ATLANTA — IHG Hotels & Resorts this week launched Journey to Tomorrow, a series of new commitments to make a positive difference for people, communities, and the planet over the next decade. IHG also released commissioned research as part of the launch showing that people are more mindful than ever about traveling consciously following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Formed through an assessment process involving external experts, stakeholder consultation, and industry collaboration, IHG’s plan contributes to the universal framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to provide a blueprint for a better, more sustainable future by 2030. The plan sets out five ambitions, building on the company’s progress made towards its 2018-2020 targets. These include:
- Achieve a gender balance and a doubling of under-represented groups across leadership
- Cultivate a culture of inclusion for colleagues, owners, and suppliers
- Support all colleagues to prioritize their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others
- Drive respect for and advance human rights
- Drive economic and social change through skills training and innovation
- Support communities when natural disaster strikes
- Collaborate to aid those facing food poverty
Carbon and Energy
- Reduce energy use and carbon emissions in line with climate science
- Implement a 2030 science-based target that delivers 15 percent absolute reduction in direct operations, and a 46 percent per m2 reduction in franchise operations
- Target 100 percent of new-build hotels to operate at very low/zero carbon emissions
- Maximize/optimize the role of renewable energy
- Pioneer the transformation to a minimal waste hospitality industry
- Eliminate single-use items, or move to reusable or recyclable alternatives across the guest stay
- Minimize food going to waste through a “prevent, donate, divert” plan
- Collaborate to achieve circular solutions for major hotel commodity items
- Focus on hotels operating in the areas of highest water risk to: Implement tools to reduce the water footprint of our hotels; mitigate water risk through stakeholder collaboration to deliver water stewardship at basin level; and collaborate to ensure adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions for our operating communities.
“As we look to the future, the global response to COVID-19 reminded us what can be achieved when we come together and work towards the greater good,” said Keith Barr, CEO, IHG Hotels & Resorts. “This has made us all more conscious than ever about caring for people, communities, and planet. Journey to Tomorrow embodies IHG’s strengthened commitment to make sure we do what’s right, not just what’s needed, and we are determined to contribute towards positive social and economic change, to stand up for key issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion, and human rights, and to make more responsible environmental choices.”
“A great guest experience at our hotels is inextricably linked to operating thoughtfully and growing sustainably,” Barr continued. “So while travel may have been temporarily paused for many, we want the next stage of our journey to be successful in every sense of the word.”
OnePoll—a survey-led marketing research company specializing in online and mobile polling—conducted IHG’s commissioned research in January 2021 among 9,000 adults across the United States, United Kingdom, China, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and Australia, and found that more than half of participants globally and almost two thirds in the United States agree that 2020 and COVID-19 has made them more socially and environmentally conscious about their impact on the world when traveling. In the United States, younger travelers are far more likely to agree, with 78 percent of 18-24-year-olds sharing this sentiment, compared to just 27 percent of those 55 and over.
It appears travelers not only intend to do more for the planet and communities around them, they are willing to pay for it too. The research found that U.S. travelers will spend an average of 41 percent more on an accommodation they know operates responsibly—with 47 percent willing to pay more than 40 percent extra a night.
With the world traveling more domestically—or not at all—for now, it seems the pandemic has made consumers more conscious about preserving and connecting with the communities around them. More than a third of respondents in the United States (38 percent) say they will be more mindful about their travel choices following the pandemic. The number one consideration was how ethical and responsible the hotel brand is in creating an inclusive work environment, supporting jobs, providing skills training and education, and protecting human rights (42 percent), followed by avoiding tourist activities that could have a negative impact on the local environment and communities (38 percent).
Eighty-four percent of U.S. survey participants say it is important to get to know the local community when visiting somewhere new, with more than half (55 percent) doing this by supporting local eateries. Furthermore, 3 in 10 respondents globally choose to stay with travel companies that offer local community programs. As for activities such as volunteering and restoration projects, young American travelers aged 18-24 are nearly six times as likely to get involved when visiting another country, compared to those 55 and over.
Eighty-two percent of adults around the world, along with 66 percent of Americans, say they are committed to taking their everyday sustainability habits with them when they travel, with minimizing food waste and recycling taking the top spot in the U.S. as a priority. For global travelers, the two most popular habits included re-using towels and walking short distances to explore the local area. And, when asked what people would avoid so they could be more responsible travelers, 36 percent of U.S. respondents said they would avoid leaving the air conditioning on when they leave the room.