Sustainable Design Matters to Green Travelers and Eco-Friendly Hotel Guests
September 6, 2017 Cristina Villalón
sustainable design

The increasing popularity of eco-friendly or green tourism is driving sustainable design in the hospitality industry to new heights.

Designing for sustainability is now the norm, rather than the exception.

Consider the following green travel statistics*:

  • 79% of travelers consider eco-friendly practices when choosing a hotel
  • 33% of U.S. travelers believe their travel choices can help the environment
  • 43 million U.S. travelers are “ecologically concerned”
  • 51% of meeting planners book meetings only in sustainable hotels
  • 70% of travelers prefer hotels with sustainability credentials
  • 67% believe sustainable hotels are as comfortable as conventional hotels
  • 58% of hotel guests prefer staying at an environmentally friendly property
  • 40% of guests say they would spend an extra $10 a night to sleep in a sustainable hotel
  • 60% of U.S. travelers have taken a “sustainable” trip in the last three years, spending on average $600 per trip and staying three days longer than the average guest
  • 46% of European business travelers say their companies’ environmental policies have a direct impact on their travel
  • 42% of respondents consider themselves “sustainable travelers”

It may be a market niche, but the hospitality industry would be remiss to neglect this growing market segment.

The Times, They Are a Changin’

A hotel stay traditionally has been an opportunity to overindulge in luxury, buffet food and overpriced minibar snacks. But many of today’s travelers are likely to expect energy-efficient appliances, recycling programs and gluten-free meals, at the very least.

Green travelers want to stay in green hotels, and eco-friendly guests are not likely to be persuaded to act against their values. Sustainable design offers environmentally conscious travelers a place where they can feel comfortable spending their time and their hard-earned cash.

Sustainable Hotel Design

Numerous properties—from boutique hotels to international chains—are taking steps to become more sustainable in order to reduce waste, lower operating costs and attract green travelers and millennials.

Energy concerns are not new in the hospitality industry, but recent advances in technology make it possible for hotels to design for sustainability and implement green practices that have a significant impact on costs and the environment. Environmental certification programs, such as LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, also have given momentum to sustainability in the hospitality industry.

Hotels present a greater challenge to sustainability than most commercial buildings because they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Guests also expect anytime access to amenities and luxuries, such as gyms, restaurants, and spas.

As guest expectations of environmentally responsible services reach higher, corporate greenwashing measures such recycling bins in the trash room fail to satisfy and lure in sophisticated green travelers who are not fooled by vague claims of eco-friendliness.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—and Redesign

In an ideal world, the perfect green hotel would be a tree house. Maybe someday. For now, green hotel design must incorporate eco-friendly elements, such as the ones below, that can minimize damage to the environment by reducing waste and water and energy consumption.

  • LED, CFL and motion-sensing ligthing
  • architectural daylighting techniques
  • repurposed furniture
  • local and organic building materials
  • low-flow toilets and shower heads
  • faucet aerators
  • blackwater/greywater systems
  • energy efficient appliances
  • eco-mode temperature controls
  • tiles and carpets made of recycled materials
  • rainwater harvesting systems
  • water efficient landscaping
  • living roofs and solar panels
  • aeroponic gardening
  • composting and vegetable gardening

Another Benefit of Going Green

In addition to slashing the cost of doing business and attracting eco-friendly travelers, going green can also boost a hotel’s brand.

Consumers gravitate toward companies that share their values. 

By incorporating sustainable design and green practices, hotels can improve guest experience, increase customer loyalty and, consequently, strengthen their brand.

Today’s guests—even those who do not consider themselves “green”—are more likely to appreciate the knowledge that their hotel stay produced a smaller carbon footprint and see it as a value-added provided by properties that make sustainability a priority.

The Bottom Line

As environmental and sustainability awareness continues to spread throughout the world, demand for sustainable design and green practices in the hospitality industry is only going to increase.

By designing for sustainability, hotels can conserve natural resources, lower operational costs, enhance guest experience and improve their corporate social responsibility profiles.

* Data provided by TripAdvisor, PhoCusWright, Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Imex Global, Accor,, Mandala Research, 

Additional resources:

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