How is COVID-19 Revolutionising Hotels to Become Smarter and Greener?

Our CEO, Sai, shares his insights and reflections on the hotel industry’s path towards becoming both smarter AND greener as the pandemic pushes the industry towards adopting smart technology and sustainable solutions.

As the travel and hospitality industries recover and adapt to the new travel norms and stricter safety and health regulations, hotels are looking for more effective ways to operate more efficiently than ever before. Hotels adopt and implement cost-cutting measures and revenue-maximising strategies to make up for the significant losses incurred during the crisis. Subsequently, most of these solutions involve technologies and strategies that maximise the productive and efficient use and allocation of limited manpower and natural resources, which then has an inherent impact on improving overall sustainability.

As such, this acceleration in the adoption of technology across the travel and hospitality industries is naturally moving the hotel industry on a path towards becoming smarter and greener hotels as a whole. This is accompanied by advancements in technologies providing innovative solutions to better address both the hotel guests’ new expectations around safety measures and a holistic and thoughtful approach to travelling, as well as the hotel’s pressing need for resource optimisation and financial savings. As we explore how COVID-19 is facilitating a speedy progression towards better sustainability in the hotel industry, we first analyse the current dynamics of the hospitality and travel industry caused by the pandemic and how they are naturally driving hotels to become smarter and greener.

Resilience and Creativity of the
Travel & Tourism Industry Amidst Crisis

Worldwide, the travel and tourism industries have definitely been amongst the top sectors most impacted by the pandemic. The International Air Transport Association estimated that, with travel restrictions and expected global recession, global air transport industry revenues could fall by $252 billion, 44% below 2019’s data. They have all resorted to severe cost-cutting measures, such as laying off jobs and streamlining their human resources. Booking platforms like Agoda have laid off 1,500 jobs. Hospitality and lodging industries, like Airbnb, cut down their workforces by 25% or even more. 

In times of crisis, companies are tested to the limit on how well they can adapt to new limitations and improve their overall productivity and efficiency. Their level of adaptability would be best demonstrated by how they choose and implement their crisis management strategy/strategies of choice. While the cost-cutting strategy is the most straightforward and immediately practical way of adapting to a crisis, what differentiates a strong company from the rest is how they communicate the use of such measures as a story that resonates with both their workers and customers to highlight their brand personality in a positive light. Take the AirBnB public letter of their employees’ layoff as an exemplary case study. 

Based on the news stories gathered across the global industries, the travel industry has demonstrated exceptional creativity and resilience amidst this uncertain period. Instead of idly waiting and simply surviving until the pandemic is over, most successful brands proactively took this opportunity to gain visibility and differentiate themselves from their competitors by pivoting or shifting their key business objectives to also focus on improving their workers and customers’ safety and well-being. 

Some critical examples of these include how commercial airline companies contributed their aviation services to help with the transport of cargo instead of passengers. In other cases, some hotels offered their rooms and facilities for the setup of quarantine centres and healthcare support stations. As a result, hospitality businesses are seizing the opportunities to emphasise the human traits of their brand as a strategic way of earning valuable customer trust while also contributing to the wider community in the long run.

The Necessity of Building a Human-centric
and Sustainable Brand

While this crisis has led to the natural shift of the industry to implement cost-cutting measures and human-centred brand storytelling strategies, many hotels have neglected to take this opportunity to also include sustainability as part of the conversation. By highlighting how implementing new technologies have also positively impacted their sustainability strategies and practices, hotels can, in fact, further enhance their branding throughout their post-pandemic recovery and extend their appeal to the growing portion of environmentally-conscious guests and travellers

Despite the potential downplay of sustainability-centric discussions due to the higher emphasis on health and hygiene concerns as a result of the pandemic, opinion leaders and regulatory bodies of the travel industry, like Michael Ros, CEO of Bidroom, the world’s first no-commission hotel booking platform, Claudia Lisboa, a technical coordinator at the UNWTO, and Peter Hughes, one of the architects of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, are strongly presenting their arguments on how the COVID-19 crisis is, in fact, encouraging consumers and the industry to reshape travel and tourism industry through the lens of sustainability.

Sustainable travel and green accommodation is predicted to continue on as the top travel trend expected to grow and even accelerate in demand in the post-COVID world, as this public health crisis brought to light the dependency of the society’s well-being not on being consumers but on being part of a community and inhabitants of this planet. The resultant travel norm is shifting towards people making more responsible and thoughtful travel decisions, as succinctly and eloquently put by Micahel Ross, CEO of Bidroom:  “Tourists may travel less, but will travel better”. Similarly, from a business perspective, Eric Ricaurte, founder and CEO of Greenview, a sustainability consulting firm that works with global hospitality chains like Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton, sees the major impact of the pandemic in creating both a critical opportunity as well as an increasing pressure from both the public and investors for hotels to reorient their business strategies and better address climate issues.

