Audits of environmental sustainability management systems – Vietnam, Philippines & Thailand

          Client: Various International and Regional hotel management cooperations
          Date: October 2013

          Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Krabi and Bangkok, October / November 2013

          It is a privilege to be allowed in the belly of a hotel and to assess and review a hotel for two entire days. Any hotel management system which has subscribed to an environmental sustainability certification is way ahead of “the curve”. They deserve to be congratulated.

          Following here is an important insight, observed during past audits. I like to share, without naming the hotels due to obvious reasons, with those of you who are interested.

          There was recently (October 2013) study published by Cornell University students or faculty which had the oddacity to state: “Cornell Study finds that sustainability is overall revenue neutral for hotel industry !” Forgive me for not providing the link to said study. It is my personal opinion that said study is misleading. (If you, dear reader, want however read said paper, i am sure you can find it by pasting the title in your browser.)

          Does a hotel’s environmental sustainability activities have a payback?

          Answering the question about payback is not straight forward as one would expect. What does “involvement” include? In order to make it clear what is meant, lets set some system borders by asking the question in a different way.

          Does a hotels communication of environmental sustainability activities influence the purchase behavior of their hotel guests?

          Obviously the above statement requires a hotel to actually have any form of communication about its ES activities. Such as monthly newsletter articles, a page on it’s website, posters and slides in the hotel lobby or guest room aso. Many hotel do have some kind of ES communication. Some better then others. (Hint: observe the development of the expression “green washing”).

          A hotel can measure the impact of such ES communication via its written feedback questionnaires. Many a hotel guest has been sent a post-stay email including a multitude of questions concerning their recent hotel stay. Can you recall that any of those questions concern environmental sustainability? Probably not.

          There is however a hotel management group who has added 4 questions covering its environmental sustainability activities and its impact on the guests. I had the opportunity to study their guest feedback data and would like to share with you what a few short calculations brought to daylight.

          Said hotel had sent out its feedback email to all their FIT guests during the month of September and had received 190 replies. One of the question inquired if the environmental sustainability activities of the hotel had influenced the guests purchase decision. This question was answered with “yes” by 50% or 90 FIT guests.

          Assuming that each FIT guest stayed only one night, one can multiply 90 x the average room rate to arrive to the amount of revenue generated. This provides a monetary reverence point for an ROI analysis. In the case of the particular hotel the ROI was VERY short.

          It is understood, that ES activities are not implemented over night. Nor is the communication of said ES activities without cost. However, savings due to expense reductions respectively additional revenue via recycling are not included yet.

          All in all, this example represents that through the cooperation of several departments who understand the interconnectedness of environmental sustainability activities, a hotel is able to provide ROI calculations on environmental sustainability actions.

          ROI calculations which underscore the importance of the paradigm change required for a truly future proof hotel operation !

           

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