Developing sustainable models of hospitality, and developing future leaders of sustainability through our teaching, is crucial as we face the reality of limited resources and rising demand.
According to the World Tourism Organisation, the number of overnight international travellers was 1.3 billion in 2017 and this is expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. The global increase in tourism is putting a strain on many of the resources that draw travellers in the first place, including natural attractions and local heritage.
Meanwhile, with 1 in 10 jobs worldwide supported by travel and tourism, the industry already has a huge influence on the environment, economy and social fabric of communities. Couple this with hospitality’s rapid growth rate, and the need for socially and environmentally responsible practices becomes more urgent.
Throughout my career in hospitality and education spanning 30 years, I have been convinced of the importance of sustainability. In the early 1990s, I worked on a World Travel & Tourism Council project to develop a sustainable accreditation system which led to Green Globe, a set of sustainable tourism standards and certifications now widely used across the world. Not long after, I served as the founding director of the Centre for Environmental Studies in the Hospitality Industry at Oxford Brookes University.
Over the years, I have observed how awareness of sustainability in the industry has grown while working on environmental initiatives such as hospitality glass recycling, Green Cone organic waste digestive systems and the development of sustainable standards for the UK Hotel Grading and Classification System. Meanwhile, through my research, I have endeavoured to highlight the marketing, financial and employee retention benefits of increased environmental performance.
Many leading hotel companies now recognise the need to engage with sustainability as well as the benefits this brings, including reduced costs, increased guest satisfaction and improved staff retention – but there is still much work to be done.
As education providers, we have a responsibility to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills to create and implement sustainable solutions. This begins with developing awareness of our impact on the environment and continues with critical thinking and innovative problem-solving.
At Les Roches Global Hospitality Education, issues of sustainability are embedded within the curriculum from the first semester. Classroom learning is enhanced by real-world practice, such as in our new fine-dining restaurant, Roots, which focuses on locally sourced produce, giving students an opportunity to experience first-hand the operations of a sustainable restaurant.
On campus, students are immersed in an eco-friendly environment, with a herb garden, composting, stringent waste separation system and energy-efficient lighting in place. Outside of class, students in the Green Club work with campus management on environmental issues; students are also playing an active role in ensuring that Les Roches meets the standards for ISO 14001 sustainability accreditation.
Teaching students about sustainability not only prepares them to become effective leaders in hospitality, but also provides skills that resonate with their values. With around 90 nationalities on campus, Les Roches has a diverse student body, but concerns about the natural world and a drive to improve sustainability are shared globally across this new generation.
Businesses have a responsibility to give back to the communities that host them, and this is especially true in hospitality – an industry that is based on people and service. Environmentally, economically and socially, hotels have great potential to make a positive impact on their surroundings.
But, first, hospitality leaders must see sustainability as a necessity and a guiding principle behind their decisions. Education is key to cultivating this frame of mind and to transmitting this sense of responsibility to future generations.
Les Roches Global Hospitality Education is part of Sommet Education, a leading hospitality management institution with campuses in the UK, Switzerland, Spain and China. For information, visit lesroches.edu