Article by Thanakarn Vongvisitsin (Bella)

‘Sustainability’ is relatively new emerging terminology in which people are still learning and discussing about especially in hospitality industry. It seems to be like looking forward to the long-term competitive goals, being heroes and saving the world, or even marketing ourselves and seeking new segments of customers who are willing to pay more. So, what does ‘sustainability’ actually mean in practical reality? Is it about more ‘green tourism’ or reducing environmental impacts? Or, is it all about corporate social responsibilities?

In Thailand, sustainable tourism development has been intensively implemented in policy level by adopting newly launched ‘SDGs’ from UNDP as guidelines and indicators. Thailand is recognised as the first country who packs SDGs to its National Tourism Awards’ or Kinnari’s judging criteria. How come Thailand has become more familiar with SDGs comparing to other countries in the region? There is no doubts because we have been discussing about the Sufficiency Economy philosophy of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej since before the 1997 ‘Tom Yum Goong’ or Asian Financial Crisis.

In hospitality industry, a number of hotels view this terminology as a trendy, cost-saving and marketable strategies. Hoteliers might be familiar with strategies to encourage their guests to keep using towels in their rooms, plant more trees surrounding the properties, or introduce low-carbon cuisine to the guests. We might be able to memorise all the benefits of ‘sustainability,’ but do we know how to achieve them?

In 21st century, the world is becoming complex and dynamic especially in hospitality industry that involves a lot of stakeholders. After Triple Bottom Line (TBL), in-depth discussion with more dimensions on ‘sustainability’ brings to Doughnut Economics framework

We can build hotel business to become ‘the safe and just space for humanity’ and achieve desirable sustainable goals. These guidelines can be a starting point for hoteliers to think about how to incorporate ‘sustainability’ into core business strategies instead of organising only CSR activities or events.

  • Start thinking of employees!

‘Sustainability’ cannot be achieved in hotel business if its social foundation has not been built up. View the hotel as a community, empower members to participate in decision-making of their workplace well-being, and incubate their ideas to become ground commitment towards community success. Think about how each department can work together on ‘sustainability’ and set up managerial structure.

  • Engage local community in the area!

Not only recruiting them as a part of your team, but also local community in general that can be both directly or indirectly benefitted through our hotel business. View them as one of key stakeholders, explore their cultures and livelihoods, develop community-based activities, discuss with them about potential opportunities to support their enterprises and embrace their identity.

  • Prevent externalities, set up environmental ceiling!

If resources and energy are considered as your cost, be cautious on what your business can harm your own money especially in where you put your investment on. The areas can be different, but primary products and services might not be much distinct. Promote responsible experience to your guests.

  • Network like-minded allies!

‘Sustainability’ cannot be accomplished if you work alone. Include aforementioned people to your alliance, build more network across the boundaries, such as your competitors, local government and academia. Sometimes you don’t have to put much effort by your own, just find like-minded colleagues!

  • Track the outputs, monitor the outcomes!

Data is a treasure of ‘sustainable’ development. Not only income statement, do a little bit more by analysing how much your business benefits your employees, local communities, and environment. The data can be used to present your business success, market your products and services, and build pride from your stakeholders towards your hotel business.

To conclude, ‘profitability’ can be definitely achieved by your business talents, but ‘prosperity’ can only be succeeded if you can think about others and society. Your leadership is integral in conducting business, but your advocacy makes your business meaningful. Start thinking about this as your core business strategies, a small tiny lever can make your business even more outstanding!