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Hoteliers’ debate: will sustainability certification increase turnover?

©  Aaron Burden

Panel discussion at ITB Berlin NOW shows that business and eco-awareness can be combined

Are visitors’ demands on hotels changing, and can practising eco-awareness improve business? This was the topic that a panel discussion attended by ITB Berlin, Fachhochschule des Mittelstands and the InfraCert Institute for Sustainable Development in the Hotel Industry examined at the ITB Berlin NOW Convention.

Tourism experts discussed sustainability aspects in the hospitality sector and in destination marketing. Otto Lindner, CEO of Lindner Hotels AG and president of the German Hotel Association (IHA), has been demonstrating eco-awareness with his hotel chain for many years. In 2019 he had the entire chain certified with “Green Signs“. All the same, “in practising eco-awareness we are also an efficient business“, he said. In order for that to continue he called upon policymakers to urgently formulate prospects for his industry. “We are the safest place for surviving a pandemic, but we are being left out in the cold“, was Lindner’s criticism.

Michael Buchna, director of Landhotel Saarschleife Mettlach-Orscholz and president of the  German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA) in the Saarland, was confident that guests would be more attracted to quality products in the future. Certification was a good way to communicate this, Buchna said. At the same time, he feared there would be a wave of bankruptcies after the pandemic. He felt that both he and his industry were being unfairly treated by policymakers. “I would like to see politicians show more respect“, the hotelier said.

Suzann Heinemann, director of the InfraCert Institute, emphasised that the pandemic had mostly shown “how vulnerable we all are.“ Sustainability had been a topic among consumers even before Covid-19, but the crisis had made people more aware now. Hoteliers who previously had never had any time had begun to work on their sustainability concepts during lockdown. “We are being overrun by enquiries“, said Heinemann. Many providers had already been environmentally conscious before, but now there was much keener interest in green certification.

René Skiba, managing director of Tourismus GmbH Nördlicher Schwarzwald, said that his region had always had a flourishing industry of mid-sized hotels in rural areas, where customers could participate in a green experience. “The Black Forest has an excellent reputation among environmentally conscious guests, and offers activities in nature such as treetop walkways, encourages contributing to the regional value chain by buying from farmstead shops, and provides sustainable food on the plate“, Skiba said. Nevertheless, there was room for improving local transport links, by offering electric car sharing and expanding public transport.



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