Expert Opinions Sustainable transparency for travel and hospitality brands By Industry Expert / Posted on 27 August, 2021 15:30 A holistic, sustainable change requires the combined motivation to extend the business runway and protect our world, opines Linh Le, founder of Luxperia and Luxperia Collective When considering sustainability, the mind frequently thinks of environmental first; or those in the corporate world would envision the best way to balance operational costs for a profitable future. The latter is more inclined towards longevity of business while the former seeks to protect our world – a movement increasingly demanded by consumers and operators alike. It is the combination of these two ideas that would truly seek a holistic, sustainable change since profitability goes hand-in-hand with giving back to the world – or protecting our environment, be it income for local people, reducing waste or lowering carbon emissions. Sustainability can cover so much these days and the ‘greenwashing’ by travel and hospitality brands may be compared to the ‘pinkwashing’ by consumer brands targeting the LGBT+ dollar. Think of a company that claims to be ‘green’ yet continues to print copious amounts of paper documents, rents an inefficient office site, or does not pay staff standard wages. While it is cool to claim modern facilities and cashless or paperless contact points, are we placing too much reliance on technology in an industry that is traditionally supported by humans? Does this diminish the essence of ‘hospitality’? I believe we should examine further the ‘sustainability’ of human resources. While a project can be environmentally green, it also needs to find a balance that hires local people – supporting local communities with wages, training and career development, and builds a team to support such a sustainable and eco-green backbone. Otherwise, I see a future where ‘hospitality’ will lose its human touch. Take an example of automatic check-in and check-out at a modern city hotel: While environmentally friendly (and safe) for time-poor business travellers, could we risk losing valuable insight from local hosts in exchange for an express process? This style of hospitality creates a fast-food like accommodation experience. While the ‘experience’ described differs from the traditional idea of staying in a warm and welcoming home-away-from-home, it still offers an experience and deserves its own market niche. It may not be experience-rich but it fulfils the need for an efficient experience. The traveller staying at human-less hotels is also a different kind of traveller – one who seeks limited emotional transactions and a quick/easy/safe travel solution. Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, news and consumer eyes looking at sustainability as environmental care is on the increase. However, public education and awareness of the true meaning of sustainability on all macro levels is further required. Marketers and brand leaders should develop campaigns about the people behind the technology, the knowledge that cannot be shared via apps and the redirection of operational costs/profits that help build local communities. This message can actively gain traction as part of post-Covid recovery strategy. Transparency to sustainable practices will help win the hearts and loyalties of a hyper-aware traveller community. Project leaders and investors need to consider the wider idea of ‘sustainability’ beyond environmental and waste management, to drive human resource as the seed to build on sustainability models. Only when you empower a workforce partnered with eco-conscious design, building and operations while balancing positive profitability, that’s when you get a truly sustainable project – otherwise it is all smoke and mirrors.