The hotel industry is starting a green shift

This text is part of the special Business Tourism section

While a shift towards sustainable development is necessary in all industries, those in the hotel and business tourism industries are only just beginning to set up initiatives to promote it. Overview.

Sustainable initiatives in tourism are still in their infancy, believes Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, president and CEO of the Greater Montreal Hotel Association (AHGM). “There is nothing well established yet. People are starting to realize that we need to change our habits,” he says.

However, he notes a change since the pandemic, particularly regarding business trips, which are more often replaced by virtual meetings. “Before, we had around twenty daily flights between Montreal and Toronto. There were a lot of business tourists going from one city to another for full-day or even half-day meetings,” he recalls. However, the health crisis has led, “for the better”, to a change in behavior to make more room for virtual meetings. “We agree that, to come for a three-hour meeting in Montreal and leave in the same day, the ecological footprint is gigantic. And it’s not something that we necessarily need to do,” he emphasizes.

Growing demands

More and more companies sending their employees to conferences or business trips have expectations in terms of sustainable tourism, observes Mr. Boudreault. However, for firms to make a sustainable shift, it is necessary not simply to focus on the issue of climate change, believes the CEO of the AHGM.

“Sustainable development is not just eco-responsibility, it is also everything that is societal and economic,” he says. However, he observes a transformation, particularly in company governance, recruitment and retention of staff.

Mr. Boudreault also believes that the economic angle should not be dismissed. “Because as long as our lives are going to be based on money, for it to be sustainable, we need to establish lasting measures,” he says. Things that, yes, will cost money, but where companies will also be able to make a profit. Otherwise, they won’t put them in place. »

A green pilot project

Last January, the AHGM announced the launch of a pilot project to initiate the green shift in the hotel industry. Eight establishments are participating: the Marriott Château Champlain hotel, the Saint-Sulpice hotel, the Monville hotel, the 10 hotel, the ZERO1 hotel, the Ruby Foo’s hotel, the Manoir d’Youville and the DoubleTree hotel by Hilton downtown. “This is a first in North America to have an industry that decides to take charge of itself,” indicates the CEO of the AHGM. The practices of the eight participating establishments will be evaluated based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN).

Mr. Boudreault emphasizes that sustainable development is not only necessary because of climate change. “When I look at cities like Barcelona, ​​Amsterdam or Venice, where residents no longer want tourists, there is a problem,” he says. According to him, the hotel industry is “the backbone of tourism”, and he recalls that this includes business tourism. “When big companies bring in foreign clients, these people stay in hotels. We are very interconnected,” he emphasizes.

And if the risk of greenwashing nevertheless looms over the desire of companies to become greener, Mr. Boudreault believes that it is important to try new initiatives, even if it means making mistakes. “There is always a challenge of greenwashing. It’s definitely something that awaits us. But what do we do? » he said.

As part of the pilot project at the AHGM, a committee of experts from various backgrounds was created in order to have an overview and avoid making certain errors. “There is a hotelier, people from UQAM, the Palais des congrès, the Montreal airport, Tourisme Montréal, specialists in sustainable development who will challenge us. And we must not be afraid to move forward by saying to ourselves “I won’t do anything because I don’t want to greenwash”, he advises. You have to start by being aware that it can happen. After that, it’s about trying as much as possible to avoid pitfalls and not doing it alone. »

Necessary investments

In Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, governments have already set up initiatives aimed at developing sustainable tourism. The Quebec Ministry of Tourism has also developed an Action Plan for responsible and sustainable tourism until 2025. On the federal scene, the government announced last November its new program for the growth of tourism. Total funding of $108 million for various expansion projects will support sustainable tourism.

“It’s certain that the crux of the matter is money. It’s no longer even an option, investing in sustainable development, you have to do it,” underlines Mr. Boudreault. He thus wishes to bring together more actors in order to set objectives. It aspires to obtain concrete results at the end of its three-year pilot project. “We must choose the right actions so that they have real impacts. We hope that we will have something strong enough for others to get on board with us, for us to start making a significant difference and to inspire other people to participate in the transformation. »

This content was produced by the Special Publications team at Duty, relating to marketing. The writing of the Duty did not take part.

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