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Collaboration, leadership and education are key to sustainable hotel industry

Stephen Farrant, Director of the International Tourism Partnership programme moderated a panel discussion themed ‘Developing tomorrow’s leaders to future proof your business’ on 8 March 2011 at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin.

IHIF is an annual event for the global hotel investment community, and brought together 1,600 investors and key players from 62 countries over three days to discuss trends and best practice in the industry.

The interactive panel session featured James Goodman of Forum for the Future; Harold Goodwin, Director, International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University; Robb Webb, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hyatt Hotels Corporation; and Jennifer Silberman, VP Corporate Responsibility, Hilton Worldwide. Collective observations centred on a need for the hospitality industry to accept that sustainability is ‘the new reality’, and collaboration, not competition will bring effective solutions.

Key conclusions from the session included:

• Sustainability should be collaborative not competitive

• Next generation of managers is committed but needs training, skills and leadership

• The hotel industry has the potential to leapfrog other sectors

Robb Webb, Chief Human Resources Officer at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, 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 the range of vocational and academic courses they offer.

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.

Speaking after the event, Stephen Farrant highlighted the important role developers and hotel owners can have: “The industry 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”.


Going Green (English)

The International Tourism Partnership's checklist for minimum standards toward a sustainable hotel

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