For more discussions on the pandemic’s impact on sustainability in the travel and hospitality industry, check the references list in the footnote below.

Additionally, this increasing demand for sustainable travel does not only originate from consumers and investors. Before the pandemic struck, global organisations and regulatory bodies have already been pushing businesses to adopt more environmentally friendly solutions with many offering subsidies for businesses to implement initiatives targeted at reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions across all industries around the world. Countries that are members of global climate change associations, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are similarly committed to achieving a set of actionable goals to collectively combat climate change as a global economy. 

United Nations’ plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions

Even in the local Singaporean context, since 2005, the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore(BCA) has been tirelessly working towards its target of greening 80% of the building stock by 2030. Within the span of  9 years, they have successfully slowed down the rate of the increase in annual electricity consumption by 25%, despite the fact that commercial spaces have grown by about 40%. In light of these government support schemes and new benchmark standards for energy-efficient buildings as well as the growing commercial advantage of greening building and construction projects, smart building technologies and solutions are now a timely and critical answer to the ever-growing demands for better sustainability. 

Adopting Cleantech for Smarter, Greener Hotels

The hotel industry’s customer-driven approach to the pandemic’s recovery combined with the global push for better sustainability has made the adoption of smart technology a strategic and critical solution for hotels to cut costs and bounce back from the crisis. Smart energy management and digitised guest experience and labour management are the top solutions hotels have adopted to help conserve energy and optimise resources during this low occupancy period. However,  it would be short-sighted to view the implementation of such smart solutions as being limited in its function as a cost-cutting strategy.

In fact, many building and property owners are not just investing in smart management technology for better energy efficiency but also for better operational productivity and improved environmental sustainability in the long run. A smart building that not only optimises its resource consumption but that is also properly maintained at the highest possible level of operational efficiency and productivity is one that can best support and sustain its operators’ businesses throughout a dire crisis. Hence, in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical for property owners, such as hotel owners, in particular, to invest in smart technologies that can help them maximise efficiency and productivity across all aspects of their building and even business management.

In recent years, cleantech startups and companies have been rapidly innovating to provide smart solutions to hotels to help them operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. Among the top leading cleantech providers in Southeast Asia, SensorFlow has been recognised as a key solution provider that easily helps hotels to meet local, government-driven sustainability benchmark standards while simultaneously catering to the increasing demand for sustainable travel worldwide. Retrofittable and compatible with all HVAC systems, our solution enables new and existing building managers, be it in the hotel industry or other commercial spaces, to automate their HVAC energy consumption for immediate cost-savings as well as a significantly reduced carbon footprint. 

Not only that, SensorFlow goes beyond being a one-dimensional energy-saving solution. With our proprietary IoT network of devices, we provide hotels access to extensive data and high-level insights on their property. These actionable insights and analysis enable hotels to make better informed, data-driven decisions for developing advanced operational strategies that optimise efficiency and productivity across multiple departments. With such value-added offerings, it is clear that smart automation technologies and sustainable solutions are a crucial investment for the travel and hospitality industry in order to speed up their recovery in the wake of the recent global crisis.

In summary, the global health crisis has revolutionised the perception of travel and the environment we are living in. It creates an opportunity for the hospitality industry to strategically implement smart technologies that will build both a relevant and sustainable brand adapted to consumers’ changing expectations and industry best practices. Although the path towards smarter and greener hotels may still be far ahead, cleantech and smart solutions providers will continuously grow and empower hotels worldwide to thrive through a global crisis like COVID-19 and become smarter and greener.

Learn about these emerging smart energy solutions that your hotel can leverage to navigate through the COVID19 crisis from these panellists of  Plug and Play APAC X Cross Border Summit 2020.

Recently, Plug and Play Asia Pacific hosted a Cross Border Showcase that brought together some of the largest corporates from the travel and hospitality industry, best-tier startups, and other stakeholders in their ecosystem. The 3-day virtual showcase featured an overview of the startups from Fintech, Insurtech, Smart Cities and Travel industry as well as panel and keynote sessions. Find out what smart solutions for your hotel to be smarter and greener from the full preview of their event: APAC X Cross Border Summit.