Innovation is a critical and fundamental driver of change in our journey toward a sustainable future for the industry. At times, change has been gradual to account for the vast scale and reach of our great industry. At other moments, the industry has reacted with incredible agility.
Research shows that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions globally, the goal of limiting warming to close to 1.5 or even 2 degrees will be beyond reach. Additionally, the pandemic has acted as a stark reminder of how vulnerable people and communities are disproportionally affected by adversity. The hospitality industry, and its leaders, has a responsibility to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for all.
Innovation takes many forms. There are, of course, technological advancements that are helping us to a cleaner and greener impact. For example, enabling a greater understanding of our environmental footprints, being more efficient with resources, limiting our greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and waste, and developing renewable and more sustainable products and resources.
Challenging traditional business models
We should also be more innovative in our ways of working. Hospitality often has complex business models, with different parts of the value chain involved in owning, operating and financially investing in a property, each with its own supply chain, labor sourcing and business partners. A more sustainable hospitality industry will, without a doubt, require greater integration into hotel ownership and management. This relies on a more innovative and collaborative approach, challenging the traditional business models and hierarchal structures. The Business Case for Sustainable Hotels offers tangible recommendations in this regard.
Hotels lie at the heart of most communities around the world, and we can be innovative in ensuring we protect and enhance the destinations we serve. Understanding our impact at a local level, building and operating hotels in ways that are harmonious with the local environment, working with communities on shared projects to address a local need and safeguarding the wildlife and scenery which is enjoyed by residents and guests alike are things that must be considered. As an industry, we must also look at what we are putting back into our communities. The hospitality sector provides jobs and boosts local economies. It’s important that we recognize the needs of our local areas so that opportunities are being given to those who need them most and we protect the vulnerable from exploitation. For example, employability programs improve inclusive employment from within the community. Ultimately, innovation is the way forward for a more sustainable industry.
Wolfgang M. Neumann,
chair of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance