Hostels see opportunity in backlash against plastic

Skift take

Coming out of the pandemic, some hostels hope to do well by doing good.

Sean O’Neill, Skift

The pandemic has derailed the travel industry’s efforts this year to reduce plastic waste. But some industry leaders see a sustainability argument as a way to gain market share once demand rebounds.

January 22, United Nations World Tourism Organization launched a Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, with the support of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Days later, Accor Hotels pledged to get rid of single-use plastics by 2022, as Skift reported.

The pandemic then short-circuited the dynamics of the campaign.

Yet some eyes have returned to the use of plastic. Young travelers, the environment is a priority for them. A recent Censuswide survey found that many American, Australian and British travelers were willing to spend a modest premium of an average of $ 24 (Aussie $ 24 or £ 17) on eco-friendly accommodation. Thus, some hostel owners see an opportunity to market to this audience by emphasizing their sustainable development practices.

Hostelworld recently became the first online travel agency to join the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative. Company executives said many hostel operators were unaware of best practices.

“About 80% of hostels are small businesses, so the access to sustainability information that a company like Marriott would have is very different within a hostel,” said Yale Varty, Marketing Director of Hostelworld.

The UN effort offers online workshops. Topics include how organizations can recycle more, trade plastic for alternative materials, and reduce plastic use.

Hostelworld said it alerted all hostels it works with. Around 12,000 hostels are currently selling rooms through it, but it alerted the 17,000 who advertised on its site and app before the pandemic.

The UN effort covers more than a ban on bottled water, Varty said.

“There is the plastic used in all F&B [food and beverage], like the cutlery, ”Varty said. “There are the plastic shampoo bottles and the toiletry bags. There are the trash bags for cleaning and the plastic sprays that housekeepers use. You don’t realize until you think about it what’s behind the scenes.

Hostelworld hopes that by 2021, around 500 hostels will engage in new operational practices, tracking progress with benchmarks over several years.

Early next year, it will start putting badges on its online listings next to these hostels, informing consumers of sustainability commitments.

The booking agency said the badges could help boost business at the selected properties. After booking hostels, the company surveyed 6,300 customers, asking if any sustainable initiatives at a property would influence their future booking decisions. Three in five customers said yes.

Hostelworld has taken steps for its own operations. He got rid of the plastic water bottles in the offices, although most of the employees work remotely at the moment. Before the crisis, the company reviewed its use and its catering supply chain to choose partners who use recyclable and compostable packaging.

The pandemic has hurt the publicly traded company. Executives told analysts in October that they expected the company’s revenue to be between 16 and 18 percent of last year’s levels. Home stay restrictions and international currency fluctuations hampered bookings.

Hostelworld’s shortfall indicates a larger reality for the sector. Sustainability efforts can sit on the back burner at most hostels until the pandemic subsides. Still, that could turn out to be a mistake.

“The pandemic has a vaccine on offer, but plastics, garbage and water pollution don’t have long-term solutions,” said Shoba Mohan, founder of the boutique hotel brand. Rare india at the Skift Forum Asia last month. “For an industry that talks so much about sustainability, this is the time when you are put to the test.

For background, see previous Skift articles this year: Travelers frustrated with plastic alternatives offered by companies and most major hotel chains are now committed to plastics: here’s the problem with promises.

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