From Passive to Proactive: Embracing Sustainability in Vacation Rentals
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Eco warrior. Tree hugger. Greeny. Just a few expressions that have come and gone over the last few decades to describe those committed to environmental causes, and often used in a derogatory way. But, this is changing.
Like many, I've been a 'casual environmentalist' for years, doing my bit with recycling. LED light bulbs, and energy-efficient appliances. Just lately I’ve realized it's time for a deeper commitment, particularly as a contributor and educator in the short-term rental provider.
The world is changing, and so are the expectations of travellers.
The Rise of Eco-Conscious Travellers
The travel industry is witnessing a significant shift. More and more travelers are not just seeking destinations; they're looking for sustainable experiences. They're choosing accommodations that reflect their environmental values.
This isn't just anecdotal; studies and surveys are increasingly showing a preference for eco-friendly lodging options.
For the past few years Booking.com has commissioned an annual study and published a Sustainability report. The key results from the 2023 report show:
We can’t ignore these shifts.
Personal Journey Towards Greater Sustainability
This realization didn't come to me overnight. It was a gradual awakening to the fact that small steps, while important, aren't enough. I began to reflect on my former business and how much could have been shared with guests and owners, and wasn’t.
How changes, even small ones, could have been so impactful over the 20 years I was CEO.
I’ve listened to the people who are deeply involved in making change happen - Bob Garner of Envirorental; Vaness de Souza Lage, the founder of Sustonica, and those who are already seeing an impact in their property management businesses.
I wish I’d done more then, but what I can do now is to help others still in the business to embrace sustainability wholeheartedly.
Practical Steps for Short-Term Rental Providers
You can head over to Envirornental and Sustonica for more comprehensive tips so here’s just a few things you could be doing right now.
Energy Efficiency: Beyond just LED bulbs, think about exploring solar energy options and smart thermostats to reduce overall energy consumption.
Waste Reduction: Implement a recycling program and cut down on single-use plastics, opting for reusable or biodegradable options instead. Research how you can you can reduce food waste by composting, or utiltiisng local food waste systems.
Water Conservation: Install low-flow showerheads and toilets. Create friendly reminders for guests about conserving water.
Sustainable Amenities: It’s easy to switch to eco-friendly toiletries and opt for refillable dispensers instead of single use products. Look out for locally sourced, sustainable products.
Green Certification: Explore certification programs such as the one offered by Sustonica to officially brand your properties as eco-friendly, adding credibility and appeal. The Booking.com stats show this is a powerful way of attracting guests:
“43% of today’s travelers would be willing to pay more for travel options with a sustainable certification”
Educating and Encouraging Guests
It's not just about making changes; it's also about informing and involving guests.
Make sure they know what you are doing to make sure your rentals are sustainable, and offer tips to help them maintain eco-friendly practices during their stay.
Use digital guides such as Touch Stay to share information on volunteer opportunities; local artisans; farmer’s markets, and where they can buy other locally produced items.
More travellers are looking to offset their carbon footprints by giving back to the local communities they visit, so make it easier for them to do so.
The Bigger Picture
Every small step you take within your business contributes to a larger goal. It's about creating a ripple effect, inspiring other rental providers and travelers to think and act green. We're part of a global community, and our collective actions have a tremendous impact.
Adapting to the needs of eco-conscious travelers isn't just good for the planet; it's good for business. In the years ahead we will have no choice but to align our practices with the values of sustainability. Together, we can pave the way for a greener, more responsible future in travel.