Going behind the scenes at two hotels revealed how much sustainable practices have come on in the last 20 years, writes Abta’s Nikki White

Nearly 20 years ago I started working in hospitality. From housekeeping to kitchen, reception to the bar I worked customer facing and behind the scenes across the operations.

There was definitely no mention of sustainable practices, recycling wasn’t done, guiding customers on water and energy use or trying to buy local just didn’t feature.

Going behind the scenes at two hotels recently took me back. It was really encouraging to follow two Travelife audits, one at an internationally recognised chain and one at an independent, remote lodge property.

What both audits highlighted to me is the change in what hotels are now doing around sustainability to improve their operations and importantly to add to the guest experience.

Just a few of the changes that many hotels are now doing as part of their routine:

Recycling at back of house: customers might not see recycling bins in their rooms but hotels have sophisticated systems in place for guest waste and they have waste management plans for all other types of waste. Also many housekeeping trollies have different coloured bags attached to them for housekeeping to manage the waste separation.

Restaurant menus: informing guests about local food and in many cases highlighting sustainably sourced products. An initiative supported by one of the hotels I visited is to feature local products in hotel owned or operated shops giving guests the chance to purchase something that represents local culture and supports local artisan communities.

Having a plan in place: both hotels have a plan that covers the environmental and social issues that relate to their property. This is broken down to each function of the business so everyone knows their part.

For example one hotel identified peak water usage between 7-10am & 5-7pm and is using the additional energy that solar alone could not support during these times.

Child protection: a difficult subject for many to engage in but the hotel employees were aware of and understand the issues. In both of these properties, staff talked about initiatives they are working on and the subject doesn’t seem to be so taboo anymore.

In one operation posters were up featuring a national campaign to raise awareness of the unacceptable practices involving children.

Guest communications: a range of information designed for guests was available in bedrooms and receptions about sustainability.

It’s easy to think that this is just how things are done now. However, not all properties do have information showing how to get the most out of the local area, encouraging guests to explore the surroundings and informing them of the native plants and foods planted around the property.

Think what it could be like in another 20 years if all hotels are doing these things as part of normal operations, even more what else will be happening then that we haven’t even started now? Change does happen, we just don’t always notice it until we look back and see where we have come from