Sustainable hotels are those that significantly reduce their environmental impact through green best practices in maintenance, services, logistics, products and supplies. These core elements revolve around reducing waste, saving energy and cutting down on water usage.

There are a number of luxury brands developing sustainable hotels. These hotels are espousing sustainable initiatives such as using renewable building materials, growing produce on-site and going plastic free. They even create their own waste management and recycling facilities and harness the technology to capture waste heat to create energy. As consumer demand for sustainable travel rises, sustainably designed brands are becoming increasingly popular.

Larger, established global hotel chains are also making significant strides to go green. For example, Hilton Hotels & Resorts is prioritizing recycling and waste reduction by making small but impactful changes that most hoteliers can implement. . Hilton recycles mattresses and helps to recycle partially used soap, and it donates uneaten food to local food banks. Some 94 percent of Hilton's energy is green energy.

Another leading global hotel chain is reducing its environmental impact by increasing its use of renewable energy, reducing waste and carbon emissions, and managing its use of water and energy. Although these hotels are all making a positive impact on the environment, more needs to happen for the hospitality industry to have a significant, unified impact on slowing climate change.

Why sustainability in the hotel industry?

Pressure is building on the hotel sector to lead the way and make sustainability a key priority. This pressure is coming from two main groups: hotel stakeholders and consumers. There appears to be a bigger focus on sustainability in the development of new hotels. This is a result of consumer demand and rising energy costs. With energy prices soaring in most major economies, hotels that do not take steps to reduce their energy consumption – or find alternative energy sources – will find it harder to survive. Gen Z consumers and up-and-coming generations of millennials are significantly more environmentally conscious and will soon become the dominant market force. The priorities of this new market force are supported by a recent survey, which found that the pandemic has made consumers want to travel more sustainably in the future.

This means that the hospitality industry has the chance to reform and move toward a more sustainable future. Or does it? In reality, for the average consumer, value for money seems to be more important than the hotel’s sustainability credentials, especially in the current economic climate. Unless a larger proportion of consumers have a change of mindset, real change in the industry will not come. Adapting existing hotels is also difficult and expensive.

While there are definitely long-term benefits of building sustainable hotels, unless the average consumer’s mindset shifts materially, changes with more significant impact may be hard to achieve. Either way, hoteliers cannot ignore the needs and desires of the younger generation. In the long term, change will come through development, with all new hotels targeting sustainability as a key focus. For now, though, it seems most likely that sustainability will take a back seat until the majority of consumers change their priorities and make choices based on creating a more sustainable and greener future for generations to come.