Shifts in the accommodation preferences of tourists could prompt an increasing number of hoteliers to adopt green building measures.
As demand rises amongst both tenants and investors for sustainable, energy efficient properties, environmentally minded tourists are also displaying a growing preference for green accommodation.
A swathe of studies over the past several years have found that the market for sustainable tourism is rapidly expanding in tandem with rising environmental awareness amongst consumers.
A study conducted in 2012 by online travel review giant TripAdvisor found that 71 per cent of survey participants would make environmentally friendly consumer decisions over the next 12 months.
A more recent eco-travel study conducted by TripAdvisor in mid-2014 found that over 25 per cent of survey respondents make environmentally friendly decisions while staying in hotels.
Other research since the turn of the decade is largely consistent with TripAdvisor’s findings. A 2011 survey by Conde Naste Traveler found that 93 per cent of readers believed travel companies bore responsibility for environmental protection, while 2012 survey by TUI, the world’s largest travel agency, found that 54 per cent of respondents were familiar with sustainability, and 40 per cent were very concerned with it.
Accommodation providers around the world are already responding to this shift in consumer tastes by creating more sustainable, environmentally friendly accommodation.
For many hotels, the chief and most convenient means of lifting their green credentials is the installation of solar power facilities and the implementation of water recycling.
The Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, situated in tree-lined suburb of Nob Hill on one of the city’s original “seven hills” is a classic example of this. The hotel’s operators have installed a total of 105 solar panels on the building, helping to cut down on electricity consumption by 12 per cent and achieve a dramatic reduction in associated carbon emissions.
The Grand Hyatt Dubai is another example, serving as vivid proof that even large-scale luxury accommodation is capable of achieving impressive levels of sustainability and efficiency.
The lavish hotel is paragon of luxury accommodation, hosting 674 suites as well as 14 bars and restaurants as well as a capacious outdoor pool area.
The hotel’s operators have adopted green measures to match its levels of luxury, covering its roofs with solar panels that are capable of generating as much as a megawatt of energy, as well as recycling huge amounts of grey water and sewage in order to dramatically reduce water consumption in one of the world’s driest climate zones.
In Australia, Port Macquarie’s Observatory Hotel, perhaps the country’s greenest provider of accommodation, installed hundreds of solar panels on its north-facing rooftop to help it obtain certification as a 100 per cent carbon neutral operation.
While accommodation providers may be keen to respond to the growing preference for sustainable accommodation amongst travellers, the global tourism industry continues to lack a standard, broadly accepted criteria for the sustainability performance of hotels.
This means it is still comparatively easy for hotel operators to engage in “green washing” – promoting themselves as environmentally friendly businesses when their actual practices and operations fall well short of marketing hype.
Accommodation providers who have engaged in legitimate efforts to improve their sustainability levels can still rely on a range of other ranking systems or criteria, such as LEED, in order to provide substantive proof of their green credentials.
Online travel sites are also fast beginning to pick up the slack, providing impartial scrutiny of the green credentials of hotel operators.
TripAdvisor has launched its GreenLeader program that rates the environmental performance of hotels and B&Bs, grading them according to a four-tier badge system of bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
Specialist websites such as Eco-lux Hotels focus specifically on green accommodation, providing independent reviews of luxury green hotels around the world that assessing both luxury levels and environmental performance.