IDEAS FROM YOUR PEERS

Energy reduction programmes and electric vehicle charging points: Using eco-friendly initiatives to boost business

Consumers are increasingly looking for environmentally-friendly hotels and guest houses

With an ever-growing number of customers booking accommodation based on the environmental credentials of the business, BigHospitality has spoken to hotel giant Rezidor and Snowdonia-based Brynn Bella guest house to discover whether the long-term benefits of becoming more eco-friendly and sustainable outweigh the initial costs.

The ideas:

In hotel operations across the Group’s Radisson Blu, Park Inn by Radisson and Hotel Missoni brands, the Think Planet initiative will focus on creating 'smart energy habits' like switching off lights and equipment, turning heating and cooling to eco-mode and reporting energy-related issues that need attention quickly as well as preventive maintenance. 

Other tools which will be utilised by Rezidor as it looks to cut energy use in its hotels include daylight and motion sensors for lighting; condensation water recuperation from air-conditioning; energy-efficient lighting; variable extraction systems in the hotel kitchens; and extra staff engagement through audio and video training.

  • Meanwhile, Bryn Bella guest house in North Wales has just installed two electric vehicle charging points in its car park, marking another step forward from owners Joan and Mark Edwards in promoting sustainable tourism across the region.

This follows a number of other green initiatives that the guest house has undertaken, including solar panels to heat the property’s water and using electricity from renewable sources along with its own waste and energy reduction programmes.

The electric vehicle charging points were donated to Bryn Bella for free by Zero Carbon World, a charity which is donating 1,000 units to businesses around the world which are helping to promote greener tourism.

Why is it so important?

  • Inge Huijbrechts, director of responsible business at Rezidor, said: “Being eco-friendly reflects positively on who you are as a brand; it reflects positively on your relationship with employees; it improves relationships with suppliers; and it’s good for your shareholders because it’s also actually a cost-saving exercise.

“Minimising our environmental footprint is part of our Responsible Business programme which also focuses on community and ethical aspects and health and safety. As a hospitality company, our environmental performance is very important because hotels simply have an important impact on the environment

“Our origins as a company are in Scandanavia and the environmental awareness over there is very high - I think there’s definitely room for improvement in hotels here in the UK. The important thing is to prove that these advanced environmental technologies can work in a hotel environment, which is what we are doing.”

  • Mark Edwards, co-owner of Bryn Bella guest house, said: “My wife and I used to work in the finance industry and we understand that, to make a business, you’ve got to keep a cap on your costs, so we’ve always been waste and cost conscious.

“But, to be honest, it wasn’t a great leap from being frugal to taking a sustainable stance. Things like putting solar heating in for hot water, for example, is a no-brainer - it’s now paid for itself.

“In terms of the electric vehicle charging points, it’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation; without the charging points, electric vehicles will never come. I’m hoping that, by leading the way, other key attractions in the area will also install them.

“If you just break the habit and pick up good habits, it doesn’t become an onus, it just becomes a way of life. There are so many sustainable, eco-friendly options around on everything from cleaning chemicals to bed linen. You’ve really got to go out of your way now to not be eco-friendly.”

What about the initial costs?

  • “Running the Think Planet programme will require a big investment from Rezidor but it will eventually bring us enormous cost savings,” added Huijbrechts. “You need to just define your own action plans and then really try to stick to them.

“You should first look at your existing installations and see how you can optimise them. Start with what you have and find an external expert that can work with your own engineering team to optimise what you have.

“In one day of checking our hotel at Stanstead Airport, we implemented changes that are going to save 500 megawatts a year, which equates to £60,000.”

  • Edwards from Bryn Bella added: “The only initial cost for the charging points for us was the installation, as Zero Carbon world saw the ethos we were trying to promote and donated them for us.

“People think becoming more eco-friendly is really expensive but it isn’t. It actually makes a really strong business case.

“You shouldn’t be scared of being ‘different’ in the hotel or B&B market - from what we’ve done here, we’ve seen a great boost in business from the overseas market, particularly guests coming from Germany and Holland - it’s a great differentiator for us and it’s something that more and more guests are looking out for.

“But, like any business decision you make, it should be carefully thought through before being implemented.”

The expert’s view:

Guy Holmes, managing director of Captivate Hospitality consultants, said: "The worlds resources are being depleted so becoming eco-friendly is essential - especially with increases in the World’s population. But there are also great business reasons as well.

"The price of energy continues to increase with no signs of coming down in the near future and so does the price of food. Therefore it makes perfect business sense to reduce waste and unnecessary consumption of energy.  Consumers are increasingly conscious of green issues and an ever growing number will purchase based on the environmental credentials of a business.

"However there are a whole range of things that can be done to make your business environmentally friendly – some small, some requiring a big investment. It makes sense to start on the cheaper options – cutting waste across the board before starting on bigger capital investments. All measures make sense, but some of the ones that require more investment will only pay off in the long run."

Final words of advice:

  • "You don’t have to dive right in with a full range of eco-friendly initiatives," added Holmes. "You can start slowly and build up – although once you see that it makes economical as well as environmental sense you’ll soon be looking at all areas of your business. There are plenty of charities and government bodies that will be able to give you advice about where to start.
  • Edwards from Bryn Bella said: "Everybody is trying to sell you an eco solution these days, it’s not always applicable. So do the homework, take advice from reputable sources and then implement the transition into the business. You could do a lot worse than being involved with the Green Tourism Business Scheme as well, which has a great deal of resources and information."

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