Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Thu May 19 2016

What's Fueling the Rise of Sustainable Hotels?

Hotel & Resort | Patrick Clarke | May 19, 2016

What's Fueling the Rise of Sustainable Hotels?

PHOTO: Element Vancouver Metrotown. (Photo courtesy of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide).

Last month, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced plans to double its Element brand portfolio in North America by the end of 2018, with 22 new openings scheduled for the U.S. and Canada in the coming years.

The brand's monumental growth resulting from the increased demand for sustainable hotels highlights what's important to today's travelers.

Speaking to TravelPulse, Global Brand Leader for Specialty Select Brands at Starwood Brian McGuinness pointed to a key shift in mentality among hotel guests.

"Sustainability is no longer an optional bonus in a hotel stay; travelers are increasingly choosing brands that share their sense of purpose," said McGuinness. "When an Element hotel is an option, they want to stay with us for our bevy of energy-saving options, sustainable programming and eco-conscious room offerings."

But it's even simpler than that, according to Penn State School of Hospitality Management director Donna Quadri-Felitti.

"Whatever product you buy, you want to feel good about that purchase," said Quadri-Felitti. "People want to reduce the cognitive dissonance."

Therefore, brands like Element are capable of thriving seemingly anywhere.

"It sounds so simple but anywhere where there are eco-conscious, wellness-seeking travelers, there is a demand," said McGuinness. "There really is no limit to where Element is planning to expand, which makes it perfect for all markets."

READ MORE: Hotel of Tomorrow: How Technology Will Improve the Guest Experience

Like many, Quadri-Felitti credits the millennial generation for propelling the sustainability trend. For many younger travelers, she points out, "it's not just about celebrating something on April 22 (Earth Day), it's about living that value system."

Wisely, Element hotels provide countless opportunities for guests to live by that value system.

"Each hotel offers the Bikes to Borrow program with biking maps unique to their city and terrain, whether urban or suburban," notes McGuinness. "Every hotel also has a Restore pantry, and local flavors and treats shape some of the selection. Plus, each hotel as a RELAX reception during the week which offers complimentary wine, many of it being local or regional."

READ MORE: Sustainability's in Style at Karisma Hotels

As Element expands and other brands look to adapt to demand, it's likely hotels will have to find new ways to stand out. "In time, that might not be the differentiator because more hotel brands will move in that direction," said Quadri-Felitti.

And as the sustainability movement becomes customary guests are likely to notice a growing number of dual-branded properties.

"Dual-branded hotels are also seeing a boom because developers know they need to build brands that speak to different travel personas," said McGuinness. "For example, a business traveler may want to stay at Element Boston during the week for work, but then stay for a long weekend and move over to the Aloft Boston (right next door) for cocktails, live music and a scene."

But as consumers continue to gain awareness and take the potential environmental consequences or benefits into consideration before booking a hotel room, it's clear that sustainable hotels are on track to become the norm.


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