycle, reuse grey water, prevent waste, reduce energy use, and lower carbon footprints. Indeed, all major players within the hotel sector regularly publish their sustainability reports, whilst reporting initiatives were undertaken to reduce the negative impacts on the environment. For many, such as the Green House Hotel in Bournemouth, UK, sustainability is a part of the core experience, as their business mantra is ‘to spoil the guests without spoiling anything else’.

However, sustainability is a lot more than environmental management, it is also about economic progress and social development. Social concerns such as inclusivity, promoting work-life balance, promoting employees’ health and well-being, sourcing supplies locally, and stimulating entrepreneurship is all part of the sustainability agenda.

Sustainability equates with not just being profitable, but also as good business sense. Research suggests that more and more customers are willing to reward businesses seen as sustainable by buying products and services from them. Many governments and international agencies offer tax rewards and other monetary incentives to promote this cause.

There is also evidence that employees take greater pride in their work and are therefore more engaged and productive. There is no doubt that the foundation of hospitality is built on customer experience, but the need of the hour is that this be grounded within sustainable thinking.

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