With a wide adoption of sustainable practices in hotels, the traditional luxuries of a hotel stay – fresh towels, daily-made beds, hot showers and blasting cold air – have become an option to consciously choose at a cost to the environment. These days, guests are asked to reuse towels, to decline room services and are reminded of their water and energy usage through pamphlets and signs in their rooms. No hotel is forcing guests to accept the ‘green’ option; however, when guests choose not to follow this trend, the luxury may come with a sense of guilt. While these passive, and perhaps “guilt-based,” measures have been effective in reducing waste and energy, they don’t fully tackle the issue at the heart of sustainability: making the world a healthier place in which humans can thrive. For that, a more holistic approach that includes both conservation and health as components of a greater wellness initiative is a necessary trend that is gaining in popularity. From serving fresh, organic fares to embracing local communities, here are three ways the hospitality industry can adopt this expanded definition of what it means to be sustainable to create prosperous, healthy spaces for people:
1. Practice Sensible Gastronomy
While people seek to live and eat better, Food and Beverage (F&B) in hospitality is in a unique position to deliver sustainable, healthier options for guests and communities. From an in-room coffee station to upscale hotel restaurants, F&B controls and influences guests’ experiences greatly. The idea of good food has many characteristics that feed into both conservation and wellness. For example, it can
- Be made with ingredients indigenous or exclusive to geographical regions,like fresh-caught, local seafood, backyard-grown, seasonal vegetables or locally made cheese
- Use innovative methods of preparation, such assous-vide, which employs air-tight plastic bags in a controlled water temperature to use less water while maintaining all nutrients
- Be prepared by top chefs or by traveling chefs who work at a hotel on a rotating basis for an added feeling of luxury and innovation in healthy, sustainable food such as Rene Redzepiat Mandarin Oriental Tokyo or Grant Achatsat Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Other hotels have incorporated a concept where the chefs will change four times a year (Palazzo Versace in Dubai) or featuring a 50-day dining concept (Café Royal in London)to provide both variety and a unique dining experience to its guests.When implemented properly, sensible gastronomy can become part of a hotel’s acclaim and a strong reason for locals and visitors alike to dine there.
2. Dedicate Space to Wellbeing
As people become more interested in their overall health, providing physical spaces and materials dedicated to these trends, whether it be as simple as in-room yoga gear or a spin bike or something more experimental such as a sensory deprivation tank or an anechoic chamber, becomes a unique opportunity to offer positive experiences for people. Hotels such as the EVEN brand by InterContinental Hotel Groups have made fitness and healthy eating options part of their concept and are built into everyday operations. Rather than offer a single fitness room, guests can use equipment in a gym, attend a class or use in-room options for exercise. The Four Seasons in Maui has a dedicated wellness team for their guests with a nutritionist, chef and spa director on site. Whether on business or vacation, hospitality can help guests stay on a wellness track with the physical and mental health benefits of regular exercise.
3. Harness a Sense of Place
Use of a distinct local characteristic and engagement with local communities can enrich multiple layers of sustainable hotel design. A strong sense of place offers the opportunity to bolster the local economy while providing an authentic experience to guests, whether by a promotion for a particular industry, historical/scenic tour or certain events that are inspired by the location. In this way, a sense of place can benefit sustainability through reducing waste and stimulating local economies.A prime example of sustainability through sense of place is the Cayuga Collection, with locations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The hotel brand is known for its small-scale eco-lodges that operate on a four pillared approach to hospitality: sustainability, change, attitude and quality. In the resorts, guest rooms do not include phones, TV, radios, hair dryers, air-conditioning, plastic water bottles or room service, but instead provide biodegradable, locally-made soap, shampoo and conditioner alongside exotic views and experiences. The brand also hires and trains local employees and volunteers at local schools through a non-profit, public charity—an admirable and replicable model for other hotels and resorts across the world. Cayuga Collection uses its exclusive geographical location and the communities surrounding its properties as a feature, which lends itself naturally to both sustainable design and overall wellness for people.
Sustainability, as well as design and architectural inspiration, can also come from local history. For example, two boutique hotels in Paris – Les Bains and Le Montana – were historic nightclubs converted to hotels. By embracing the unique features and history of the property, the hotels sustainably repurposed city infrastructure and also uncovered an authentic experience to its guests interested in the history behind the building. From exotic tropical towns to old Paris nightlife, sense of place provides a feeling of luxury through exclusivity and can promote sustainability in the process.
The first wave of sustainable design in hospitality not only benefited our environment but also benefited hotel operators. Installation of energy-efficient light bulbs, water-efficient toilet fixtures and a towel reusing program resulted in reduced energy use and operating costs. The next generation of sustainable design redefines the concept to include not just conservation of resources, but overall wellness for hotel guests to thrive in their environments. By this definition, the new era of both sustainability and luxury in hospitality is health and quality. Developing those wellness practices that provide positive experiences for travelers, like healthy food, spaces, and communities, hotels are positioned to attract more new and repeat satisfied guests, while preserving the operation cost-cutting of the original sustainable design.
—Irene Yim is an Associate Architect based in the tvsdesign Atlanta office.
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