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Collaboration, Leadership and Education are key to sustainable hotel industry

Collaboration, Leadership and Education are key to sustainable hotel industry

The hospitality industry needs to accept that sustainability is the new reality, and that collaboration, not competition will bring effective solutions and better understanding.

This was one conclusion of discussions during a panel session entitled “Developing Tomorrow’s Leaders to Future-Proof Your Business,” moderated by Stephen Farrant of the International Tourism Partnership, during the recent International Hotel Investment Forum, Berlin.

Leadership and education

Rob Webb, HR chief at Hyatt Hotels, said that while there may still be some leaders in the hotel business who would benefit from a ‘sustainability retro-fit’, the younger generation of future managers are highly aware and motivated.

“Individuals must be prepared to be role models – it is individuals not companies who make change, and the solutions have to be specific to the local context, commented Professor Harold Goodwin of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism.


Entrants to the industry are keen to acquire hard skills in sustainability, and many are looking for courses that can deliver them.  Goodwin highlighted the need for all colleges, hotel schools and universities to keep a strong focus on sustainability in all vocational and academic courses.

Communicate success

Hoteliers also need to turn up the volume on the good examples of sustainable operations.

“We need to talk up the success stories in the hospitality industry.  We have moved beyond towels in bathrooms, but the perception persists that this is all the industry is doing,” said Stephen Farrant, Director of the International Tourism Partnership.

Jennifer Silberman, VP for Corporate Responsibility at Hilton Worldwide, argued that while the hospitality industry may have arrived rather late to the sustainability party,  learning from the mistakes of other industries can allow the hospitality sector to leapfrog to more ambitious goals and achievements.

Crucial role for developers and owners

James Goodman of forum for the future pointed to resource scarcity as a major challenge for the industry to deal with in the coming decade.

Speaker after the event, Stephen Farrant highlighted the important role developers and hotel owners can have:  “We can do a lot to reduce the impact of existing hotels on the environment – but hotels that are designed with sustainability in mind are infinitely more resource efficient. Better communication and information for developers and owners is crucial to achieving a more sustainable hotel sector”.


*    In the long run, sustainability is the only game in town
*    Solutions will come through collaboration not competition
*    Hospitality can reach the cutting edge of sustainability
*    The industry needs to turn up the volume on the good examples of what it is doing
*    Leaders in all disciplines must step up as role models and share their expertise and skills
*    True sustainability must be built-in – so developers and owners have a crucial role too