A groundbreaking new report by the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. explores sustainability in the hospitality industry and examines ways in which hotels are incorporating eco-friendly best practices into both operations and construction. The study includes insights from leading hotel owners, developers and investors.

Entitled Sustainability in Hotels: Opportunities and Trends Shaping the Future of Hospitality, the 32-page report outlines the business case for sustainability, provides performance metrics, lists best practices, presents case studies, and looks at the major trends poised to change the future of the industry. Hotels are currently among the highest per-square-foot energy and water users of all commercial buildings.

The study cites several drivers of the sustainability movement in the industry, among them: government regulations; such as requirements to reduce carbon emissions; green incentives, including tax breaks for renewable energy projects; and internal goals, such as a hotel chain’s commitment to science-based sustainability targets. Guest expectations are also a factor, particularly among younger consumers who increasingly demand sustainable travel options.

Although the report states that hotels face unique challenges in executing environmentally-friendly improvements — such as complicated ownership models, a lack of utility data, and concerns about disrupting the guest experience — it also outlines ways in which properties can improve sustainability and achieve financial benefits. According to the study, hotels that implement sustainability initiatives typically see immediate returns that add to the bottom line and give them a competitive edge, including reductions in energy and water costs.

In addition, the report highlights four trends that are expected to shape the future of the hospitality industry:

  • Modular construction. Prefabricated modules built offsite and transported to the construction site will be used to build the hotel of the future. These modules will  minimize waste, streamline construction efficiency and standardize quality across assets.

  • Sustainable renovations. Guest room renovations will incorporate sustainable materials, from fixtures to furniture. This not only will minimize a property’s carbon footprint but also will support guest health by reducing off-gassing of volatile organic compounds.

  • Smart technology. Smart guest room technology will increasingly be implemented to conserve energy and offer personalized service. Using a phone or tablet app, guests will be able to control virtually everything in the room — from window coverings and television to heating and air conditioning.

  • Focus on wellness. Properties will continue to emphasize wellness with offerings such as aromatherapy, organic local food, advanced water and air purification systems, rental work-out gear, and in-room fitness amenities. These wellness features will promote healthy behaviors and strengthen brand loyalty. 

The study concludes that sustainability in hotel development is not a short-term trend but a lasting change. And while long-term sustainability initiatives require substantial planning and collaboration between owners and operators, the investment can pay sizable dividends in terms of energy savings, increased net operating income and improved guest experiences.

To read the entire Sustainability in Hotels report, go to https://americas.uli.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/ULI-Documents/ULI-HotelSustainabilityReport.pdf