Technology and Sustainability in Hotels

Hospitality Net
June 14, 2024

Hotels are increasingly turning to technology as a powerful ally in the quest for sustainability. Today’s technology enables hotels to implement eco-friendly practices that reduce their environmental footprint and are cost-effective. By leveraging smart systems for energy management, water conservation, and waste reduction, hotels can meet the growing expectations of today’s environmentally conscious travellers while enhancing their bottom line. Integrating technology and sustainability is no longer a mere option but a necessity for hotels aiming to thrive in a competitive and responsible tourism industry.

Demand for Sustainable Tourism
The profile of global travellers has changed significantly. They seek authentic experiences and are more environmentally conscious, expecting personalised services and sustainable practices at every stage of their journey.

Consumers are making more mindful decisions when travelling, opting for eco-conscious and sustainable offerings. Many travellers are aware of the need to become more sustainable and seek information from their preferred travel resources and providers.

As travellers want to see more awareness of environmental issues from their travel and lodging providers, hotels have introduced “greener” practices over the years to meet guest expectations and show commitment to the environment.

It would not be entirely inaccurate to say that hotels were apprehensive about implementing sustainable practices and supporting technologies in the early days. Why? It required a capital investment level that had not been considered before. However, there was and is a silver lining for the operator.

The shift benefits the environment when hotels implement technology that supports their energy consumption on a use-as-needed basis. It also improves the hotel’s bottom line by reducing soaring energy costs.

Today, the need for sustainability has shifted from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” to manage energy costs in a rapidly changing political and environmental landscape.

Technology Enhances Sustainability
Real-Time Monitoring and Data Collection
Technology enables hotels to monitor water and energy consumption in real-time, providing valuable data to help reduce usage and costs. Sensors installed in hotel rooms provide detailed data on guests’ usage patterns. This data helps hotels identify areas where they can reduce consumption, leading to significant cost savings and environmental benefits.

Marriott International introduced an AI-driven energy management system in its hotels. The system optimises energy use by monitoring and controlling HVAC systems in real-time, thus reducing energy waste.

Hilton implemented a water management system with sensors to monitor usage and detect leaks, thereby reducing water waste and supporting sustainability efforts.

Data-Driven Decision Making
By analysing consumption data, hotels can make informed decisions about resource management. Understanding guests’ behaviour enables hotels to implement targeted strategies to reduce waste. For example, hotels can adjust heating and cooling systems based on occupancy levels, minimising energy use without compromising guest comfort.

Engaging Guests in Sustainability Efforts
Technology can engage guests in sustainability initiatives by providing real-time feedback on their consumption, making them more aware of their environmental impact. Hotels can incentivise sustainable behaviour through reward programs, encouraging guests to reduce water and energy use during their stay.

Implementing Technology in Hotels
Smart Thermostats
Implementation: Install smart thermostats in guest rooms that automatically adjust temperatures based on occupancy.

Considerations: Ensure compatibility with existing HVAC systems. Train staff on new technology and provide guests with clear instructions for use. Consider user-friendly interfaces and integration with existing hotel management systems.

Intelligent Lighting Systems
Implementation: Integrate motion sensors and smart lighting systems to control room lights based on occupancy.

Considerations: Assess the current lighting infrastructure. Plan for initial setup costs and potential disruptions during installation. Communicate benefits to guests to ensure acceptance. Ensure interoperability with the hotel’s existing electrical systems.

Water Usage Monitoring
Implementation: Deploy IoT-enabled water meters to track and monitor guests’ water usage in real time.

Considerations: Identify key areas where water usage is highest. Plan for ongoing maintenance and calibration of sensors. Use collected data to educate guests on water conservation. Ensure the system is scalable to cover all areas of the hotel, including kitchens, laundries, and guest rooms.

Energy Management Systems
Implementation: Adopt comprehensive energy management systems integrating data from various IoT devices to optimise overall energy usage.

Considerations: Choose a scalable system that can grow with the hotel’s needs. Ensure seamless integration with existing property management systems. Review data regularly to make continuous improvements. Train staff on interpreting and using data to make energy-saving decisions.

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The Institute for Sustainability Africa (INŚAF) is an independent multi-disciplinary think tank and research institute founded in Zimbabwe in 2010 with the Vision to advance sustainability initiatives for Africa.