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How can independent hotels compete with large hotel chains in terms of sustainability?

Updated: Aug 6, 2022

Everyone knows the importance of tourism sustainability today, not only in its environmental sphere but also in its social and economic ones.

A sustainable hotel is one that takes advantage of the resources of its surroundings, contributes to the growth of the local economy and harms the environment as little as possible, while being profitable for its owners.

The perfect sustainable hotel does not exist. The hotel activity will always generate a negative impact on the environment, to a greater or lesser extent. Hotels must try to harm as little as possible and contribute to society, respect the environment, the local fauna and flora as much as possible, within the limits of profitability.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for independent hotels to apply all the measures that large chains can afford to implement and compete with them in that matter, neither at a technological level nor when applying sustainable measures. The lack of resources, time or under qualified personnel mean that independent hotels have more problems when it comes to adapting to the requirements that the industry demands.

But there are many measures and initiatives that are already being applied by independent hotels and that do not have a large economic impact on the business. In the long run it will save the hotel on expenses, while contributing to the wealth and good health of the environment.

Among these measures we can mention 20 that are easy to apply:

1.- Use of local and seasonal foods in the preparation of gastronomic menus. Local and seasonal products. An important aspect would be to inform the client about it. Make the hotel experience more authentic and local, letting the customer know from where your products come from.

2.- Promote local commerce to customers: inform guests about other businesses in the area, whether traditional crafts, gastronomy or tours led by expert local guides. This creates wealth in the area and benefits the environment in which the hotel is located.

3.- Buy products in bulk, whenever possible, in order to minimize unnecessary packaging and the generation of more waste.

4.- Reduce food waste. One option is to collaborate with local entities that offer meals to the most needy and/or provide this excess food to the local population for a reduced price.

5.- Plant native trees: they generate shade and absorb CO2.

6.- Inform about the local fauna to create even greater respect for it.

7.- Promote activities in nature. Reach agreements with companies that offer activities and/or tours in nature.

8.- Inform about public transport options or bicycle rental. Before arrival, during the stay and after it.

9.- Recycle and segregate: establish different recycling points within the hotel. Not just for customers, but for workers as well.

10.- Save paper: use digital internal communication, as well as digital invoices and other documents that can be submitted electronically, avoiding their printing.

11.- Use low consumption lighting: implementation of LED bulbs, in addition to controlling electricity consumption. LED lighting has longer life —about 5,000 hours— and lower maintenance cost, saving much more energy.

12.- Perform preventive maintenance: for example to avoid the appearance of water leaks, among others.

13.- Use water diffusers for taps: they help to save water and in the long run it will produce economic savings.

14.- Implement dual-flush cisterns in the W.C.: they also help save water.

15.- Eliminate single-use plastics. The amount of mini plastic bottles that are wasted and used in a hotel on a daily basis is enormous. The installation of dispensers both in the shower and in the sink is the solution.

16.- Raise awareness among your guests: providing information, specific data, amount of water or electricity used daily, for example.

17.- Implement incentive program for clients: encourage the reuse of towels or the non-daily cleaning of the rooms if it is not necessary. There are numerous incentive programs so that the client does not require daily cleaning, from offering a small discount, a drink at the hotel bar, a certificate for having helped save water and energy or planting trees in the name of the client in cooperation with an NGO.

18.- Raise awareness among your staff. Get them involved. Ask for new ideas and reward them in order to encourage participation.

19.- Train your staff. Invest in their training in the sustainable and technological fields. A trained worker will help you much more to achieve your goals.

20.- Offer a fair salary to your staff: What is better than having a worker who is happy and satisfied with their work and remuneration? A happy worker makes your customers happy as well. And everything ends up reversing in your business.

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