Leveraging the Power of Sustainability for Hotels
With the recent COP21 climate talks in Paris, there has been a lot of chatter about the impacts of global warming to our planet and society and what we should do about it. We hear a lot of anecdotal stories, best practices and case studies on what companies are doing today on the sustainability front. And If you’ve been listening to these stories over the past few years, you might have noticed an emerging trend: stories include data. When we talk about sustainability, we now include people, planet and profit. It does include community and giving programs like donations and planting trees, but it also includes things like energy usage, carbon emissions, water scarcity and waste generation. And how does all of the above impact your bottom line? The answers will lie in the data that you track, monitor and analyze.
What types of data are we talking about? For hotel operations, this can get a bit more complicated than a commercial building. For one, hotels typically run 24/ 7, while a commercial building will generally power off over night with very few people occupying the building. There are those standard utility bills received by all, such as the electricity and water bills. And then there are best practices such as the ubiquitous towel and linens reuse program or a less common but soon to be emerging trend of using renewable energy onsite.
If you’re a hotelier, you are probably familiar with the STAR benchmarking report. STR has been providing average daily rate ( ADR), occupancy and revenue per available room ( REVPAR) data for a hotel’s competitive set for over 30 years. It has been a staple for many revenue managers. But what can hotel operators, owners, and brands use to decipher the complicated landscape of sustainability?
To get the full picture, there are two types
of data a hotel can track and monitor to understand current state as well as find opportunities to reduce impact and cut costs. First, track utility consumption on a set frequency ( generally on a monthly interval). You should be able to answer questions like what was your total energy consumption last year? What was your total carbon emissions same period? What about total water usage? Second, track attributes of your design, equipment and operations. Do you have low- flow show- erheads to conserve water? Do you have variable frequency drives to reduce energy consumption?
And why is it important to collect both types of data? They go hand in hand like a nice Super Tuscan wine with oxtail ragù sauce. You may find that your energy consumption is high after tracking your utility usage. You want to figure out ways to reduce consumption and cost. One of the ways would be to implement variable frequency drives or install low- flow shower heads in all guest rooms. Similar to the STAR report, it would be even more interesting if you can compare your usage, cost and best practices against your peer group. What if you found out that your property is among the 15% that use renewable energy onsite among your peers? That’s something to pat yourself on the back about. But what if you are the 20% of hotels that don’t use variable frequency drives? And you also see that your energy consumption is much higher than your peer group? That might get you to act fast. And that’s really the power of data, using it as a driving force to catalyze sustainability across the hotel industry, starting with a region, country and hopefully globally.
To better illustrate the power of data and benchmarking, let’s review the Sustainability Data Trends Report conducted by Horwath HTL and Greenview, that included over 1,400 hotels and serviced apartments across the Asia Pacific region. The study took 2014 data on select design, equipment, and operations aspects to benchmark within and across countries. The report includes both data types: ( 1) utility consumption and cost data and; ( 2) best practices embedding aspects of design, equipment, and operations. The focus was on three areas: ( 1) trending best practices ( e. g. linen/ towel reuse, low- flow fixtures); ( 2) emerging best practices ( e. g. variable frequency drives, water reuse); and ( 3) nascent innovations ( e. g. use of renewable energy).
Utility data for energy and water reflect hotels’ 2014 data. Energy usage can vary for hotels due to factors such as weather and occupancy. Having a swimming pool and large landscaping areas can also impact water usage. The important question to ask is whether you are using your energy and water efficiently. Below is the utilities and carbon emissions snapshot for Thailand. It is broken out by property type including full service, limited service, resort, city/ urban, and convention properties. The hotels can use the data below to understand where they stack up against other hotels in the same peer group.
On a side note, if you want to search the range of carbon emissions and energy usage among hotels around the world, check out the Hotel Footprinting Tool at www. hotelfootprints. org ( it’s free!). In the tool, the Benchmarking function shows the carbon and energy footprint data for specific geographies. If you have been tracking your energy consumption and carbon emissions data, you can compare your hotel’s footprint with those of other hotels in their region and market segment. Linen and towel reuse programs are ubiquitous and in place for the majority of hotels in all regions. Thailand too has high percentage of hotels adopting this practice. However, only 33% of those with a linen towel reuse program change bed linens only upon guests’ requests. If you have a linen/ towel reuse program, one easy thing you can do to double the savings, is only change the linens when the guest requests, instead of making the guest put the card on the bed to tell you not to change it.
Installing low- flow fixtures in restrooms including showerheads, faucets, and toilets is often the largest opportunity for a hotel to use less water. 61% of Thailand’s full service hotels installed them and 77% of limited service hotels has them.
Reuse of graywater is emerging and prevalent in some countries. Reuse of graywater and rainwater capture is most prevalent in China, and present in about a quarter to a third of hotels in Thailand and other countries. The majority of hotels in the region now use Variable Frequency Drives ( VFDS). The most commonly used VFD is in water pumping and HVAC systems. In Thailand’s case, there is opportunity to grow this practice as there was only 51% of surveyed hotels that have installed them.
Finally, onsite generation of renewable energy is still emerging for most countries including Thailand, but will be a major trend to watch.
We’ve all heard the phrase, if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. If you weren’t a believer in data before, I hope I’ve convinced you that tracking and measuring various sustainability data points are necessary and important. The data will shed light on ways to lessen the environmental footprint, find opportunities to save cost and even elevate guest experience.
Grace Kang is Managing Partner at Greenview. She can be contacted at grace@ greenview. sg