5 min read
From implementing water efficient fittings to promoting community engagement to visitors, Marriott International has seamlessly incorporated sustainability into its business agenda. Its story inspires other hospitality players to prioritise environmental concerns, paving the way for tourism to recover in a healthier format.
Recent years have seen more consumers prioritise ethics and environmental concerns when planning trips amid rising urgency over climate change and the pandemic could accelerate that trend, according to new research. In an American Express study published this year, 68 percent of respondents over seven countries said they are "trying to be more aware of sustainability-friendly travel brands to support." 69 percent of more than 20,000 respondents said they “expect the travel industry to offer more sustainable travel options,” according to a 2020 poll from Booking.com.
"Sustainable tourism presents an option to seize growth opportunities, especially with tourists becoming more conscious about the environment and are looking for more sustainable options," said Rivero Delgado, Area Vice President for Marriott International in Singapore, Malaysia & Maldives. "Guests look out for environment-friendly options such as guest room designs and furnishing, high efficiency lighting, water-conversing fixtures, environmentally preferred products, alternatives to plastic bottled water, responsibly and locally sourced ingredients that help support local communities and social impact policies that are inclusive to all communities," she continued.
Bearing these consumer desires in mind, Marriott International has embarked on a comprehensive sustainability and social impact initiative to equip its hotels with products, services and operations that conserve resources and minimise waste. Named "Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction", the initiative was launched in 2017 and will guide the company's sustainability efforts through 2025. The goals set take the form of specific, measurable accomplishments. Under this initiative, it seeks to reduce water and carbon intensity by 15 percent and 30 percent respectively, reduce waste to landfill by 45 percent, minimise food waste by 50 percent and achieve at least 30 percent renewable electricity use. By 2025, Marriott also aims to responsibly source 95 percent of commonly used items such as animal proteins, bottled water, cleaning supplies, cocoa, coffee, guest room amenities, paper products, seafood, sugar and textiles. "As a global organisation with a large footprint, we are well-positioned to be part of the solution," said Rivero Delgado.
Community engagement is key to sustainability
For tourism players, there is more to going green than implementing energy-saving projects. Offering purpose-driven experiences that give consumers the chance to learn from and interact with local communities is a major component of embracing sustainability, according to Marriott. The company seeks to redefine the nature of travel so holidays become synonymous with social impact.
Across its Asia Pacific hotels, the organisation piloted a programme that enables visitors to contribute to environmental protection and marine conservation. Launched in early 2021, Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy aims "to shift the way vacations are perceived," Rivero Delgado explained. Rather than "pure leisure," holidays can be "value-adding opportunities to learn more about the natural environment and forge new connections with the local community," she said. "We hope to expand the program to most of our Asia Pacific leisure destinations over time and be ready to welcome guests with meaningful travel once travel returns."
Going green brings cost savings in the long run
In the business world, environmental practices are often viewed as unlucrative investments but Marriott's example proves otherwise. All of its green ventures "are cost saving from a financial perspective as they allow us to alleviate unnecessary pressure on employees and building infrastructure," Rivero Delgado explained, using the example of the W Singapore – Sentosa Cove.
At this property, rain water is collected from roof tops and pumped into the hotel’s irrigation system to water greenery on the property. This is especially useful for a country like Singapore where water is a scarce commodity, Rivero Delgado explained. "With rainwater harvesting, we can exponentially increase the amount of clean water available without placing undue stress on the main water supply." This project is expected to save approximately 1,200 cubic meters of water per year, according to Marriott.
Additionally, the team is also working closely with the Sentosa Development Corporation on collecting 640kg of food waste that will be converted to compost and used in the Sentosa Cove Community. Such ventures “will have fruitful financial results in the long run that will not only provide the return on investment but also support the resort to further its efforts in these valuable commitments,” Rivero Delgado said. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the driving motivation for these ventures cannot be financial gains, she added.
How tech helps drive sustainability
Digitisation can push more companies to adopt and advance sustainability goals, according to Rivero Delgado. Using Marriott as an example, she described how the company is rolling out a cloud-based software for its hotels in Singapore, Malaysia and the Maldives called Project Tree. This tool can reimagine a hotel’s finance processes and boost efficiency by digitising traditional methods, thus cutting down on paper usage. When implemented, Project Tree will have a number of benefits, Delgado explained. It can reduce Marriott's paper costs as well as its carbon footprint while automation will also save time and increase individual productivity to support a healthy work-life balance, she continued.
As part of a pilot programme, the company plans to unveil contactless arrival kiosks at several select-serve hotels such as at The Four Points by Sheraton Singapore Riverview later this year. This will further enhance Marriott's existing contactless services such as mobile check-in and checkout, mobile dining and mobile requests via the Marriott Bonvoy app, Rivero Delgado noted. "One vital feature is the mobile key, which allows for members to unlock their hotel room door via the Marriott Bonvoy app on their phones," she described. "This initiative further eliminates the use of plastic key cards."
Another example is MESH, Marriott’s utility platform designed in partnership with Schneider Electric. Operating on data analysis, it generates reports that allows Marriott to analyse each property’s energy use, carbon intensity and waste collection."As the data received is live, it plays a significant role in the deployment of our strategies as it creates an environment of a data-backed decision making process, to either implement new initiatives in our pursuit of sustainability, or validate if these strategies are positively impacting the enterprise."
For example, one MESH report helped Marriott’s hotels in Bangkok to reduce kitchen waste. "We piloted an initiative of converting discarded oyster shells from our kitchen waste into chicken feed," Rivero explained. "Tracking the impact of this initiative through the MESH tool enables the property to validate the project’s efficacy and help others to follow suit. A win-win for all."
Singapore intends to develop into a sustainable tourism destination by 2030, making it the ideal place for tourism players to test out green projects.
This is possible thanks to the extent of government assistance, Rivero Delgado noted. "The government will pump S$68.5 million into the Tourism Development Fund, which businesses can tap if they want to explore new areas including sustainability," she said. "There has been significant government support for the pursuit of sustainable tourism in Singapore and we look forward to working even closer with our stakeholders and longtime partners to achieve even more sustainable operations in our Singapore-based properties."
Special thanks to Marriott International for their support and contributions to the development of this story.
We welcome you to share your story on transformative leadership with us. Please fill in the Tcube interest form and select "Tcube Thought Leadership Content" for us to get in touch with you to find out more: https://go.gov.sg/tcubecommunity
© 2021 Singapore Tourism Board. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of STB or as otherwise permitted herein. STB makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in this publication. STB, its members, officers, employees and any other persons acting under its direction, shall not be liable for any loss, injury or damage, whether direct or indirect, arising out of or in connection with the use of information in this publication.