How to check and select sustainable accommodations

Check and select sustainable accommodations based on 9 criteria and keep track of their sustainability performance for a sustainable supply-chain.
How to check and select sustainable accommodations

Create a sustainable supply-chain

As a good travel business, you’re working hard to ensure your travel experiences and trips are organised in a sustainable way. For your trips to be sustainable, you want to make sure your entire supply-chain works sustainably too.

From transport and local guides to the accommodations you book for your travellers to spend the night. But how do you select sustainable accommodations? And on what criteria do you base your selection?

In this article, we’ll give you 9 criteria to check and select sustainable accommodations.

Check and select sustainable accommodations

Working with sustainable accommodations can be a challenge. As you want to make sure the accommodation fits into your itinerary, appeals to your target group, and shares similar good tourism values. There are several ways to check and select sustainable accommodations.

Certified accommodations

One of the easiest ways to select sustainable accommodations are those that are certified. Basically, this means they have been verified by a third-party verification scheme. For example, international certification schemes:

Or local certification schemes such as:

Certified accommodations have already proven to comply with set sustainability criteria. And have been awarded for this. The only downside of using this approach, is the large number of local and small-scale accommodations that are sustainable but not certified.

Reasons for not being certified can range from costs, priorities, or local availability. Keep in mind that all certified accommodations are sustainable. But that this does not mean that all accommodations without certification are not sustainable.

Accommodation certification program overview

For a full overview of certification programs for accommodations worldwide, have a look at: “GSTC-Recognized Standards for Hotels“.

Tailored checklist

Besides looking at certified accommodations, you can also define your own criteria. This way, you can ensure the accommodations fit your values, travel experiences and target group.

We recommend you create an overview of the accommodations you work with (or book). And to map their sustainability performance based on your selected criteria. You can determine their performance in several ways. Visit their website, read customer reviews, have conversations with the owner and make a visit.

We’ve listed 9 key criteria for you to keep track of their sustainability performance. By awarding them points per key criteria, you can determine if the accommodation fits in your sustainable supply-chain.

1. Overall commitment to sustainability

Accommodations committed to sustainability are proud of their performance. They’re invested in sharing their story. On their website and in their communication, they are enthusiastic and passionate about their property and share their way of working. Those who are truly committed add value to the client experience and be good for local communities and the environment at the same time.

2. Employing locals

Tourism generates over a million jobs worldwide. The easiest way to support the local economy and its locals, is to employ them. Sustainable accommodations therefore mainly work with local staff. Some even have their own training program to prepare locals for a career in hospitality. Don’t forget to pay attention to manager roles as well. Those invested in supporting locals and their future, train and employ locals as supervisor or manager.

3. Purchasing local and sustainable products

Very much part of supporting the local economy is purchasing local and sustainable products. By buying local products and food from markets, locals directly benefit from tourism. Besides supporting the local economy, accommodations provide clients with healthy and local food. Some accommodations even have their own vegetable garden. Here guests can pick their own food and fruit, guided by a local gardener. An authentic experience!

Benefitting local communities

4. Supporting local communities

Sustainable tourism is only possible when local communities and their culture are treated with respect. And where tourism maximises economic and social benefits of these communities. Sustainable accommodations highly value local communities and operate their business in a way the community directly benefits. They support local initiatives such a schools and community centres and give back to the community.

Learn more

Learn more about working with local communities as a travel business in our article: “How to develop community-based tourism (7 tips)”

5. Single-use plastic and waste management

Waste management and especially single-use plastic is a key topic in the tourism industry. And there are many ways accommodations can contribute to the solution. Those committed to sustainability have removed plastic where possible. For example, by offering guests free filtered drinking water in glass bottles and the option to refill their own. They’ll also offer soap and shampoo in reusable bottles and separate and recycle their waste. Additionally, they communicate all this to their clients asking for collaboration and support.

Learn more

Learn more about reducing plastic in our article: “5 tips to reduce single-use plastic”

6. Efficient water use

Travel accommodations use a shockingly high amount of water on a daily basis. Luckily, many accommodations are aware of this issue and are taking proper action! For example, they have water efficiency systems in place, are collecting rainwater, ask clients to reuse linens and towels and take shorter showers, and are not compromising local communities’ access to water.

7. Efficient energy use

When it comes down to energy, the best-case scenario would be for all accommodations to choose renewable energy, such as solar power. When this is too expensive or impossible for small-scale accommodations, they can still score points by saving energy. Check for installed LED lights and occupancy sensors, policies for turning off all lights when not in use, and sufficient isolation for colder seasons.

8. Contributing to nature conservation

Accommodations that aim to work sustainably build and operate their hotel in a way it does not harm the environment. They operate in harmony and besides minimising negative impact, do their best to contribute to nature conservation. For example, by supporting biodiversity and wildlife conservation programs and involving guests to contribute too.

Responsible travel experiences

9. Responsible travel experiences

Sustainable accommodations that offer activities for their guests have transparent operational guidelines. They ensure local communities are treated with respect. That nature is not disturbed and that guests have the opportunity to maximise their positive impact.

If an accommodation outsources the activities, they’ll have selected a sustainable partner to guide their guests on their behalf.

Take action and empower accommodations

As a travel business, you have the position to start the conversation and to explore possibilities of sustainable development. By supporting your favourite accommodations in becoming (more) sustainable, you create great positive impact. Not only for your own business and travellers, but also for the destination!

There are many ways to start the conversation, but in this article, we focus on the two main approaches.

1. Personal encouragement

This is the best approach for travel businesses who already have close relationships with their accommodations. Who know what they’re up to and what they stand for. Simply start the conversation about responsible travel and brainstorm together!

Questions to ask

  • Have they already started to implement sustainability?
  • What are their challenges and what’s holding them back?
  • What are low-hanging fruits they can work on?
  • Which aspects are feasible and relevant to implement?
  • What do they need to start this process?
  • How can you help?

2. General encouragement

This is the best approach for travel businesses who work with many accommodations, mostly on ad-hoc basis or who don’t have personal relationships with accommodations yet. Start with sending general information and guidelines how they can get started and invite them to take action.

To include in the email

  • Why it’s important to you they become more sustainable
  • Benefits for the accommodation when they implement sustainability
  • Practical tips to start with such as reducing plastic, waste, and water use
  • Encouragement to look into sustainability certification
  • Offer your support and guidance for further development

Keep track and follow-up

The proposed criteria are simple indications to check if accommodations work responsibly and if they take responsibility. While checking their sustainability performance, communication is key. Keep track of what the accommodations are doing and how they’re developing. Aim to work with a fully responsible supply-chain!

Also think about incentives for sustainable accommodations you book for your travellers. Highlight them as responsible on your website, post about them on social media and share their story in your newsletter. Not only will this motivate accommodations, it also positions your business as genuine and responsible.


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