With the devastation from Cyclone Gabrielle highlighting the scale of the climate crisis, a sustainability expert says tourists are increasingly willing to pay more for businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint.
Australia-based EarthCheck chief executive and founder Stewart Moore said there had been a marked change in attitudes, coinciding with the onset of the pandemic.
“The jury was always out on how much they’re [travellers] prepared to pay for sustainability. The latest research says it’s 50 per cent which would certainly be open to paying more if they knew you were doing the right thing. That’s a revolution.”
An Expedia survey of 11,000 people in 11 markets last year found half would be willing to pay more for transport, activities and lodging if those things were more sustainable.
“That was never the case [before]. They’re interested and willing to pay that extra $15 suddenly and it’s the youth market that’s driving it and for the first time people over 30 are open to the discussion,” said Moore.
A Booking.com survey of 34,000 people in 32 countries last year found that 71 per cent of travellers wanted to make more effort to stay in a more sustainable property last year, up 10 per cent from the year before.
It also found that 38 per cent actively looked for information on a property’s sustainability efforts.
Since 1987, EarthCheck has been a scientific benchmarking, certification and advisory group for travel and tourism. Businesses pay for its consultancy services, which include training for staff, and for its rating services. It operates in 70 countries and Moore said the world was scrutinising with increasing urgency the way in which the hospitality industry monitors and reports on its sustainability performance.
“We’ve been working with an operator in Iceland for over 23 years and to be fair, most of the rest of the world only really opened its eyes to this three years ago about the need to take real action.”
In this country, Cordis Auckland has been part of the programme for 15 years and Moore is in New Zealand to mark the hotel’s Earthcheck Master status, one of 15 hotels around the world with that rating.
Managing director Franz Mascarenhas said 15 years ago the hotel made a commitment to be a sustainable business and had been working in incremental steps to achieve this.
The hotel added 244 rooms with its new Pinnacle Tower last year and a number of initiatives have been implemented, including high-performance glazing, energy-efficient LED lighting and controls, water metering, thermally environmentally efficient facade glazing, biking facilities, and e-charging stations for electric vehicles.
The hotel has a beehive producing 45kg of honey, a soap recycling scheme that produced over half a tonne of soap in 2018 and 2019, and a seafood scheme where about 80 per cent of seafood is completely sustainable. All the soap collected was distributed to community groups around New Zealand and in other countries.
Moore says EarthCheck Master Certification is hard to reach, not easy.
With 640 rooms, Cordis was a big hotel and “I think in fairness, lots of improvement to do in terms of water waste energy, but look, they’re faring pretty well considering the last five years have been miserable for tourism.”
There needed to be a broad vision. “It doesn’t happen unless it’s a top-down commitment. It’s no longer just about environmental footprinting, it’s about your community in which you’re located, your connection to your shareholders and also to the supply chain,” said Moore.
“Waste is probably the biggest issue, being honest about it from a tourism perspective.”
Getting staff on board was crucial; monitoring results of staff training around the world revealed that the carbon footprint of hotels could be reduced by between 5 per cent and 8 per cent. The “footsoldiers” in kitchens and among the cleaning staff were critical in achieving that.
“Cleaners, you just got to love them. They turn off the lights, clean the toilets, use the chemicals [they should] and hold the thing together. They manage the rooms.”
Engineers who control temperatures in hotels also needed to be fully trained. “Sometimes they’re not managing the hardware as best as they could.”